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How smart technology is being ingrained into everything we wear

IoT On The Rise – Highlights from CES 2018


The IoT For All team canvased nearly 4,000 exhibitors spread out over 2.75 million square feet and trekked over 7 miles each day to discover the hidden IoT gems at CES. Beyond the headline-grabbing autonomous concept cars and cuddly but somewhat creepy AI-powered robots, we found some cool companies making meaningful progress in the journey toward a connected world. Below are our six favorites from the show floor that probably didn’t get the coverage they deserve.

It looks like 2018 is shaping up to (finally) be the year of enterprise IoT. There are numerous factors at play including increased standardization at the protocol level, continued gains in cloud computing, the availability of several low-cost, wide-area wireless connectivity options such as LTE-M, NB-IoT, and LoRa, and a plethora of inexpensive and diminutive sensors that can be embedded into nearly anything. We’re excited to see how things play out!

1. Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF)

The OCF is a large and growing industry consortium that unites several formerly disparate organizations including the Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC), IoTivity, and the AllJoyn Alliance. The mission of the organization is to establish and certify the interoperability standard for connected devices – enabling them to discover and communicate with one another, regardless of manufacturer, operating system, chipset, or physical transport.

Nearly every major player in the technology industry is an active member, plus hundreds of smaller companies, and momentum appears to be gaining in adopting the standard.

OCF is active in the open source community and provides specifications, reference implementations, and oneIoTa, data models in RAML and JSON format, to accelerate integration and deployment. They also offer a certification program that ensures that OCF certified products are fully discoverable and interoperable across the network.

At their booth in CES, OCF demonstrated a fully interactive Smart Home concept with connected refrigerators, locks, HVAC units, alarm systems, and other components from various vendors including Samsung and LG.

Devices that are OCF certified are guaranteed to be interoperable and seamlessly connect to the network – enabling consumers to quickly assemble an integrated smart home out of various manufacturer’s products.

2. Greenwave Systems

Greenwave Systems is a global IoT company that provides managed technology products and services to mobile carriers, telecommunications companies, utilities, and other service providers. Their AXON Predict platform provides a powerful drag-and-drop analytics engine and data visualization capability that works both at the edge and in the cloud – enabling natural language queries and a dynamic “what if” scenario exploration.

With AXON Predict, enterprise customers and data scientists can quickly maneuver through massive amounts of data and tease out insights that lead to better operations – especially in the data-intensive world of the Industrial Internet of Things.

Greenwave also provided a preview of a very slick, low-cost, battery-powered asset tracker based on standard LTE technology that could shake up the market later this year. If it can deliver the performance described to us, we expect customer demand to be very high. Stay tuned to further developments and announcements from them as Mobile World Congress approaches in February.


IOTAS has created a data-driven, multifamily software platform that enables property owners and apartment managers to add smart home solutions for their tenants. Apartment managers that partner with IOTAS receive a fully installed, turnkey solution that includes all sensors, connectivity, and third-party integration.

Smart apartment buildings have numerous benefits including lowering friction for tenant turnover, better marketability, decreased operating costs, and appealing creature comforts for tenants. IOTAS’ customers have seen lift in lease rates as compared to standard non-smart apartment buildings and their companion app greatly simplifies the resident move-in/move-out process.

This convenience has been particularly appealing to tech-savvy millennials and have come to expect digital home features such as keyless locks, smart lighting, in-building notifications and social connectivity, and automated energy systems.

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4. Kerlink

Kerlink is a leader in the carrier-grade, LoRa gateway market and announced its second generation of products under the Wirnet iBTS brand. They also sell one of the few weatherproof, 64-channel gateways on the market and have been recently selected for large-scale LoRa deployments in India, Argentina, and New Zealand.

For CES, Kerlink partnered with Senet to deploy a regional LoRa network in the Las Vegas area to support demonstrations and future commercial deployments. The Las Vegas rollout represents the first production network in North America to support native LoRaWAN geo-localization without GPS.

The technology, licensed from Semtech and based on Differential Time of Arrival (DTOA) algorithms, triangulates a device’s position using the arrival time of signals to multiple gateways within a local network. Accuracy is slightly less than standard GPS, typically between 50-100 meters, but that is still sufficient for certain asset tracking use cases where the extra precision is not required.

5. ADT

ADT, in partnership with Reemo Health, introduced a customized Samsung Gear smartwatch with embedded cellular and Bluetooth capability designed for senior citizens and other at-risk populations.

The watch is provided as a completely managed turnkey service with no upfront cost based on a 2-year subscription. The offering includes the smartwatch, a wireless charging station, and 24/7 access to ADT trained professionals to assist with any emergency. To call an ADT professional, you simply swipe to the call center screen, press, and hold. The watch’s cellular capability takes care of the rest and you can talk directly to the service representative through the watch itself – no external device is needed.

ADT is currently marketing the product to businesses that cater to the elderly such as assisted care facilities and hospitals and plans to launch a consumer version later this year. The user interface of the watch is very elegant and easy-to-use and it can connect to other Bluetooth-enabled health and wellness devices such as blood pressure or glucose monitoring solutions. The entire product is very secure, compact, and most importantly, HIPAA compliant, since sensitive medical information may be stored and transmitted.

6. Taoglas

Taoglas is a global leader in the area of base station, external, and embedded antenna solutions for cellular (2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G), LPWAN (LoRa, Sigfox, LTE-M, NB-IoT), GPS/GNSS, and short-range (Bluetooth, WiFi, Zigbee).

Unless you’re an RF engineer, it can be difficult to fully comprehend how important antennas are to the overall reliability and performance of your wireless IoT system. Because miniaturization is so important in IoT applications, much of the focus these days has been on embedded chip-level antennas that are specifically tuned to the environment and frequency in which they operate.

Taoglas recently released their Terrablast 2.4 GHz embedded antenna made out of a glass-reinforced epoxy laminate that is 30% lighter than ceramic and very impact resistant. To demonstrate its ability to take a licking and keep on ticking, they heaved it off of a 39-story building and posted the video to YouTube.

Who says B2B antenna marketing has to be boring?

Hope everyone in the IoT ecosystem enjoys an innovative and prosperous 2018. See you at IoT Evolution in Orlando later this month!

How the Internet of Things Will Change Your Life in 2018


As we look forward to a new 12-month cycle of mind-boggling technological leaps and bounds, there’s one prediction we keep hearing from sector analysts more often than any other: after something of a soft landing in consumer terms last year, the Internet of Things (IoT) is all set to splashdown hard in 2018.

As this blog has explored in various posts over the years (like this one), the main thrust of proposed IoT solutions for business-customer relations has always been geared towards increasing efficiency, improving service, and delivering a more personalized, streamlined and hassle-free experience.

For us as the end-users, the potential impact on how (and where, and when, and why) we interact with the companies we do is simply huge – genuinely life-changing stuff, as this infographic neatly summarizes.

And now, it seems, we’re finally approaching a point where we’ll be able to start reaping some very tangible benefits from it all: a new report from global research and advisory firm Forrester (titled, appropriately enough, Predictions 2018) states that the coming year will see the widespread movement of IoT plans ‘from experimentation to business scale’.

If 2016-17 was all about stakeholders and CIOs batting a bunch of new delivery concepts around, the Forrester report claims, major corporations in 2018 are now primed to start implementing IoT solutions across all vertical markets, ‘bridging the physical and digital worlds of their organizations to create new opportunities for growth’. In short, we’re about to enter phase two: moving from a largely industrial IoT to the inevitable rollout of a more cohesive consumer version.

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As buyers, of course, we’ve already a few taken tentative steps down this road – slightly faltering ones in the case of wearables, perhaps – but those strides are growing more confident by the day, especially with the likes of Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant now speaking to us from a rapidly broadening range of household devices. As the expected forge ahead really takes hold over the coming year, it’ll be fascinating to see what sorts of products and services are best able to harness this exciting new tech.

It will also be interesting – and important – to watch how businesses, along with the various legal and political frameworks that support them, adjust to new opportunities and challenges in the race to fully commercialize IoT data. After all, if furnishing our chosen suppliers with previously unimaginable quantities of data is the ultimate trade-off in all this, we’ll all want to keep a close eye on who’s using it most effectively.

Written by Garrick Stanford, freelance editor and blog contributor at RS Online

Are Wearables the Next Big Thing for AR?

augmented reality

The Dramatic Intrigue of Fashion, Augmented Reality, and Functional Technology

(For the purposes of this article, the term augmented reality is used despite mixed reality also playing a part in many of the same spaces.)

With the recent launches of ARKit and ARCore, a reality that has long only been in the eyes of tech companies and startups is now being thrust into mainstream consumerism: augmented reality is coming at us with as many patents and as much speed-coding as can be mustered.

Not everyone is using augmented reality daily, though. Instead, they see it in the sidelines and hear about it briefly by way of a news article flying through a scrolling social media feed.

For consumers, the current trajectory is similar to Ghostbusters II scenes, circa 1989. Eager users are overtaken by the swift arrival of a previously unknown ghost train (think: Pokemon Go and Snapchat filters).

New augmented reality tech, passes quickly

The passing is quick, and soon users move on as there is nothing new to see.

Trudging down the abandoned, underground train tunnel, they then come upon a river of pink slime which envelops some onlookers and oozes its way through cracks and fissures to claim even those who were previously uninformed or uninterested (think: new, AR-enabled smartphones).

Who will be the saving grace? Will the pink slime of wearables be the evil force ultimately crippling the AR industry, or will someone play Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher and Higher to unleash the underlying positivity available?

In augmented reality, the use or non-use of wearables will be a deciding factor in how the future of the technology is developed and whether AR can become a functional, daily tool in everyday life.

Photo Courtesy Indesty

Why Bother with Wearables at All?

Let’s first say that there is an industry understanding that augmented reality cannot live on handheld devices alone.

Consumers have already spoken. While some functional tools, such as AR tape measures, are now available, the use still requires someone to hold a device and physically measure a space. The only real difference between this and an actual tape measure is that the user would no longer be required to carry a tape measure, and some spaces are easier to measure.

In the short term, until additional technology is developed, this is a great and necessary stepping stone familiarizing consumers with the new tech on devices they likely already own.

In the long term, however, the consumer will require more out of augmented reality than any handheld device can offer.

To better illustrate this point, let’s take a look at the interior design industry.

There’s no telling why you once thought orange shag carpeting, faux wood paneling, a mirror wall, and a pink Paisley​ couch went together. Everyone in your life is simply thankful you’ve decided to take the redecorating leap.

The current state of AR technology is getting closer to allowing users to see how new furniture and redecorating might look within their existing spaces.

(You can read more about this technology in Augmented and Virtual Reality Shopping — Retailers Beware.)

Augmented reality for interior design

The challenges we see, however, are within the devices. While you might be excited to see how the new chaise lounge would look in your living room, viewing this potential through a handheld device allows you to see the mirror wall, paneling, and shag carpet out of your peripherals.

That’s right — the biggest issue we see with fully-functional future AR is the idea that we cannot fully optimize our field of view on a handheld device.

When wearables, such as devices looking similar to glasses, enter the world of possibility, we drastically increase the amount of immersion AR can play within our everydays.

Going back to the earlier example of a tape measure, imagine being able to simply run your eyes (with head movements) along a wall to gain a measurement instead of taking out your phone. If you were already wearing the glasses, as they are now an integral part of your daily tech attire, the steps necessary to complete a task decrease, which, in turn, validates a particular tool’s usefulness.

META Space AR glasses
META SpaceGlasses

The Challenges of Wearables

While it may be easy to see why tech-enabled glasses would assist in the longterm use of augmented reality, serious pitfalls also exist.

1. They’re Ugly

OK, maybe they’re not (we haven’t seen all of the designs yet, and some may look really awesome), but we can be relatively sure that no one style will be attractive to every purchaser.

Take a look at the walls upon walls of frames seen in any optometry shop, and you’ll soon agree that a degree of individuality is required for anything we equate to being part of the fashion industry.

Will we get to buy smartglasses like this some day?

Different face shapes, ages, and comfort levels help dictate which pair of frames a person might choose. And, as many often associate their choice of eyewear being a glimpse into their personality (quirky, professional, reserved), we will see many abandon the idea of a one-size-fits-all accessory before it can be fully-immersed technology.

2. They’ll Only Work for Some

Do you already wear corrective lenses?

Are they contacts? Great — you can also wear AR wearables.

Are they glasses? Then too bad for you. You’re out of the AR game before it starts.

The same may be true for sunglass wearers. If a wearables company were to advertise an AR tool allowing truck drivers to see potential road hazards or construction before it affected traffic, it’s likely many trucking companies would be on board. However, if this comes at the cost of wearing sunglasses, the driver is now forced to choose between potentially helpful technology and the ability to see the road due to sun glare.

To be certain, some companies have created wearables which hang forward a bit further on a person’s head, so they can wear both corrective glasses and AR glasses together. But, who really wants to do this long term? Remember clip-on sunglasses? Yeah, those didn’t last, either.

Potential challenges with augmented reality and wearables

3. They’re Uncomfortable

As of now, the amount of hardware required to operate AR functions is bulky. Quite bulky, and this makes for large, heavy and burdensome contraptions. Most people don’t want to wear a heavy headset all day, every day.

Some companies have lighter weight sets, though other companies who work with more intense functions, have even heavier contraptions. Almost all are substantially heavier than a standard set of frames.

And, while many of these companies are not advertising for mass-consumerism and don’t expect users to wear the sets from sun-up to sun-down, we can already imagine the stiff necks and AR My Pillow ads popping up as we try to rub out the kinks.

AR advertising

As the technology evolves, we will likely see more advancements on an ergonomic level.

Some companies are already exploring options where the weighty portions of the hardware are placed into a separate, companion piece. With this, a person would be better able to keep an item (such as a pod or even a smartphone) in his/her pocket while wearing lightweight frames.

This is a monumental step toward creating a lightweight, comfortable wearable. However, consumers will likely be more apt to purchase an all-in-one device over a multi-piece (just think of all the different parts we’ll have to charge every day!).


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4. Battery Life

We all know the challenges with quickly diminishing batteries in our mobile devices as they age, and wearables will see similar challenges.

Currently, the battery lives on such devices barely make it through a standard work shift. Should someone be using this technology for very specific, intermittent purposes, this may be a moot point.

However, as the goal is to make AR an all-day, every-day, life-altering, tech enhancement, consumers will need more. The wearable must endure through the day without requiring a charge, or consumers will abandon the products as the very use of them will be problematic.

The future of wearables

The Future of Wearables

Right now, we know augmented reality is being developed as a more useful tool on handheld devices.

What is not as commonly known is the rate at which AR glasses patents are being filed. Every major technology company with an interest in augmented reality has filed for multiple patents, and each is racing to put forth their wearable first.

Apple AR wearable patent
Apple’s wearable patent

Microsoft AR-enabled glasses

Snapchat AR-enabled wearable patent

By just looking into those creating new wearables, it’s pretty clear that smartglasses will soon be mainstream. We’ll use them for fun by way of games, likely watch videos, shop, enjoy social media differently, and find an abundance of other useful operations.

We see wearables evolving in front of us, but what might come next?

Use Your Own Glasses

Perhaps you are one of the previously-mentioned, eliminated consumers who was out of the mix simply for wearing your own corrective lenses.

In the future, this challenge may be tackled differently.

Perhaps the wearables take off to such an extent that all frames are wearables. When you go to your eye doctor, you’re picking frames that come tech-enabled, or maybe you purchase from a slew of styles at your local tech store only to have the optometrist install the right lenses for you.

The lenses, themselves, have to be enabled in some way, though. This could be done by employing eye clinics to utilize certain types of glass or plastics. Or, perhaps a special film is overlaid on existing lenses in order to receive the signals needed for AR capabilities.

Eliminate the Idea of Glasses

In our current technology environment, the term “wearables” largely describes the idea of a headset or glasses. Other options come to mind, though.

AR-enabled contacts

1. Contact Lenses

As the tech evolves, is it too big of a leap to believe that one day the wearable will be contact lenses? Believe it or not, there is already dedicated research on this subject (with patents), though it is not as fast moving as the standard headset.

In this speculative SmartContact future, where there is no doubt also the invention of coffee that is always at the perfect temperature, the challenges we currently see within the wearables industry have been worked out.

Battery life issues have been resolved to a reasonable degree, the heaviness of the required hardware has been worked out enough to allow the viewing to be done within a small device (perhaps by way of the companion piece carried separately), and style issues are eliminated due to the contraption’s lack of visibility.

With something such as a contact lens, field of view issues we have with handheld devices and, to a degree, with headsets are eliminated. This would make for a truly augmented reality, and the immersion would be more seamless than in other devices.

The future of ar-enabled devices: holograms
This article wouldn’t be complete without at least one Iron Man reference.

2. Holograms

Another potential option is by way of a projected hologram. By clipping a device onto your clothing, or perhaps by way of a necklace, the images could be cast forward into your viewing.

This particular model poses it’s own challenges, of course. There would need to be some sort of interface allowing the user to interact with the projection in order for it to be a useable tool.

In addition to this, there is an issue with the viewing. More specifically, the issue is that everyone would be able to view one person’s hologram. When there isn’t a restriction by way of eyewear or handheld device, the projection then becomes available for all to see. And, if you imagine a New York City street full of hologram patrons all projecting different images simultaneously, I imagine your head hurts as much as mine.

Future of AR wearables: chips
Image courtesy

3. Chips

Another option, if we move so far into the future that Back to the Future Part II looks like a thing of the past, we may see the availability of AR-enabled implants.

In this tech scenario, we see chips being inserted directly into a human’s body, allowing for augmented reality enhancements. Now, without a daily wearable or recharging schedule, the projections happen within our own minds.

This cyborg-encroaching model may sound more far-fetched than it actually is. We are already seeing chips inserted beneath the skin of people for the purposes of easier lives in technology-related areas.

(If you’d like to read more about the current state of chipping outside of the AR world, take a gander at Chipping — Will We All Embed Sensors Under Our Skin?)

Implants are the most invasive, and arguably the most feared, AR leap. In order for the consumer to feel as though this is a viable option (assuming the technology was fully-developed, of course), the public would already need to to be fully-invested and have a commitment to the AR sphere.

The future of AR-enabled glasses

We’re Going to Love Our Wearables

The road to mass-consumed wearables is going to be bumpy. We’ll see all of the mentioned challenges play out in realtime, and we’ll even discover more potholes not previously imagined.

However, as we traverse the new worlds and capabilities of AR, we’ll need to be given the tools from which we can embrace the technology. Right now, we see that in handheld devices, but soon it will be in the wearables offered.

Over time, the wearables will be more functional, more comfortable, better tailored for individual style, and widely accepted in both enterprise and consumer industries. They will be the happy portions of the dancing, pink Ghostbusters slime, and they will carry us toward future advancements.

From there, some of us will be witness to the evolution of AR immersion in such ways that we may not now be able to imagine. Eventually, in a world those of us who are alive today may never see, even more advanced technology will change the AR world in more dramatic ways.

Until then, we’re going to see a slow but inevitable influx of wearables, and we’re going to love it.

Game of Things: GOT vs. IoT Season 1

Ever since I started my job at Leverege, I’ve been immersing myself in the world of IoT. As a non-technical person, I’ve been reading up on and learning about connected devices, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.

I’ve also been immersing myself in the world of Westeros. On top of attempting to memorize more acronyms than I’ve ever seen before (LPWAN, CBRS, M2M) related to IoT, I’ve also been tasked with keeping track of how all the Lannisters are related, figuring out who killed whom, where, and for what reason, and reminding myself that Khaleesi and Daenerys are the same person.

New to the very different worlds of IoT and GOT, I found myself wondering what it would be like if Arya, Jon Snow, and Daenerys had some of the IoT and related technologies we see emerging today.

Image courtesy


Imagine if the Stark children’s direwolves were all cute little… voice assistants. Sansa, Robb, Jon, Arya, and Bran would have their own artificial intelligence robots that they carry everywhere with them. They could deliver messages for them, play games, and teach them history, language, and other skills.

Ghost, how do I apply to be a man of the Nights Watch? 

Not only would these direbots serve as the helpful voice assistants we know today, they could have helped to avoid major deaths and accidents involving some of our favorite characters.

It was heartbreaking to watch as Ned Stark’s children witnessed his death at the hands of Joffrey. But what if he had a direbot too?

You may have heard about the 2016 murder case in Arkansas where information from the suspects smart water meter was used in court along with possible recordings from his Alexa device.

If Ned Stark had an Alexa-like device on or around him at all times, he may have been able to pick up the conversation he had with Robert Baratheon and confirm that the king requested Ned serve in his place until Joffrey was of age.

Similarly, Bran’s direbot could have picked up the conversion that Jamie and Cersei were having before they pushed him out of the tower. The Stark’s would have been able to bring them to justice early on, avoiding many of the fights and deaths that arise in attempt to keep this secret.

Image courtesy

Wearables in Westeros

Khal Drogo, also known as “my sun and stars”, suffered a similarly sad fate. In sticking up for his Khaleesi, he was cut, and that cut got infected and caused his death, which eventually led to some creepy blood magic and then suffocation via pillow.

This easily could have been prevented with the help of the wearable tech we see today. Smartwatches now can track our daily activity, sleep quality, and heart rate. As this technology progresses, it will be able to tell us our glucose levels, blood pressure, and more.

If Khal had a smart, wearable device that was monitoring his health, he and his army surely would have been able to treat him earlier on and potentially save his life, meaning Daenerys would still have her army behind her as she ventured on to reclaim her throne.

Syrio Forel - VR Training
Image courtesy

Syrio 2.0 – The Hottest VR App

With Season 1 ending with Ned’s death, I know we’re in for a long fight. I want to see my favorite characters like Arya and Jon Snow make it to the end and I know that our current AR/VR technology would help them prepare.

As much as I love Syrio Forel and would never want to see him replaced, as I was watching Arya attend her “dancing” lessons, I couldn’t help imagine how easy it would’ve been for her to train with a VR headset.

At her own convenience, she could put on the headset and would get to participate in virtual fights of different intensity and against opponents of different sizes and speeds, until she moves up level after level.


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Syrio 2.0 would absolutely have to be programmed to say catchy slogans and drop bombs of wisdom at the perfect time, though. How else would we know the secret to staying alive is to keep telling death to just chill out and wait one more day?

And imagine how much this technology could have helped the men of the Night’s Watch during their training? By the end of their time training at Castle Black, they’d be the best fleet of fighters, which would no doubt help them beyond the wall and against the Lannisters.

I now hate Joffrey enough that I need to keep watching until he dies, at least. So keep an eye out for my IoT vs. GOT recap of Season 2 to follow along as I navigate the realm of IoT.

What IoT technologies can you see playing a role in GoT? Comment below!

Amazon Working on First Wearable Device: Alexa-Powered Smart Glasses


Financial times reported today that Amazon is working on it’s first ever wearable device – a pair of smart glasses.

According to the report, the glasses will allow the user to connect to Amazon’s digital assistant, Alexa, anytime, anywhere. The glasses will also allow the user to hear Alexa without having to use headphones.

Amazon’s move into wearables shows the company is willing to take risks, especially on products that enhance the widely popular Alexa, the device that has given the company a clear path into the home.

Read the full article here.

Concept For Smart Glasses That Can Control Devices Via Nose Gestures

Computer scientists from KAIST University in South Korea, Keio University in Japan, the University of St Andrews in Scotland and the Georgia Institute of Technology in the US have developed a concept for smartglasses that can control a device by picking up on the users gestures to their own nose.

The smartglasses, which would look like a regular pair of glasses, are able to decipher the difference between when the user holding their nose, rubbing it, or flicking it. These different gestures would be picked up by electrooculography (EOG) sensors located on the bridge and nose pads of the glasses, and could signal a device, like your phone, to skip a song, turn up the volume, or rewind.

Read the full story here.

IoT Predictions: Which IoT Segments Will Succeed?


We recently took a look at IoT Tech Predictions From 6 Of Your Favorite Childhood Movies, including smartwatches predicted in Dick Tracy and virtual assistants in 2001: Space Odyssey. However, while it’s fun to look back at the predictions that proved true, there are countless more that never actualized. Many predictions are just hype or fanciful thinking.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s inevitable that we’ll continue to connect people and machines. It’s inevitable that we’ll continue to instill ordinary objects with intelligence.

But it’s not inevitable nor clear which people and machines we’ll connect first, how we’ll connect them, nor what opportunities or issues might arise from those newfound connections.

Benefits vs. Costs

As I’ve written about in the past, I see IoT as accomplishing one (or more) of the following tasks; increasing efficiency, improving health/safety, or creating better experiences.

To understand where IoT is going and where we’ll see the most growth, we need to examine what tasks are being accomplished by a particular area of IoT and at what cost. In general, expect that the areas of highest growth will be those with both clear, compelling benefits and transparent, low costs. Let’s explore some examples.

Clear Benefits and Costs

Between consumer IoT and industrial IoT, industrial IoT has seen much more success to date. This can be explained by the relative ease with which we can see substantial benefits at low costs.

Industrial IoT is primarily about increasing efficiency, and increased efficiency can be directly translated into increased profits. For organizations that are considering implementing an industrial IoT solution, such as predictive analytics or preventive maintenance, it’s a simple calculus. How long will it take for the expected gains in profit to outweigh the expected cost of implementation?

Industrial IoT has seen success because there are solutions that have established this clear ROI (i.e. significant monetary benefits at low enough upfront costs).

Another good example of clear benefits and costs is smart buildings, though the costs are not yet low enough across the board. As we wrote about last week, only 10% of the world’s commercial real estate has smart building tech to monitor and control HVAC, lighting, power, and related systems. Why? Because any building smaller than 100K square feet would take too many years to realize a positive ROI.


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As sensors and networks become easier and cheaper to deploy, suddenly the ROI will be there for buildings under 100K square feet, allowing smart building tech to proliferate to the other 90%.

The biggest opportunities for growth in the coming years are therefore areas where the benefits are clear and the costs are both transparent and decreasing.

For other areas of IoT, either the costs are too high or the benefits are unclear.

Unclear Benefits and/or Too-High Costs

On the consumer side, the wearables market has progressed slower than earlier expectations. If you’re buying a smartwatch, the cost is completely transparent, but wearables as a whole have faltered in offering a clear and significant benefit. Fitbit, once king of the wearables market, provides a good lesson.

Four months ago, Apple passed Fitbit in market share. Two months ago, Chinese handset maker Xiaomi leapfrogged into first and put Fitbit into third.

Xiaomi has gained marketshare by providing low-end wearables with accompanying, affordable price points. The Mi Band is priced as low as $14.99.

Apple is more interesting, with a high-end approach to smartwatches befitting the company’s business model (i.e. selling premium hardware, differentiated by software, at a significant margin). Apple has gained success where Fitbit has lost it for two reasons:

First, because Apple controls both the hardware and the software of its various products, Apple can offer a more seamless, integrated experience that extends beyond just the smartwatch. Whereas Fitbit must integrate with smartphones and/or other devices from separate companies, Apple can offer services (such as Apple Pay and Apple Music) more readily. Overall, this provides a greater, clearer benefit to the customer.

Second, and more importantly, Apple has doubled down on fitness and health for it’s Series 2 watch. Why is this more important? Although greater integration and a more seamless experience is an added benefit, it’s not enough in and of itself.

For any successful IoT solution, there needs to be a compelling, single reason to justify the cost. For Industrial IoT, that benefit is monetary. So what is the benefit for smartwatches or wearables in general?

If you check out this list of 30 Exciting Things You Can Do With the Apple Watch, you’ll find that very few live up to exciting. “Change your watch face”? “Send Apple Watch emoji”? How riveting…

These might be nice to have, but the real benefit is self-tracking.

These days, most of us carry supercomputers in our pockets, but they can’t track the way smartwatches can. Unlike smartwatches, our phones are not on us while we sleep, they’re left at home while we run/swim/bike, and they’re not constantly pressed against our skin. Smartwatches can thus meet an important need, automatically tracking personal data to provide useful insights into health and fitness.

However, wearables have seen slower-than-expected growth because the benefit still isn’t clear and compelling enough. Anecdotally, I purchased my first smart watch a year ago because I loved the idea of customizing workouts and then tracking my exact progress. But the smartwatch quickly fell into disuse. The things that my smartwatch tracked weren’t that useful, as it still required me to take the data and find insights on my own.

Eventually, smartwatches will track our heartbeat, daily activity, glucose levels, blood pressure, and more to provide us with truly useful insight. We’ll know that our sudden drop in energy is because we’re dehydrated and should drink some water. We’ll know that we sleep best when it’s exactly 66 degrees in our room, and the temperature will automatically adjust accordingly. We’ll know when we’re beginning to slip off our baseline of health, and get suggestions to prevent sickness before it strikes.

But that’s eventually. Right now, IoT solutions that are priced too high and/or on’t offer compelling benefits will see slow adoption like wearables.

So What?

If the above sounded obvious to you, that’s because it’s true. IoT is really, really hard. There are no universal, drag-and-drop or plug-and-play solutions right now. Instead, organizations are wading through uncertainty and complication to develop specific IoT solutions for specific problems.

That’s why it’s absolutely critical to understand the benefits of what the organization is attempting, to make the uncertainty worth it. And the less uncertainty and more clarity on the outcome, the better. But of course, this doesn’t matter either if the cost isn’t low enough.

So whether you’re building IoT solutions, buying them, or just following the market from afar, focus on areas in which value is clear and costs are low. Although identifying these areas is no easy task either.

Can IoT Predict Earthquakes?

IoT Earthquake prediction

My seventh-grade son, Brendan, is basically familiar with what Dad does for a living — helping companies bring IoT products to market. He gets the basics of how the technology works and what it can do. He knows, for example, that companies are deploying our technology to track the precise location and condition of animals like cows.

The Hypothesis

One morning, he surprised me with a question: could Dad’s technology be used to predict earthquakes?

He had read a book about a guy named Jim Berkland who predicted the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake here in California plus two later earthquakes, based on an increase in classified advertisements for lost dogs in the preceding weeks along with other weather and related data. You can get the book and decide for yourself whether you think his methodology is valid.

But beyond his “model” there are centuries of folklore about animals behaving in strange ways prior to an earthquake. My mother-in-law, to provide just one anecdotal example, insists that her two cocker spaniels living in Mountain View, California “went crazy” in the days leading up to Loma Prieta.

So my son decided for his eight-week science project that he would test whether it is possible to predict an earthquake by testing the question: do animals move more or less prior to a seismic event? There are lots of “little” or medium-sized earthquakes around the Bay Area every day and perhaps he’d discover something.

Regardless, it was a pretty ambitious goal given the timeline and his resources, but his science teacher OK’d the project and to my wife and me, the line of inquiry was novel enough for an 11-year old that it didn’t seem right to discourage him.

After a bit of emailing around to nearby cattle ranches to find a rancher willing to participate, we were introduced to the folks at the TomKat Ranch in Pescadero, California who specialize in educational/scientific research in agro/livestock topics. (NB: these folks are doing some groundbreaking research in agro and sold me some amazing grass fed bone-in-ribeye steak — highly recommend).

We decided not to use Dad’s technology in the interests of minimizing the perception of too much “help” from the parents — something that plagues science fairs everywhere, I believe. Instead, after some brainstorming, he decided to attach (cheap) FitBit Zips to the ears of a few of goats and cows for 30 days in order to measure changes in movement.

iGoat 1.0. A FitBit Zip movement tracker + yellow duct tape

The results: according to USGS, there was no significant earthquake activity in the Santa Cruz/Half Moon Bay/San Mateo area during his month of testing so … there was no correlation of a change of movement with a seismic event. Only a decrease in movement on some days due to the heavy rains (El Nino) we received last winter in California. Also: goats move around quite a bit, and cows … not so much.

However, the reactions from the ranchers, science fair judges, and others who learned about the project can be summed up with one word: fascinating.

In California, those who have lived through a major earthquake (I thankfully have not, since 1993, been part of one) seem to react more viscerally to the topic of earthquake prediction. Most of the adults Brendan spoke to were not aware of Berkland’s research and I’ll predict that if someone were to sponsor a ballot initiative to fund large scale testing of this hypothesis, it would pass easily.

In fairness, this spring the U.S. Congress approved $10 million in funding to build an earthquake “early warning” system (not a prediction system) for California that would provide … drum roll please … a one-minute warning of an earthquake. For most of us, such a warning is close to meaningless.

An Opportunity For A Low Cost Earthquake Prediction System?

Previous research efforts to correlate animal behavior with earthquakes appear to be limited and/or very outdated. One study was based exclusively on interviews with farmers after the fact. Until recently, high data acquisition and device costs would have prevented the kind of long term, large scale longitudinal research that we might expect against something as valuable as predicting earthquakes.

Even in my son’s research, using FitBit Zips to measure movement requires manually acquiring the data via Bluetooth every, say, 30 days, which is time-consuming (you have to get within a few feet of each animal, which is tricky and messy) and expensive.

Lower cost, lower power, and longer range wireless technologies give researchers an opportunity to take another look at these earthquake prediction hypotheses. LPWAN technologies being deployed for the (business) purposes of animal tracking, using time stamped location and environmental sensor data, can serve a dual purpose of supplying researchers with valuable data on animal movement, temperature, and location.


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A diverse range of domestic animals — dogs, cats, sheep, goats — are now more easily tracked, but non-domestic animals like deer or squirrels (my company, Haystack, has received a request to build a squirrel tracker — not joking) are also potential research subjects.

Getting farmers to give up their data might be easy, or not so easy. For researchers interested in studying earthquakes that want to cut to the chase and tag their own animals or animals they can easily access, the cost of executing a LPWAN-based sensing and data acquisition effort is dropping: tags in low volumes can be had for < $50 and gateways are only nominally more expensive.

Networking stacks offer opportunities to query an endpoint’s GPS location in real-time, which is of great interest to ranchers, but also offer the ability to structure queries in real-time to endpoints, which optimizes endpoint battery life and creates new opportunities for researchers to analyze the behavior of individual animals in real-time.

Whether the centuries of earthquake prediction folklore are just hindsight bias (I’m not accusing my mother-in-law of this, honestly) or a legit indication that animals can sense a coming earthquake, as IoT permeates the agriculture sector, it seems likely that someone will be able to re-test these hypotheses in more meaningful ways and perhaps without much incremental investment.

Chipping – Will We All Embed Sensors Under Our Skin?


Listen to the audio version of this article!

Imagine a world in the not-too-distant future where every human on the planet serves as an autonomous, intelligent sensor system and voluntarily opts into the construct for free? Well welcome to the latest cyborg phenomenon called “chipping.”

What is “Chipping”?

In its current instantiation, people pay around $300 to have a tattoo artist or other body modification professional insert a small capsule under their skin – typically between the thumb and index finger. The device, about the size of a grain of rice, is an RFID tag and enables its human host to open doors, unlock computers, or even pay for goods and services.

It’s still early days and there are many concerns regarding privacy and security but it’s hard to imagine this going away. Wouldn’t it be great to simply swipe your hand to whisk through long lines at the airport or purchase that candy bar you’re craving in the vending machine? The convenience is just too alluring.

So will we all chip ourselves?

Think of all of the possibilities if >7B people were networked into a massive wireless sensor system that could detect all sorts of internal and external environmental conditions – temperature, humidity, light, radiation, air quality, acceleration, position – the list is endless. It would be one of the most powerful IoT systems the world has ever known.

Throw in a little AI/ML magic and its predictive capabilities will be amazing and further bridge the physical and digital divide. The Internet will no longer simply be a sea of faceless humming servers and web pages. It will come alive in the truest sense of the word.


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And the embedded sensors don’t have to simply monitor the natural environment. They can understand your body chemistry and alert you (and medical professionals) to anomalies in serum levels and blood counts; providing an omnipresent early warning system for sickness and disease. They will be able to discern the effectiveness of prescribed drugs in real-time, make diet recommendations on the fly, and tell you what foods you should eat for maximum performance – whether that’s a highly competitive sporting event or just a run-of-the-mill day at the office. No longer will we have to guess or “get lucky” when it comes to health, fitness and wellbeing.

Yes, privacy advocates and security professionals will have a field day predicting the dire ramifications of this new world but it won’t stop our relentless march toward it. Blockchain technologies, unbreakable encryption, miniaturization, remote charging, and other techniques yet to be invented will win out ultimately.

The benefits of an always-on society simply outweigh the downsides.

We already embed microchips into our most beloved pets to help us find them if they get lost. When do you think we will start chipping children at birth? Many of you may bristle at that thought but it wouldn’t surprise me if the practice were commonplace in 10-20 years.

Let’s face it – humans are the perfect sensors. We’re rechargeable, self-correcting, mobile, long lasting, and smart by default.

It won’t be long before the IoT systems we build directly integrate people into the solution. In some ways we already have but the humans are sitting behind keyboards or swiping on touch screens. The ultimate man machine interface is just around the corner. Strange and exciting times indeed…

5 Reasons Why Synchronization is Critical to IoT

5 Reasons Why Synchronization is Critical to IoT

Unless you’re a networking nerd, synchronization is probably more familiar as a term used with wristwatches or iTunes than as an IoT term, but the future of the IoT may actually depend on this topic.

Synchronization — the way an IoT device adjusts its internal clock in order to align with the clocks of other devices in a network — lies (surprisingly) at the center of many of today’s IoT challenges, particularly for low-power IoT.

Clocks help devices pinpoint the moment when, for example, a sensor measurement is going to be shared with the network. If your device’s clock is out sync with those of other devices in the network, it will miss messages, collide with other messages being sent by other devices, or waste energy trying to get back in sync.

Clocks drift out of synchronization, especially those using low cost, commodity computing parts that are often used in low power IoT. So to keep networking running efficiently, clocks need to be synchronized in order to make the data flow in a reliable way.

More than a few inventors of wireless IoT technologies didn’t focus too intensely on synchronization, perhaps because they were using TCP/IP as their networking model, which while I’m thinking about it reminds me — even if slightly off topic — of this:

Most “low power” IoT protocols implemented something similarly byzantine when they designed their method for network sync. For example, here is a picture of 6lowPAN — which famously claims to be a low power means of implementing IPv6 on a wireless network — initiating the sync process:

For 6lowPAN, this process is repeated many times — let’s refer to it as “strobing” — until the endpoint has synchronized its listening cycle with the host. Unfortunately, with 6lowPAN all this “strobing” takes power, can only be done one endpoint at a time, and if the data rate is low the endpoint will burn up lots of battery life as it listens and strobes.

For 6lowPAN and others in the IoT using “old school” network sync, the cost of not getting it right is high for at 5 reasons:

1) Battery Life

Like politicians promising to change Washington, most low power IoT technologies don’t tell the truth about battery life. Cellular people you already know who you are.

ZigBee, Thread and others are also guilty because bad sync processes do to batteries what badly under-inflated tires do to your car’s gas mileage. Multi-year battery life is what makes low power IoT … low power. Bad sync = bad battery life.

2) Connection Time

Some wireless technologies can take many seconds or even minutes to connect, due almost entirely to weak synchronization schemes. For an on-demand world where we expect immediate results when it comes to IoT, a bad sync method in a mission critical environment can render obsolete information created only seconds earlier.

Smart city or public safety applications, for example, are poorly served with slow-sync technologies. Slow-sync protocols are also a no-go for IoT control apps like implementing a kill switch on a piece of industrial equipment.


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3) Dense-Packed Endpoint Environments

Environments with lots of endpoints are intimidating to IoT protocols with weak sync schemes. As in, they shouldn’t even get into the ring to pretend to compete.

Imagine trying to run a query in a warehouse with 2,000 endpoints and establishing sync with each endpoint— one-by-one — in order to engage in a group broadcast or to query a group of endpoints or to send out a security patch. Industrial IoT environments are particularly sensitive to this issue.

4) Indoor Location

A growing part of battery-powered IoT has to do with locating things. Outdoors, we seem to be relying more and more on GPS, but indoors is another matter.

Being able to locate something indoors in any kind of real-time way requires fast synchronization with a gateway/access point or, more importantly, with other endpoints on a peer-to-peer basis. Slow-sync protocols are a no-go for these applications.

5) Security

IoT technologies with weak sync schemes take longer to exchange keys and are more vulnerable to unwanted discovery and spoofing. Fast-sync protocols are also better able to support two-factor authentication and can remain in a quiet/listen-before-talk mode that protects privacy and inhibits unauthorized discovery.


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