Sometimes it is good to look back in order to look forward. It took us over 100 years to connect millions of places with roads, bridges and railways followed by major cities, rural villages, and now continents connected through air travel. It took us 10 years to connect 7 billion people with copper wires, fiber optics, mobile, and the Internet. And now we are embarking on what has the potential to be one of our most incredible journeys yet-the Internet of Things (IoT) era. Promising to connect up to 50 billion things in the coming years, this mind-blowing transformation guarantees equally mind-blowing complexities. We must recognize that the goal that drove these prior advancements was to connect people. First it was to get them from point A to point B. Then it was about enabling them to pick up a phone and connect with someone on the other end of the line. Then it was about simply transferring information via email and the Internet vs. waiting for the Pony Express or snail mail.
With all the talk about “things,” it’s critical to remember at it’s core, the objective of IoT should be about connecting people to improve the ways in which they get business done and simplify their lives. And as we integrate people into IoT, communications will play a vital role. There will definitely be points where we want to take action and not leave it up to machines. It is the real-time communications from things to people in all forms (text, email, video, voice) that will help drive positive business and individual outcomes and experiences.
"IoT can enhance our experience as consumers by improving inventory and maintenance with the extra benefit of offering some customer interaction"
Don’t Lose Sight of the Communications to People
Advancements over time, as cited above, occurred because complex elements were made simple. Mud roads evolved to concrete highways, rotary dial phones connected with wires to mobile smartphones.
Take the Amazon Echo, which was a breakout hit this holiday season, as an example. You ask the device to do something such as order more paper towels and it responds by connecting to your account and completing the transaction. If you needed to ask it to do something, go over and manually type something in, get an email to approve it, etc. Would you? Probably not. It’s that simplicity that people are drawn to, they ask and they receive, that’s it.
It’s this marriage of IoT and real-time communications that will take this new era to the next level by eliminating complexity and changing the ways in which people and things are able to “speak” to each other.
Some Real-Time Communications to Watch in New Connected Paradigm: Security Systems
Security systems have come a long way from the phone call you used to receive from your security provider. Today, motion activates the camera causing a text-based notification to be sent to you. You can either chose to view the video live or send it to record. If view live is selected, you can control the camera through your mobile device, zooming in and out or moving up, down, left or right. This system can be one camera or multiple cameras, but it is the simplicity of the communication that really makes you feel more secure as you can truly see in real time what is happening inside your home or business.
Self-Monitoring and Repairing Cars
The telematics space has also seen a lot of early innovation and adoption. Your car is full of sensors, which can indicate problems, you know the one where that pesky little wrench pops on your dashboard while you’re driving when something within the vehicle is not working properly. In this case, the car communicates directly to the monitoring system.
In the future, we will see this scenario extended so you can ask the vehicle what the issue is; the vehicle can connect with your dealer, whom you can then have a live chat with to discuss the problem. Alternatively, the car will communicate the problem to the dealer, interact with your preferred service provider, and automatically schedule the appropriate service appointment. You will then be informed of the scheduled repair via text, email, voice; whatever form of communication you select. This thing-to-human interaction is the most critical as it ultimately results in action. This is good for consumers and service providers in terms of safety, extending vehicle life and more revenue for dealers.
Just-In-Time Inventory, Maintenance and Repair
Have you ever been at a gymnasium when your child tugs on your pant leg begging for some money for the vending machine, only to find that their favorite candy is sold out? Or worse yet, you put in your $2.00 for a Gatorade, press the button, and out pops a Diet Coke? What if that machine was connected with the maintenance company to ensure full inventory, notification to repair, and it contained a button that allowed for quick resolution of money dispensed? In this case, IoT can enhance our experience as consumers by improving inventory and maintenance with the extra benefit of offering some customer interaction.
Another example can be seen as enterprises monitor remote machinery. Think, for instance, of an efficient workforce being able to monitor machinery in remote locations, oil rigs, generators, wind farms. In the case, the data from multiple sensors is gathered to monitor volume a pump is pushing, rate of liquid flow, heat of machine, rotations of blades, etc. When a metric falls out of tolerance, a communication is sent to the operator. The communication can be a visual indicator: text or email-whatever is desired by company. If heat is too high, the decision can be made to get visual exposure to the machine checking on fire. It is this communication combined with the information that allows the business to do remote repair or send the correct maintenance personnel to do the job.
These scenarios are the interactions your customers, and yourself as a consumer, are going to expect in the new IoT era. So what real-time communication and IoT characteristics are needed to make this all work? It will include:
• Data collection: organize, store, and analyze massive amounts of data from all types of things, this is big data.
• Inventory and Activation: account for and turn on and off sensors, light bulbs, machines, any device.
• Connectivity and Bandwidth: connect things to things and things to people. Bandwidth for short bursting and in other cases bandwidth to accommodate real time communications.
• Real-Time Communication: select communication method of your choice to ensure things are notifying you in the way you want and providing the ability to act.