Internet of Things

Science Fiction or IoT?

As we look around our communities many of the futuristic devices that used to only exist in science fiction novels seem to have finally arrived in the here and now. We have the Internet of Things or “IoT” to thank for these new developments in technology. In simple terms, IoT is a network of devices that communicate with each other through wireless connections. Information in the local environment is gathered by sensors in various devices and automatically sent to connected devices or data storage areas. But what are some of the concrete examples of IoT and how they’ve brought science fiction to the present? Below are just a few examples and there are many more on their way.

1. Cars That Can Drive Themselves

If you have looked at purchasing a car in the past few years there are more sensors than ever built in standard to vehicles: rear view cameras, automatic breaking sensors to avoid a collision, lane departure warning systems for traveling on the highway and even cars that can parallel park themselves. We may not be fully there yet but from these developments a completely self-driven car is not a long ways off. As these sensors are developed and their ability to work together is streamlined some estimate that early versions will be released by 2019. With this development though also comes the need to protect our vehicles from hackers. Cars are currently outfitted with many computers that are susceptible to hacking as they connect to the Internet. Firewalls and other protective services will need to be improved before the self-driving car is consumer ready.

2. Health Monitoring and Self-Diagnosing Devices

The Star Trek “tricorder” was a device that could be used to instantly diagnose diseases and provide vitals for a patient with almost no invasive testing. This device is close to becoming a reality thanks to sensors, IoT, and the Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize competition. But for a more immediate example you may just have to look down at your wrist. Are you currently wearing a Fitbit or other fitness tracker? With close to 20.8 million devices sold as of March 2015, FitBit and other fitness tracking devices are revolutionizing the way people track their health and wellness. Fitness tracking devices are worn everyday to track how many steps or stairs you’ve walked, your heart rate throughout the day, and even monitor your sleep to help you rest better. For those of us that need that extra motivation, you can rely on your choice fitness tracking device to remind you throughout the day to get moving.

3. Smart Homes

Imagine waking up and as you walk through your house each room has the lights automatically turn on, temperature adjusted to your exact preference, and music fine-tuned to you specific tastes starts to play. As you leave for the day, you click a button on your phone that automatically locks the entire house and activates the alarm. Later, on your way home you get a text message from your fridge updating you that you are low on milk and out of onions for tonight’s dinner. This is no longer science fiction or wishful thinking. Businesses are currently investing millions to sync wearable devices with your home to allow your light, temperature, and music preferences to be communicated to each room you walk into. Almost every home security system currently offers the ability to control your locks and alarm via your smart phone. Many even allow you to turn down the temperature when no one is home to save energy consumption. And as for the smart fridge? Most are currently still in the prototype form and not available for mass consumer consumption. But a GE crowdsource group has created the ChillHub, a fridge that allows for various IoT add-ons like a scale that tells you how much milk you have left in the fridge.

What other science fiction items have you been seeing in today’s IoT modern world?


Guide to the Internet of Things

Making Inspector Gadget a Reality: Public Safety and the Internet of Things

When the TV series “Inspector Gadget” originally aired in 1983, I seriously doubt the creators ever thought the concept could be implemented in reality. The Internet of Things, combined with the soon-to-be-deployed Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN), could change all of that. For you millenials that may not remember the series (or the 1999 movie starring Matthew Broderick), Inspector Gadget is a cyborg detective that can prompt different, kooky devices on/in his body by saying “Go Go Gadget….”. The devices vary from helicopter blades or extra hands that eject from his hat, to super-long robotic arms, to multipurpose tool-fingers, to jet-powered rollerblades; Inspector Gadget seemingly had a solution to just about any predicament he got himself into. He also had a really cool “gadget mobile” car that he could talk to and that could even drive itself.

Although the title character was a little bit of a dunce and the jokes were usually made at his expense, the concept that law enforcement could voice-prompt various devices on their person or vehicle would be a transformative and powerful evolution of public safety capabilities. Imagine if an officer on a high-speed chase could voice-prompt dispatch or request a read out of traffic patterns up ahead. Imagine if a SWAT team could voice-prompt a heads-up display that showed the blueprint of a building, or a heat-map identifying potential bad guys. On top of that, imagine if a responder’s weapon could “talk” to her other devices, such as a body-worn camera, “smart clothing” with bio-sensors, her radio, or CAD console. The potential increase in situational awareness is almost incomprehensible and the possibilities are endless.

The Internet of Things, as buzz-wordy as it may be, is coming (or is it already here?); first responders could reap major benefits if public safety requirements are baked into the development of such technologies early on. IOT inherently requires Internet access and a data network, which public safety does not have today. FirstNet is working hard to create the capability, though, and this type of “personal area networking” is already on the minds of public safety communications thought-leaders.

Of course, this kind of technology can also be dangerous. If it’s online, it can likely be hacked into, which presents serious vulnerabilities and perhaps untenable risks.

Nonetheless, applying the muscle of the Internet of Things to situational awareness for our nation’s response community is a powerful notion.


Inspector Gadget via Las Provincias


Guide to the Internet of Things