It is hard to deny that the Internet of Things (IoT) has reached a critical mass of sorts and is now feeding and growing on its own momentum. Every day there is news from all over the world of companies adopting and utilizing IoT technologies in very interesting ways that improve their business, reduce problems and risks, and provide automatic accountability in a world of global availability. And IoT is finding its way into the consumer market as well, providing home safety and automation, secure access and accountability for school children, and the capability to locate indispensable items like bikes and car keys.
Every technology used in IoT is different. Primary technologies in IoT include RFID, Bluetooth and Wifi. These technologies have extremely different capabilities, strengths and weakness that ensure the best technology is available for specific scenarios. For example, do you want to track many things (clothing in a department store) or a few things (car keys)? Do you need extremely short range (contact-based access control, contactless secure payment system with read distance of a few millimeters). Medium-range (retail checkout scan of a few inches), or long-range (employee/patient tracking, long-range stock tracking at 30-50ft). Or do you need extremely long range sensors that indicate a mechanical failure or issue (lead level in water supply, miner experiencing oxygen issues in a mine shaft) at a distance of a quarter mile or more?
Each technology communicates using different comm protocols, timings, ranges, security levels, etc., and each technology requires a unique system to interpret and process the data to ensure relevant information is immediately communicated, while non-relevant information (redundant status updates) are filtered out.
00:16:25:11:22:C3 4 0C210501607131472202319F 1434760116623735 61
Unlike EDI or XML, each IoT technology communicates differently with no existing standard. Here is a great article by Sanjay Sarma of MIT Technology Review titled The Internet of Things: Roadmap to a Connected World. Data from IoT sensors typically includes a sensor/tag identifier (in Hexadecimal) and sometimes a sensor data element (on/off or sensor reading like 121 degrees). Some IoT items communicate directly with the internet (onboard Wifi or Bluetooth). Others need a device to read the signal from the sensor/tag (Reader) and relay the signal to the internet (or server application). The Reader will add additional metadata to the tag/sensor data (reader identifier, timestamp, signal strength, etc.), translate the tag signal and transmit the enhanced signal data to a local application or to the internet.
The resulting data string might look something like this: “00:16:25:11:22:C3 4 0C210501607131472202319F 1434760116623735 61”
Professor Plumb in the Library with the Candlestick Holder
In the end, all you really want from your IoT device is the WHAT (Professor Plumb), the WHERE (Library), the WHEN (9:36PM) and possibly a sensor reading (Alive/Dead?). You expect your IoT application to monitor other tracked items in the vicinity (Candlestick Holder) and the relationship of items that would make the game of Clue extremely short if played using IoT technology. Of course, we would also know that Mrs. Peacock “expired” at 9:36PM in the Library… This status would trigger an alert to the designated authorities with the relevant information.
Sensors and machine-to-machine interaction is just the beginning of the IoT revolution. The real value lies in integrating these disparate data feeds into your day-to-day operations. Ask yourself – do I want to maintain a bunch of new applications and interfaces?
Do I want to deploy and maintain internet and “Edge” servers to reduce thousands of data records continuously generated (per minute) to extract the one relevant record (item x has stopped)? Do I want to spend the next 2 years experimenting with IoT and RFID technology to find out what works for me and my specific business scenario? How do I leapfrog existing legacy systems to take advantage of emerging IoT technologies and other related technology?
Ask yourself, would it be valuable for me to have multiple systems working together to provide a single view of the entire history of an item – including assembly steps and components, warehouse locations and movements, shipping updates from multiple carriers, quality inspections, service records, and record of employees who touched the item? In the case of catastrophic item failure (airliner crash, food poisoning) knowing where each component has ever been will be extremely important.
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eChain Technology was founded in 2001 to design, develop and deliver innovative supply-chain solutions and enterprise project execution that improves efficiency and maximizes operational performance. We have a 100% success rate delivering more than $150 million in net income and value to Fortune-500, multi-national companies and government agencies. eChain Technology specializes in RFID, supply-chain and enterprise solutions that immediately address business cost areas and improve operational performance. We provide full service consulting, system integration and application development.