#IoT saving the Amazon

Posted on 31st January 2013 in environmental, Internet of Things

As a passionate environmentalist who’s always looking for economical win-win solutions to thorny environmental issues, this one caught my eye!

Chris Rezendes of INEX Advisors blogged recently about a great example of the IoT making a real difference, in this case in the Amazon (disclaimer: Chris is my co-organizer for a forthcoming Meetup for IoT people in New England, and he’s built me into a number of new business proposals), where two firms, Cargo Tracck  and Gemalto, teamed up to catch thieves who had switched from their former clear-cutting to more selective processes aimed at only high value trees:

“M2M modules optimized to operate in austere network and harsh physical environments in protected regions of the Amazon.  Devices are attached to trees.  A number of mechanisms are embedded in the devices to notify authorities when a tree from a protected/ managed region is harvested.  The solution operates in near-real-time, and has back-end services that have enabled authorities to more quickly apprehend poachers, keep the contraband off the market, and provide layers and layers of economic and quality of life benefits to a number of stakeholders.”

This reminds me of the project of creating a trillion-sensor  “central nervous system for the planet” including the rainforests that HP proposed several years ago as part of its CeNSE project but has not been willing to discuss recently (when I attempted to interview personnel for the project when I was writing my e-book about the IoT the company’s PR department flatly refused. Hmmm…).

One particularly interesting aspect of the program is that it uses a RED (Radiation Data Exchange) technology “that boosts effective operating ranges in austere power and network coverage environments.”  As Rezendes points out, using the RED system doesn’t rely on transmitting massive amounts of real-time data, which would create headaches in terms of big data processing and also would require larger energy supplies for the sensors. Instead, it reports “short bursty data” based on exceptions to the normal data, which would indicate out-of-the-ordinary occurrences such as harvesting of one of the trees.

Here’s how it works:

“Smaller than a deck of cards, the tiny tracking device is camouflaged in a resin case made to blend in with the trunks of trees. Ten of the devices were covertly installed in remote active harvesting areas deep in the jungle. In addition, specialized night vision cameras were installed in nearby trees to capture visual evidence of illegal logging activities. The sophisticated power management system of the Cinterion module provided superior power efficiency allowing the device to operate reliably in the field for over a year without recharging batteries. When lumber gangs harvested a tagged tree, the solution immediately began sending alarms to law enforcement officials. Cargo Tracck’s leading-edge geo-location algorithms, along with the R.E.D. boosters provided unprecedented location accuracy, delivering tracking data and alarm notification to officials as soon as harvested trees passed within 20 miles of a cellular network. This allowed officials to remotely track trees and intercept and arrest thieves in the act of selling timber at sawmills, which ultimately led to quicker prosecution.”

Is that kewl, or what?

As Rezendes points out, the system is a win-win one for all of the major publics concerned with the rainforests: residents, those licensed to responsibly harvest the trees, the government — and the planet.

Perhaps an ad hoc assemblage of discrete projects such as this one in the Amazon can achieve the vision of the “central nervous system for the planet” on the cheap.

Bravo, Cargo Tracck & Gemalto!



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HAPIfork: simple IoT innovation with big implications!

Posted on 14th January 2013 in Internet of Things

Examining the breadcrumbs left after CES:

One of the Internet of Things devices unveiled at CES that got a lot of attention — much of it silly, IMHO — was the HAPIfork, from HAPILABS. Never mind that the device is still somewhat primitive: you have to connect it to your computer’s USB port to upload statistics — a Bluetooth version won’t be out until later this year.



It still has a serious intent: measuring the length of time between your bites, and vibrating if you shovel the food in too quickly.  I’ve seen how effective this technique can be for weight control. We have a family friend who lived with us for most of a year, and he was the most deliberate eater I’ve ever met: he took plenty of time between bites and thoroughly chewed every piece of food. Bottom line? One of the most wiry bodies I’ve ever seen!


With obesity a major problem, the HAPIfork might make a real contribution to making us all more conscious, conscientious eaters, and that would be no small contribution to reducing obesity.

So let Mr. Colbert laugh: I think the HAPIfork will soon have a place in smart people’s silverware drawer!



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#IoT Gets New Consortium. Huzzah!

Posted on 11th January 2013 in Internet of Things

I find it personally distressing that there’s no umbrella organization advocating for the #IoT and building public awareness of its existence. Even more, a robust association would promote contact among #IoT companies, which I’m confident would result in more synergistic apps and collaborations (one indicator of the potential? Runkeeper now has more than 100 partners through its Health Graph API for tying together different health and fitness applications, services, and devices).

That’s why I was pleased to see that 10 firms in the field announced at CES formation of The Internet of Things Consortium.  Most of them are startups, although the group does include Logitech. They are focused on home automation: “The IoT Consortium is primarily focused on those Internet enabled devices and related software services that directly touch consumers in the form of home automation, entertainment, and productivity.”

Their mission is to facilitate “cooperation between hardware, software, and service providers.  One of the goals of the consortium is to see billions of connected devices that benefit from communication with other devices and services.”

The big boys in the field have the IPSO Alliance, but its mandate is limited to advocating for “the Internet Protocol as the network for the connection of Smart Objects.”  When will we get an umbrella organization that will advocate for the IoT as a whole?

I plan to make my own small contribution to this effort by hosting a Meetup for all Boston-area researchers and companies sometime in February. Stay tuned for details!





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#IoT Award winner: Rest Devices Infant Monitor smart onsie can avoid SIDS

Posted on 1st January 2013 in Internet of Things

As a father whose infant son came home from the hospital with oxygen and a heart monitor because he’d occasionally forget to breathe (Thanks for your concern: that crisis is ended. Now our big worry is how to pay for his freshman year of college next fall….) I was most excited by the winner of the Connected Products (Body) category of Postscape’s best Internet of Things products for 2012.

The prototype (it’s unclear from the company’s website whether the monitor is actually in production) Rest Devices PeekoMIMO infant monitor Infant Monitor (the adult SleepShirt, already on the market, can help with controlling sleep apnea) “uses sensor technology to provide a constant signal of an infant’s respiration, skin temperature, and body position. And, if, for some reason, your baby stops breathing, you are alerted through your phone or tablet.” Imagine the potential reduction in number of infants’ death from SIDS if it was in widespread use.

The company, Rest Devices, has a great mission in the spirit of the Quantified Self: “We’re obsessed with making monitoring radically simple for people. Fun even.” Rest Devices is an outgrowth of all the pioneering work done at MIT on wearable computing devices.

The company’s blog says the Peeko will be in production later this year.

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