My guest appearance about the #IoT on WBGH’s “Innovation Hub”

Posted on 19th October 2012 in Internet of Things

On Tuesday I joined serial IoT entrepreneur David Rose and MIT Professor Sanjay Sarma with Host Kara Miller on WGBH Radio’s “Innovation Hub” to discuss the current reality and prospects for the Internet of Things.


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New study predicts rosy future for #IoT

Posted on 9th October 2012 in Internet of Things

A study released today says that more companies are making #IoT solutions a near-term priority.    The report by Forrester Consulting, “Building Value from Visibility: 2012 Enterprise Internet of Things Adoption Outlook,”  was commissioned by Zebra Technologies Corporation, which makes marking and printing technologies, including RFID and real-time location solutions.

According to Forrester, among those companies surveyed, 53% plan to implement an IoT solution in the next two years, and another 14% plan to do so in 2-5 years. 15% of the organizations already have an IoT solution in place. Transportation and logistics, as one might expect, lead the field: 21% of those businesses already have IoT solutions.   By contrast, only 3% of health care institutions surveyed have IoT solutions in place.

The study shows that “many organizations are using technologies such as barcoding, RFID and GPS to gain greater visibility into the location, condition, timing and accuracy of the events occurring in their value chains.”

According to the study, “a variety of forces are aligning to drive increased enterprise demand for Internet of Things solutions, including declining device costs and widely deployed IP networks. While supply chain visibility and asset tracking are the top issues organizations hope to address with these solutions, the top benefits for surveyed North American enterprises include loss prevention, cost efficiencies and supply chain.”

Zebra’s own IoT targets include patient identification, inventory management, and food traceability.

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Ube: #IoT for smartphones. The killer #IoT app???

Posted on 5th October 2012 in Internet of Things

Ube, a new home automation system for smartphones, has launched with a bang, winning the Demo 2012 competition. This really may be the home automation system that makes the #IoT a household reality!

Oh yeah, did I mention the app is free?

According to co-founder Glen Burchers, “’We control home electronics that connect to the Internet..This includes your smart TV, set top box, media player, thermostat, and even garage door opener all from within one free app. We manage this control intuitively with a gesture interface.’”

“Routed through your home network or through Ube’s Cloud when remote, users will be able to control their Smart TV and set-top boxes using the Ube app right off the bat when it launches early next month. The company says its app will work with over 200 IP-based devices like AV receivers, thermostats (watch out, Nest!), garage doors, etc.”

They are also working on three pieces of hardware to extend the system’s power: a smart dimmer, outlet and plug.

Ube devices


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#IoT-enhanced hard cider

Posted on 3rd October 2012 in Internet of Things

Just as I wrote about Ninja Blocks, here’s a new bottle cap that makes the Internet of Things fun (or, as Fast Company calls it, the alcohol-based internet of things, which should make it a lot of fun!).

London-based creative agency Work Club created the bottle cab for Heineken’s Strongbow Gold Cider. The “StartCap” includes an RFID tag. When you flip the top it triggers a range of actions:  “anything from automatically checking you into Foursquare to activating a spotlight or firing a glitter cannon.”

That reminds me of the Budweiser taps that light up when the Red Sox score. Guess we know where that one went this season, groan….

The StartCap and its ilk aren’t the most consequential, life-altering examples of the Internet of Things, but they do illustrate how pervasive it can become, and how companies will be able to alter their products to create a real relationship with the consumer.  As World Club Joint Creative Partner (how’s that for a title?) Ben Mooge told Fast Company, “‘Technology allows you to bring product, customer, and brand much closer together.'”


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Union Pacific & the IoT: if a 150-year old railroad can do it, shouldn’t you?

Posted on 2nd October 2012 in Internet of Things

I missed this in-depth article on the Union Pacific Railroad’s extensive #IoT applications — and more impressive goals, and I thought you’d appreciate what this 150-year old company is doing.

They’ve already been able to cut bearing-related derailments by 75% (aside: years and years ago I was the associate producer on a WCVB-TV documentary on the problems of the railroads. One of my lasting memories was about the fires that can start by “hot boxes” in the bearings). That’s done by a combination of devices that are linked to UP headquarters through fiber optics: infrared sensors placed every 20 miles along the track, trackside microphones “to listen for growling bearings,” and, for its biggest an heaviest coal trains, it takes ultrasonic images to see inside the wheels.

But CIO Lynden Tennison want to do more. He’d like to replace the trackside sensors with “smart dust” ones plastered all over the wheels, bearings and other places that would record conditions and report them in real time wirelessly. He estimates that the sensors would have to work on a railcar 5-7 years without replacement, so the energy needs of current sensors are too much for widespread deployment.

The article illustrates the current state-of-the-art in IoT: trying to increase the railroad’s velocity — IT’s core mission — is ” a constant balance between analytics-driven automation and human judgment.” Take the data on bearings: 20 million daily readings lead to about 1,500 daily alerts that the staff examines, after that data is fed through sophisticated algorithms (of those alerts, about 10 are serious enough that the driver needs to stop the train ASAP for inspection!).

The railroad is still hampered by imperfect data, especially on train locations (no, although they use GPS, it isn’t adeuate to pinpoint trains’ location).

Author Chris Murphy concludes on a cautionary note about the current status of the #IoT:

“This kind of reality check on the Internet of Things is essential. People’ faith in emerging technology gets to the point that they start to assume that all ata is gettable, that all of it i crunchable to turn questions into answers, like those magical computers that pit out the answer in spy movies.

“Union Pacific points to what’s possible. Yet at the same time, its doal of driving growth through greater use of analytics, sensors, and networked machines shows how much work still lies ahead.”

Yes, there’s still a lot to do, especially in micro-miniaturing sensors and their power sources, but if a 150-year old railroad can achieve such results, what’s your company’s excuse for not beginning to adopt an #IoT strategy??

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Nest 2.0: kewl thermostat gets even more kewl

Posted on 2nd October 2012 in Internet of Things

Nest has announced version 2.0 of its Internet of Things thermostat, and this beautiful device just got more beautiful.

If you haven’t seen the Nest before, it’s the first #IoT

Connectors for the Nest 2.0 thermostat

product from former Apple designer Tony Fadell. The thermostat observes your family’s house-use behavior through its sensor, and then programs itself  — pretty astounding, and perhaps the first #IoT product for the home to really have pizzazz.

Version 1.0 was pretty amazing, but the new one tops it. The cover is narrower and more streamlined, but what really caught my eye was the guts of the product when you take the cover off. I’ve just been replacing all of the electric outlets and switches in our house as part of renovations (when will it ever end?…) and was blown away by the elegance of the connectors for the thermostat’s wires. Fadell must have been listening when Steve Jobs talked about building a fence with his father, who put as much attention on the back of the fence as on the front, explaining that even if no one else noticed it, he’d know it was done right.

Nice job!

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DATA Act reintroduced — let’s get it enacted!

Posted on 1st October 2012 in open data

Senators Warner & Portman, in a rare sign of bi=partisan common sense, have introduced a redrafted version of the DATA Act, which would impose consistent data standards and create a single public platform (XBRL, pleeeze) for all federal spending information.

According to the Data Transparency Coalition, it would “provide citizens with a detailed, accurate review of how taxpayer funds are used; give the government new tool to prevent waste, fraud and abuse; and spur innovation in the federal information technology industry.”

Rep. Darrell Issa’s version of the bill passed the House unanimously last Spring. Let’s hope prompt Senate action on this compromise version follows!

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an hour on self-driving cars

Posted on 1st October 2012 in Internet of Things

Last week On Point devoted an hour, in the wake of the new California law permitting them, to self-driving cars. I didn’t catch any new revelations, but it was a pretty good summary of the technology and governmental issues as of now.

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