Narang N. Kishor, mentor and principal design architect of Narnix Technolabs helps us cut through the jargon and look deeper into what really comprises the IoT
By Janani Gopalakrishnan Vikram
The IoT is probably too broad a term for people to focus on. Could you, specifically, name some of the exciting technologies that are beginning to surround us today (signs of coming of the IoT)?
Well, IoT is all about heterogeneous and aware devices interacting to simplify people’s life in some way or the other.
One of the most profound (exciting as well as terrifying) technologies is augmented reality (AR). It is altering the way the world or immediate environment is viewed, especially for the users of this technology. Imagining the way the world would appear and be experienced, while walking or driving down the street.
With AR displays, informative graphics will appear in the corner of the glass, and an audio prompt would inform about whatever one is seeing. This information will be refreshed in tandem with movements of the wearer. Similar technology is already available in smartphones. And Google Glasses are already here.
Another up-and-coming technology is the ability of smartphones to communicate via NFC and Wi-Fi with a range of devices, including wristwatches, healthcare sensors and home entertainment systems. People are already captivated by the vision of being able to control everything in their homes and offices, from temperature, lighting and security to using devices to brew cups of coffee, program entertainment, check health records and conduct a myriad of other tasks.
Enterprises are also beginning to embrace IoT for tracking physical assets, managing customer relationships and creating efficiencies in business operations and supply chains.
What do you think are the key components of the IoT—and at what stages of maturity are these? Which of these components/frameworks do you think need to really develop very fast in order to give the IoT the required momentum?
The key components of the IoT are sensing nodes, local embedded processing nodes, connectivity nodes, software to automate tasks and enable new classes of services, remote embedded processing nodes and last but not the least full security across the signal path.
To give the IoT the required momentum, device management platforms, cloud computing and big data sciences in the virtual world are already flourishing and well geared up to meet the expectations of the designers. But, the physical world needs to catch up. The wireless and networking technologies need to mature very fast; we need innovative approaches in deployment of large sensor (and actuator) networks.
Bringing the IoT to life requires a comprehensive systems approach, inclusive of intelligent processing and sensing technology, connectivity, software and services, along with a leading ecosystem of partners.
For people/start-ups wishing to work in this field, what kind of competencies do they need to develop?
I would sincerely recommend them to brush up their basic electronics fundamentals including but not limited to sensors, analogue, power, RF and various compliance issues in hardware design. It would really help if they have in-depth understanding of different communication technologies, protocols and standards, particularly relevant to the domains of their applications. Understanding of security, privacy and socio-ethical implications of the solutions, services and applications they are trying to develop would also help. Please note, embedded processing, data analytics and other software skills are already considered as a must, so I am not delving into those.
Home Automation at CES 2014
As always, the International CES held at Las Vegas this January featured a myriad of innovations, and overall the Internet of Things (IoT) appeared to be a popular theme with various interesting announcements related to sensor technology, home automation, wearable computing, digital health and fitness, automotive electronics and green technology. In this issue, let us look at a few interesting home automation products displayed there:
LG’s new natural language messaging technology. LG displayed its useful HomeChat technology, which allows users to text their LG appliances as if
they were humans. And they respond like humans too! For example, now it is possible to ask your LG refrigerator if it has enough milk in its dairy tray or vegetables in its crisper drawer. Or, you can text LG’s Hom-Bot Square robotic vacuum cleaner to ask when it last cleaned the house, and perhaps instruct it to redo the job.
You can also use HomeChat to start a load of laundry on your new LG smart washer and dryer, monitor its status, download new cycles and receive push alerts via smartphones or an LG Smart TV!
Okidokeys, now get to know about these smart keys. The OpenWays Group launched Okidokeys, a technology that allows you to lock and unlock home doors, garage doors or gates using multiple means such as smartphones, smart keys, smart wristbands and smart watches too. The kit is very simple to install, and the platform works with multiple communication protocols such as Bluetooth 4.0, near-field communications (NFC), radio frequency identification (RFID) and crypto-acoustic credential (CAC) technology. The Okidokeys virtual network, bridge and app allow users to operate the lock remotely using iOS and Android devices.
Mother incarnate. If you really believe that nobody cares more for you than your mother, then Sen.se’s Mother is just the right home management tool for you. It is not only a smart home product but also a smart life product, as it monitors those aspects that you consider essential for a happy and healthy life.
The Mother system is based on multi-purpose sensors, which the inventor calls the ‘Motion Cookies.’ You can stick these cookies onto almost anything, from toothbrushes and water jugs to pill boxes and refrigerators. So, you can set the system to watch how much junk food you eat or how much water you drink, whether you have taken your pills and walked enough or whether your home and kids are safe when you are away.
Apart from showing all the information in a well-designed app, Mother can also remind you about all these and more, depending on your settings. The cookies are colour-coded so you can use them for activity groups or different members of the family. You can keep reprogramming the system to help you in other ways, as and when needed.
Staple your gadgets together. Staples Connect Hub is for those who already have dozens of Internet-connected devices at home and are tired of managing the many apps that manage these! The Connect Hub pools together all your IoT gadgets so you can control everything from one app. Staples has already tied up with several device makers, and is in talks with many more.
We will look at more CES revelations in various categories in the coming episodes.
The author is a technically-qualified freelance writer, editor and hands-on mom based in Chennai