The Internet of Things - The Future of Mobile Location and Context
The Internet of Things (IoT) can sound intimidating in terms of underlying technology, but for mobile "things" it is simple: it is the combining the location of the thing with state, status, and/or condition of the thing--measured by sensors--to derive the thing's context. It is this context--determined and enhanced by the cloud--that should underlie and drive the value of IoT and form the basis of all IoT applications.
Thus the historical focus of this site, Location-Based Services, will become one of the cornerstones of IoT. This page will focus on the critical role mobile location and context will play in delivering on the promise of IoT, as well as avoid its pitfalls.
What is IoT? Simply put, the Internet of Things is the digital representation of all physical things, which then allows them access to be connected to the internet. This connectivity opens the door for a near-infinite range of new services.
What is IoT's purpose? It is not to connect things for the sake of connecting things. Rather it is to determine the context of a thing, and to provide services based on that context. What is Context? Context is about determining What, Where, When, How, and Why. What a thing is doing, at a specific time (when) and particular place (where); How it is doing it, often described in terms of process; and above all: Why is the thing doing what it is doing, at that time and place, in the manner it is doing it. Knowing context information in accurate detail opens incredible doors for new value-added services. It also opens a Pandora's box of issues.
How is IoT and LBS related? IoT is a logical extension of LBS, as the lowering costs of location sensors (particularly GPS and beacons) will allow location determination to be attached to or embedded in "dumber" things. Combined with an explosion in all other types of sensors--environmental, biometric, etc.--the context (location and state/status/condition) of any thing can be determined. While IoT can involve both fixed and mobile things, mobile IoT is where most of the value will be derived, with location at its core.
What things? What value? Pretty much anything and everything you can imagine. The things are everything in your home; at work; your car. What you wear; play with; work with. For enterprises the potential value is enormous, and most of the value--particularly for mobile devices--depends on context. Some examples:
Consumer Wearables (Watches, Glasses/Earpieces, Clothes, Shoes) - For better or worse, practically everything we wear or use has the potential for data collection and usage in some form. Some will fall into the strange and unusual category (e.g. egg container alerts), but the use cases for many others harbor the potential for real benefits. These include:
Activity Tracking - such as a fitness tracker (already seen today in Fitbit). Tracking your activity, routes, accomplishments, and biometrics.
Weight Loss - where and how do you burn the most calories (even tracking what you eat, and conditions under which you eat alot).
Illness Management - For specific health issue monitoring. For example stress management, correlating stress to particular situations, and managing your location/context to avoid such situations.
Hands-free Device Interaction - Particularly for seniors: turn on/off lights with a gesture or word, open a garage door, etc.
Car Interaction - Turn on/off air conditioning, manage in-car functionality/entertainment, particularly location-based.
Event Management - Enhance events (games, concerts, etc.) based on seating, people around you, etc.
Hearing Aid Enhancement - Adjusting sensitivity based on location/background noise, find your lost hearing aid
Smart Cities -The potential for IoT to improve the efficency, effectiveness, and overall management of towns, municipalities, and even the largest metropolis is enormous. Opportunties small (such as public restroom tissue paper replacement) to huge (e.g. large scale waste processing) abound as sensors are aligned with devices and facilities throughout the city, and the data analysed to extract improvements in public services never before possible. Segments of opportunity include:
Fire Detection - All smoke, fire, and CO2 devices can be connected to fire departments, saving seconds, plus providing additional data such as intensity and precise location of individual fires, which can tie into response deployment strategies and tactics.
Driving behavior - Beyond red-light cameras, the potential (ab)use of sensors built into stop signs, speed limit signs, etc. can make formerly passive signs into real enforcement tools. And potentially a nightmare, as red-light camera equipped towns have already learned...
Video Surveillance - The ability to obtain video footage from a much greater variety of devices opens the door to improved law enforcement, from deterrance to improved response time to higher conviction rates. But privacy issues abound.
Smart Buildings/Public Facilities
Elevators (traffic, wait optimization) -
Fall Protection (Guardrails, Hole Covers, Personal Fall Arrest, Safety Nets), (Safety Monitor, Warning Line, Controlled Access Zone, Written Fall Protection) -
Public Restrooms (tissue paper, towels) -
Smart Lighting/Energy Efficiency -
Smart Metering -
Waste Management -
Water Management (Landscaping, Storm/flooding management) -
Environmental Sensing -
Public Transportation, Fleet Management -
Smart Traffic, Smart Parking -
Enterprises - The ability for business to capitalize on IoT is enormous. But easier said than done; the practical issues of interoperability, integration, process (re) design, and even "basic" issues such as privacy and security can dilute or even prevent the potential benefits. However, done right, IoT can bring step-level improvements, such as:
Agriculture - Autonomous Tractors, Drones, Land use imagery and sensors, Precision Agriculture