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The Internet of Things – What The Big Shots Are Up To

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By Anagha P

The Internet of things (IoT) may be the most over-hyped technology of the century, according to Gartner. But it has definitely changed the industry’s outlook on how business is done. While there are so many start-ups like Nest (smart thermostat), Particle (rapid development board) and IFTTT (do-it-yourself apps) who made it big in the IoT segment, some core companies have also been trying to establish themselves in this arena by acquiring small companies and developing on innovative connected products and services. Here are four major companies – Microsoft, Intel, Huawei and Cisco – and what they have in store for us.

Microsoft – software services for the IoT

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Remote oil and gas installation (Image courtesy - Wikipedia)
Remote oil and gas installation (Image courtesy – Wikipedia)

The software giant entered the IoT arena in 2010 with Windows Azure (now Microsoft Azure), a cloud-based computing platform and infrastructure. They have since come up with some interesting projects.

Oil and gas analysis: A solution was developed for Rockwell Automation to automate the collection and monitoring of data from remote installations in the oil and gas supply chain. Data from sensors and devices installed across the supply chain are collected, integrated, organised and analysed using software to get real-time insights for preventive maintenance of the system.

ThyssenKrupp has joined hands with Microsoft for next-generation elevator servicing (Image courtesy - Microsoft_blog)
ThyssenKrupp has joined hands with Microsoft for next-generation elevator servicing (Image courtesy – Microsoft_blog)

‘Lift’ing to new heights: ThyssenKrupp Elevator, one of the major lift manufacturers, partnered with Microsoft and CGI to bring about a smart, connected ecosystem for real-time predictive and pre-emptive maintenance. Data from the lifts’ sensors and systems are captured, transmitted to the cloud, and presented on the call centre technician’s dashboard as issues that need immediate attention and data to be stored and used for management. The system not only predicts possible failures but also suggests how the technician could go about fixing about 400 possible error codes on a lift.

autolib’ Bluecar car sharing service at Paris, France

Intelligent car-pooling: Paris-based electric car sharing service Autolib’ has 72 registration kiosks, 850 rental kiosks, 4,300 charging stations, and 2,300 in-car systems connected to a back-end system that performs data analysis and gives business insights.

Smart Irrigation with sensors (Image courtesy - Wikipedia)
Smart Irrigation with sensors (Image courtesy – Wikipedia)

Keeping water costs in check: As a measure to control the high cost of water, local water authorities at California are getting customer insights with the help of connected sensors and using this information to optimise distribution and reduce the power required for water management.

Intel – the hardware manufacturers

Intel’s expertise in IoT comes with two hardware development platforms, sensors, actuators and an IoT developer kit.

Intel Galileo and Intel Edison (Image courtesy - Flickr)
Intel Galileo and Intel Edison (Image courtesy – Flickr)

The platforms for development: In October 2013, Intel came up with an Arduino-certified open source development board named Intel Galileo that is easy to use and primarily targeted at electronics hobbyists, do-it-yourself (DIY) enthusiasts and academia. During the first half of the next year they introduced Intel Edison, a platform to enable rapid innovation and development of Internet-based products and solutions. It is more powerful in terms of the central processing unit (CPU) and random access memory (RAM), has a very small form factor (size of an SD card) and easily integrates with sensors and networks.

Touch sensor from Intel Grove Starter Kit (Image courtesy - Flickr)
Touch sensor from Intel Grove Starter Kit (Image courtesy – Flickr)

Adding sensing and actuator elements: They say there is no IoT without sensors. The sensor components, just like the human senses, collect data such as temperature, light, voice and distance from the environment and send it to a processor to extract useful information. The actuators are motors that use this information to control and move a physical mechanism. Intel also offers these components.

Combining these into a kit: Grove Starter Kit Plus – Intel IoT Edition is a package specifically for IoT projects. It consists of a developer board (Intel Galileo/Edison), a few sensors and actuators, a microSD card, adapters, cables, software (Yocto Linux system, Eclipse and Intel XDK IDE), IoT Cloud Analytics and a set of libraries – almost every component one needs to kick start IoT product development.

Quark: The smallest chip launched by Intel, Quark, is claimed to connect smartphones and wearable devices to the Internet using very less power. They have also recently announced collaboration with the Council of Fashion Designers of America to bring more wearable technologies and products to the fashion world.

Huawei – for gateways and energy solutions

The IoT specialisation of this China-based company is spread across hardware, software and service domains.

Software: LiteOS is an ultra-light-weight open source operating system to manage and control sensor networks in real-time. This OS supports a variety of protocols and is already being used in several IoT applications such as smart watches, real-time monitoring and so on.

Huawei AR series Agile Gateway (Image courtesy - Huawei)
Huawei AR series Agile Gateway (Image courtesy – Huawei)

Platforms and gateways: The Huawei IoM solution combines a connectivity management platform, a service enabler platform, data collection and storage and openness functions for the IoT. It has telecom grade architecture, can be deployed on a cloud-based data processing and service platform, and seamlessly integrates with third-party data analytics and digital service platforms. Huawei also offers the AR Series Agile Gateways that support multiple protocols and transmission media. They also have products and solutions for eLTE (enterprise long-term evolution) and LTE-M (machine-to-machine version of LTE). Apparently, LTE-M provides remote connection for up to 10 years on a single battery pack.

These products of Huawei’s are being used in many interesting projects. A building energy management system (BEMS) project based on connected systems, set up by Huawei at the University of Melbourne, for example, has reduced power consumption at the institution by an average of 30 per cent.

Cisco – Internet of factories

Cisco’s “Internet of Everything” is concentrates mainly on two areas of the industry – smart manufacturing and production efficiency, and connected factories.

9. Cisco Catalyst 3750 and IE 3000 (Image courtesy - Cisco)
Cisco Catalyst 3750 and IE 3000 (Image courtesy – Cisco)

Connected factory solutions: Along with Rockwell Automation, Cisco provides the Converged Plantwide Ethernet (CPwE) for providing wireless and wired communication between people, machines and databases in an industrial plant. Factory automation brings together enterprise systems with automation and control systems, using standards-based Internet Protocol (IP)-networking. This improves operations like asset tracking, wireless tooling and mobile video, and also helps reduce cost and increase productivity in the environment with secure remote access.

Smart supply chain: Secure access and improved visibility of communicated information across the supply chain helps to ease the workflow, increase efficiency, decrease business risks and promote innovation.

It is evident that the biggies are not going to be left out of the IoT race although there is a lot of talk about the start-ups too. With so many active players in the ecosystem, we are sure to see a lot more excitement in the days ahead.

The author is a dancer, karaoke aficionado, and a technical correspondent at EFY.

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