The Internet of Things and what might be

Internet network
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11 June 2015 | 0

Paul HearnsTechPro in the next issue is looking at the burgeoning area of the Internet of Things (IoT) and its potential in enterprise.

However, in looking at the current thinking and developments, it struck me that there are a huge range of possibilities for this combination of technologies. And this is the reality of IoT — it is not one single technology, but rather a nexus of several trends, from sensors and connectivity to backhaul, storage and analysis.

As the power of sensors goes up while costs come down, battery and wireless technologies improve, as do the networks to deal with the traffic, storage for the information and analytics to process it all, there is a perfect storm for success.

And Ireland is strangely at the centre of it all and is fast becoming the de facto centre of IoT developments.

But one example stands out above others to show the power of this new platform to impact not only business but daily life too.

Car dilemma
Think of the current plight of the car manufacturer. It makes a product that represents what is probably the second largest purchase the average person makes in their life, after a home, but then what happens? The owner keeps it for one, three or five years and then sells it. And what does the manufacturer know of it? Very little unless the new owner(s) decides to use a main dealer to service it.

“The manufacturer can have an ongoing relationship with the car, through its entire useful life, irrespective of who owns it. That is a completely new prospect for manufacturers”

Now, imagine a car that has an onboard operating system and connectivity to talk back to the manufacturer. It can then, irrespective of its current keeper, receive notifications of updates, recalls, maintenance plans, upgrades and regulatory changes. It can avail of services from in-car entertainment, navigation, information streams and safety broadcasts. It can advise a local driver of a service facility that is offering a deal on servicing or maintenance for that specific model this week. It can warn the driver of potential problems with rotables or consumables, and offer solutions.

The whole point of this is that the manufacturer can have an ongoing relationship with the car, through its entire useful life, irrespective of who owns it. That is a completely new prospect for manufacturers.

But cars are large items, with various spaces where sensors can be incorporated and integrated, what of other things?

We’ve all heard the usual story of the web-connect fridge ordering your milk when you’ve run out, but that is a little short sighted. Think more along the lines of the smart TV. It can now be a streaming content hub, a high-definition communications device and even a diagnostic tool for medical consultation.

Extend this further, as developments again in sensors and connectivity continue apace, and why wouldn’t any appliance benefit from connectivity and intelligent monitoring? Imagine.

The intelligent house
You wake up in the morning to a bedside light that has consulted the weather and worked out that this morning is not going to be a bright one. As the light is adherent to the personal records standard recently passed by the European Federal Government, it is allowed to access your personal medical records, which are stored centrally in the government cloud. It knows your seasonally affective disorder is particularly oppressive on such mornings.

The light then compensates for the lack of natural light and brightens the room gradually, based on the information it has integrated from your sleep cycle monitor, which is in your pillow.

Your curtains open at just the right moment and grey skies outside are overlaid by the image of a beautiful day via the thin film screen applied to the window and controlled by the integrated environment management system.

You rise and perform your ablutions while the mirror displays your personalised information set for the day. A smattering of news, events, traffic and outside (as opposed to simulated) weather is displayed. You make your way to the kitchen where the coffee is brewing already, and your personalised information selection follows you from the bathroom.

As you stand by the front door, it tells you that air quality outside is good for the time of year, but a light coat would be advisable. Traffic times are good, due to mostly driverless cars, and your favoured public transport option is now 14 minutes from the stop, allowing you a leisurely walk to the stop.

As you step outside, the sensor behind your ear reminds you that if you actually up your pace to the transport stop, you’ll get 10 good minutes of your daily requirement for activity in before you get to work. It also tells you that you’ve got a window in your schedule between the 12:30 meeting and the 15:00 conference call where you can get in another bout of activity thanks to a good weather window.

Day shuffled
By the time you get to work, your schedule has been revised slightly and the 12:30 is now a 13:00, but various sensors, devices and services coordinate and reorganise your day to allow you achieve your health and activity goals, without losing either availability or productivity.

This may all sound a bit Philip K Dick, but the technologies, individually, are all there and merely require better integration and refinement.

But again, imagine that for a discount a health insurer gains access to certain aspects of your daily health record. It sees that you eat well, get decent exercise and have a good overall health state. It recognises that you are a low risk and gives you a very preferential rate, while also pointing out ways that you could save further. For another discount, deeper access allows it to give you personalised cover for illnesses or conditions that your family history, profession, time of life or environmental factors may suggest.

It is not so fanciful and it is not far off, and it will require a different way of thinking that will see new leaders emerge and new alliances formed, ensuring an exciting technology landscape over the next two decades or so.



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