The Internet of Things is a catch-all term for connecting ‘things’ to help drive user value, business intelligence and create a smarter world. Some people find Internet of Things to be a little daunting as it is so encompassing, or view it as simply a way to connect a fridge to the Internet.
Before getting into the Internet of Things, let’s think about what the Internet was originally created for. Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, universities, scientists and researchers were using mainframe computers where data was stored locally. It was believed at the time that connecting these organisations up would help to improve the sharing of knowledge, with the belief that shared knowledge would lead to huge advancements of research and study.
Fast forward to today, and more data is generated daily than ever before. The Internet has connected the world and made it possible for people to connect in hugely inventive ways. It changed the world in ways that the early pioneers of the Internet could never have imagined.
The smartphone has ushered in a new wave of innovation, helping to connect us and deliver information faster than ever before. People generally focus on IoT as connecting assets, such as thermostats, energy metres and other infrastructure, but for years now mobile has been helping to drive IoT in a variety of innovative ways. We believe this makes it seem a lot less scary, here are just a few:
Weather apps are prime examples of IoT in practise. Without comprehensive weather data being collected by weather stations, weather apps would be pretty primitive.
Some weather apps use both radar data and sensors, contained within phones, to try to make the weather forecasts more accurate. One example of this is Weather Signal, an app that utilises temperature, pressure, light intensity, magnetic flux and humidity sensors found within many Android phones, to help forecast weather. The app, created by OpenSignal, essentially crowdsources data from mobile devices by turning them into millions of sensors, to help identify micro-changes to the weather.
Dark Sky is another app that is innovating with IoT for weather. It started life on Kickstarter as an app that uses hyper-local radar data to calculate what is about to happen with the weather. Originally, the app was designed to predict the future for the upcoming hour, but as its algorithms improved, it has been able to improve its prediction engine. The company’s proprietary backend, Forecast is available for developers to integrate into their apps to use weather data for a variety of use cases.
Last month, Dark Sky updated its iOS app to take advantage of the barometers which are now built into the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. At the moment, Dark Sky is seeing how reliable that data will be and how to best utilise it within its app, but it’s clear that crowdsourcing this data could help to make the app even smarter.
Waze is a crowdsurfing app that helps to let drivers know whether there are traffic problems on their route. Acquired by Google in 2013, the app provides turn-by-turn navigation and would be able to identify when users were stopped, or moving slowly for a prolonged period of time. As the app grew in popularity, it’s accuracy started to increase. Essentially, the app turned cars into connected assets that were able to deliver information about traffic issues.
As a result, the app is able to redirect users to other routes when traffic starts to build up along the route they were originally going. In its early days, Waze was mainly community-curated for its information but, under Google, the app is constantly being developed to be more intelligent.
Apple Maps also uses data collected by its iPhone users to provide real-time traffic information to its navigation system. Though Apple Maps got off to a rocky start, it has become more powerful in recent years and will soon get even more features with iOS 9. There are also rumours that Apple is looking to bring this type of implementation to indoor locations, such as Airport security, to let people know how long queues are if they are due to travel.
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the ever-growing network of physical objects that feature an IP address for Internet connectivity, and the communication that occurs between these objects and other Internet-enabled devices and systems.
When we’re approaching apps, we look at where traffic to websites might be coming from and what people are predominantly doing on mobile. Computers and mobile devices are physical objects that feature an IP address for internet connectivity, in many ways, that makes them IoT devices.
Once we’ve created apps, we’ll also use analytics generated from within apps to identify where improvements can be made or which features are more popular than others. This is a form of IoT, in a very basic way, as it’s using data to understand where improvements can be made.
Like the early days of the Internet itself, IoT is already helping to make life easier for people by using data that can be collected by our mobile devices. Mobile being inside cars or out on the street is helping to make traffic reporting more intelligent and weather more accurate.
Mobile technologies such as beacons are also a key connecting technology for IoT, especially with older equipment or assets where people regularly pass. By connecting the apps, they are able to utilise mobile connectivity to deliver data back to a company. Examples, such as the ones above highlight innovative approaches where mobile is at the centre.