What does a person need to specialise in IoT?

Let’s face it, some people are just more equipped than others to do a specific job.  Charismatic people make for better speakers and leaders, open minded people are better problem solvers, and dedicated people are great with tough or long jobs.  With every job, something different is required and when specialising in IoT, there’s also certain requirements that help to make a person a better employee.

One must be able to think big while keeping things small.

When it comes to the Internet of Things, smaller is not only better but a necessity.  Many of these devices need to be able to do a lot without much added equipment.  We can’t very well have baby monitors the size of a baby or a light fixture taking up half the room.  Added sensors and components to make devices “smart” are going to be a necessity, and knowing how to not only put them in the right spots but do it with minimal additional weight is a must.

At the same time, you have to remember things like limited battery life, processing power, and storage capabilities.  Every added use of the device means it’s going to get just a little bit bigger, so you might have to decide between different optional additions.  Keep things simple and small when able and you’ll do well when working on IoT devices.

You have to be able to work with data on a large scale.

Moving away from the building aspect of the job and towards the data.  You’re going to be working with a LOT of data, even during testing and trials, so if you hate big data then you might want to consider other job opportunities.  Now, the great thing about the IoT is that it’s designed to use this data to communicate, but that doesn’t mean the data won’t have to be checked consistently.  You’ll have to sift through it to find errors and also to help streamline this data for consumers.  They won’t need to have all the data from sensors, just the big picture.  Your job is making sure that big picture is being recorded and transmitted right.

More on the personality side of things, you need to always be picturing the future.

With IoT being a future-tech that’s still very much evolving to this day, you need to always keep in mind technology that’s being developed and on the rise.  It’s no good to simply copy what all of your competitors are doing because even at your best, you’ll only be their equal.  Improve upon their designs or, better yet, take a risk and create something completely new.  Even your worst blunder is a learning experience that can help you with future projects.

On this same note, it’s also a good idea to keep yourself open to collaborations with other like-minded individuals.  Getting a project rolling with a few different teams working on different areas might make you nervous, but the fact is that you’ll likely not be the best in every aspect of your design.  Sometimes you’ll need help and sometimes others will need help from you.  Be open to this and it’ll only be a benefit.

The Internet of Things is an ever-changing market.  If you’re the type of person that can keep things small, while looking at the big picture and the big data, and always thinking of the future, then it might just be your type of market.

Better marketing, better business, better beer?

The Internet of Things (IoT) has its hands everywhere these days.  While your first thought when it comes to IoT might be tech or social industries, even brewers like Heineken are getting in on the action lately.  Big data and a strong handle on innovation and efficiency are the company’s way of improving as they hope to better compete in the market.  Currently, in the United States, they sell 8.5 million barrels of the good stuff, but they hope to increase those numbers with AI augmentation across many of its divisions and data-driven improvements.

Data Analytics:

Data can be used for almost anything you can put your mind to.  Heineken put their mind, and data, to almost everything in their supply chain, to create company-wide planning, forecasting, and resupply.  This process helps to reduce inefficiencies and can optimise delivery routes.  They can adjust production based on current supplies or expected demand and get the ball rolling on seasonal drinks in real-time thanks to how data is transmitted.

Using data with marketing:

Marketing in today’s market is becoming crazy.  In the past, companies had to conduct surveys or base their marketing decisions around who’s buying what and when.  Today, they’re using things like Shopperception which analyses customers behavior in front of the shelves in real-time. Through this program, Heineken was able to gather a tremendous amount of data in a very short time.

Through its partnerships with both Facebook and Google, Heineken also created a strong social profile and can create better, more personalised marketing decisions in the future.

The Ignite Bottle: Coming soon to a party near you

Not all of Heineken’s improvements are data-based.  In fact, their latest one isn’t even an improvement to their already stellar recipe, but to the bottle itself.  Dubbed the “Ignite Bottle”, it truly is unique.  The bottle contains over 50 individual components and sensors, including LED lights which lets the bottles party on at the beat of the music.  If having your glowing bottle dance with you isn’t enough, it also flickers when tipped back, “cheers” when touching another bottle, and dims sadly if nobody is touching it.  At the moment, only 200 of the bottles were produced for proof of concept, but more are likely on the way.

Beer hasn’t changed all that much in the past hundred years or so, but companies always will.  With technology comes improvement and the IoT is one of those improvements that can be made everywhere, even in the most unexpected places… I’m talking about you, seizure-inducing bottle.  While these improvements might not get you drunk faster, they will, over time, be able to reduce the costs to you.  After all, in a highly competitive market like the beer industry, lower overhead costs tend to get transferred to the customer by way of reduced pricing.

The Internet of Things has a Bright Bright Future

As you well know, the Internet of Things (IoT) has been garnering interest more and more in the past few years.  Its capabilities for changing the world are astounding and can be used everywhere from space travel to production to consumer goods.  One of the biggest developments recently sits on the line between amazing and mundane — lights.  That’s right, your common household light bulbs and fixtures.

What’s so great about lights?

Well, it’s less about the lights themselves and more about the collaboration a large group of companies have created.  A huge problem with many IoT-enabled consumer devices is that getting them to talk to each other doesn’t always work.  Tech created by different companies sometimes won’t be able to send or interpret data through each other and so you’re stuck with just a run-of-the-mill toaster.  Thanks to the IoT-Ready Alliance, the vast majority of LED light fixtures won’t have that problem.

What’s the IoT-Ready Alliance?

The IoT-Ready Alliance is a group of over a dozen top LED-producing companies working together to create a common standard for IoT-enabled lighting.  In other words, they’re working to keep the above problem at bay… for lights anyway.

What makes this alliance amazing is that it’s a rarity, yet something that needs to be much more common quickly.  Without industry standards for IoT devices, one of two things will happen.  Either the majority of devices will be delayed, buggy, or simply unable to communicate, or a single powerhouse company will come out on top with much of the world’s consumer-based IoT devices produced there.

The sooner more companies realise that alliances between each other help both them and their consumers, the quicker the Internet of Things will evolve.  The IoT-Ready Alliance is currently working to standardise the key interface characteristics of LED fixtures, including integrated and external sensors and will include necessary interfacing options for other companies wanting to make the LED fixtures as well.

This isn’t the first alliance to be made, though.

Z-Wave, AIOTI, and the IoT Cybersecurity Alliance are all working similarly to the IoT-Ready Alliance to create industry standards and develop stable systems.  The largest of these, Z-Wave, already has over 2,000 products available and has sold over 70 million worldwide.

Lights and common household products are all well and good on their own, but the biggest advancement I hope to see in the future is for cars.  While it might be difficult, we could very well live in a world where cars drive themselves whilst talking to each other, knowing where nearby drivers are going so as to avoid accidents.

Reaping the benefits of security flaws in the IoT

Security has always been a tough nut to crack when it comes to the Internet of Things.  Having things fully secured yet always connected to other devices is like trying to balance an egg on your head whilst in a heavy downpour.  From large-scale attacks like the Mirai Botnet attack last year to smaller breaches across various systems, it’s clear that there’s a widespread issue with securing these networks and devices appropriately.  Today’s biggest problem though is a new botnet called Reaper.

What is Reaper?

In a way, it’s the same as Mirai was.  It’s a malware that attacks and infects different IoT devices through their network and lays dormant… at least for now.  Once activated though, it can be used to DDoS damn near any website or service its creator wants.

The purpose of Reaper as of right now is a mystery.  What we do know is that it’s infected quite a few IoT devices already and is growing and ‘evolving’ faster than Mirai was able to.  The worst part of Reaper is that, thanks to its dormant state, knowing your device is infected is difficult.  It won’t run any differently and will seem perfectly fine.

What will happen if/when it’s activated?

To put it simply, your device will be under their control.  It’s not as scary as it sounds though.  Collecting a large number of devices like what Reaper’s doing is generally only used for one thing — DDoS attacks.  By using thousands or even millions of devices at once to constantly send information requests to a server, they can effectively shut it down.

If used like Mirai was, it can cause serious, widespread issues with all sorts of different services.  In Mirai’s case, it was able to affect Spotify, Twitter, and even Amazon.

How can Reaper be stopped?

Well, the biggest problem with Reaper is that it’s not just infecting devices through a single issue, but through at least nine security vulnerabilities.  Constant updates through security patches are the best and only way to counteract it at this time and even that will take time, giving Reaper more time to grow and infect.

On the positive side, Reaper isn’t aiming to infect every single device it can get its hands on.  According to research released last week, it’s less aggressive than Mirai was.  Reaper focuses on remaining under the radar of security tools.

Looking forward is equally as important as quelling this current attack, though.  Right now, devices are vulnerable and yet still they’re taken to market much too quickly.  Investing a little money in proper security for our networks could help to save thousands in patches and possibly even legal fees.

Reaper is definitely dangerous, but it’s just the latest in what could be a long line of copycats.

What happens if technology doesn’t keep up with the IoT?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a very broad term.  I guess that’s to be expected when one of the terms used in the name is as generic as “stuff”, but there’s a good reason for that.  The IoT is more of an idea than an actual technology — the idea of connecting multiple devices through the use of sensors and the Cloud.  As an idea that’s currently being tested all around the globe in many different industries, one must wonder how successful it really is with our current level of technology.  If I were to give it a build, I’d call it Internet of Things Alpha right now.

Why are we in the “Alpha” phase still?

Alpha is used to describe the earliest workable build.  It’s definitely not ready for release and has a lot of testing and improvements still to be made.  Now, before you go thinking this is the Internet of Things fault, it isn’t.  Believe it or not, our tech just isn’t keeping up well with everything the IoT can be.

The best example of this is a recent trend — the little smartbox listening systems like the Echo.  Last year, a colleague of mine bought one with every expectation that this little device would save a few minutes each day by checking bus times, setting calendar reminders, and even doing the odd “googling” when she needed it.  At first, it worked pretty well!  It did the tasks she needed and she was satisfied.  Today, she’s selling it.

When I asked why, as I’d thought it was working great for her, she said she just never really used it except to check bus times.  The reason she gave was because she had to keep asking the same thing to get a result.  It rarely understood her.  It’s no fault of the IoT here that the Echo, but the technology around it.  Even though the device had the capability to do what the user wanted, it just couldn’t understand.

What’s working in the IoT, then?

Simple is better.  Currently the biggest successes within IoT-enabled systems are the less complex devices.  These include things like baby monitors, thermostats, locks, and various production-assisting systems in companies.  They work well because they’re building on technology we’ve been using for decades over technology we’re still developing and improving upon.

Don’t get me wrong, newer tech can definitely still be useful, but when it comes to the IoT, there’s a lot left to be developed and going to far too fast might just come back to bite a smaller company in the end.

The truth of the matter is that the IoT is already proven.  It’s a system that works and has many benefits in the years to come, but we need to focus equally on developing our other technology along with the IoT.  All the sensors in the world won’t help if your device thinks you’re saying “sandwich” rather than “search for”.

Blockchain and its connection to the Internet of Things

When it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT), hearing about new technologies related to it is nothing new.  Every month, there’s some advancement with this company or that which influences or affects the IoT in some way.  While blockchain might not be new, it’s a widely unknown technology.  But even so, it might just play a key role in much of the development of IoT.

What is blockchain anyway?

Blockchain always makes me think of those spammy chainmail emails you get from coworkers you don’t like and wish you could block.  It’s a fringe technology, but undeniably an important one and surprisingly easy to understand.

Blockchain allows digital information to be distributed easily, quickly, and without a centralised location.  An easy way of understanding it is to look at Google Drive Documents, which is a perfect example.  If I were to create a document (blockchain) I could share it around with a link which would allow others to edit the document accordingly.  I could even allow some to edit while others can only view the document.

The document is updated in realtime and therefor changes are seen instantly by all involved parties.  This makes for easy collaborations, especially when the previous way required constant sending of word documents to various parties who then sent them back with revisions.

Blockchain is an especially robust system because it isn’t housed or stored in any one place.  The information is stored throughout the network which helps to make it both secure and difficult to corrupt.

How does this relate to the Internet of Things?

Well, since the IoT is based all around the immediate transfer of information through sensors and data compilation and then analysing that data, I think you can start to see the similarities between the two.  Connecting these devices through a low-cost, low-maintenance system like blockchain becomes a very viable strategy for many different types of companies.

In fact, some firms are already relying on the combination of these two technologies.  Sectors like agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation are just a few to name.

Through the use of blockchain, we might be able to further even automation technologies.  While a bunch of robots shooting around a warehouse might sound like chaos, the truth is that these two technologies are what take what would be chaos and bring order and efficiency to it.

Building a safe, reliable network to work on is an important task and a difficult one.  With the help of blockchain and the IoT, creating a flexible system just feels a whole lot easier.

Where exactly is the IoT Technology right now?

When talking of the Internet of Things, often we hear about what it will soon be capable of.  Whether we’re talking about city infrastructure, consumer devices, or even improving efficiency in processing and manufacturing, there’s always the question of what can be done right now and what’s being done.

We’re in the early stages right now.

If the Internet of Things were a human, it’d be somewhere around toddler age.  It’s just now starting to get its feet planted firmly and is expected to be running around like a rabid monkey soon.  Enough with that analogy though, let’s talk about where the IoT is shining right now — manufacturing.

Manufacturing is one of the few places where the IoT is either already being used or already being planned around.  85% of global businesses surveyed have said that they’ll be adopting IoT technologies by 2020.

Business leaders across nations firmly believe that the IoT is going to be changing their businesses significantly and are looking to capitalize on the opportunity.  Their data needs vary from customer insights, fast analysis, improved operating efficiency, and more.

What’s the big deal with the IoT all of a sudden?

The big deal is big data.  We’re living in a world where your local barber knows what toothpaste you bought last week.  Nearly every company out there is gathering some data or another.  Some of it’s from you, some from their machines, and some from their employees.  The fact is that a lot of companies out there have a lot of data to sift through and there’s no better sifter or data collector than the IoT.

The way the Internet of Things works is that it takes data from sensors and sends it through the internet to the cloud which can then be analysed and used in a variety of ways.  Sounds simple, right?  It can be!  Or it can be the most complex thing you’ve ever laid eyes on.

Some systems might only need a few sensors or a few inputs of data, but most, especially those global companies, are going to have hundreds if not thousands of different data streams coming in every day.  There’s just no way that any technology other than the IoT could handle such a load, which is why it’s shining so bright right now.

So… what is the future looking like then?

It’s looking big.  It’s looking really really big.  With all the different sectors that the Internet of Things is expected to enhance, we’re going to have a bit of a technological revolution on our hands.  Out with the old and in with the new.

We’re going to see a big boost in productivity and efficiency in many of the manufacturing departments.  Shipments of merchandise and materials will be coming and going faster, systems will be enhanced, and even employee lives and schedules could be affected positively.

As for the consumer side of things, you can expect… a lot.  With any new technology there will be a few problems.  One of the biggest out there right now is security, which is struggling at the moment when it comes to how the IoT works.  But once those issues are resolved, you can expect to find yourself in a much more user-friendly world.  Better traffic, better advertisements, and potentially even cheaper goods.  After all, if manufacturing is more efficient and therefor less costly, they’ll likely pass those saving on to you.

Making Moves in the IoT

We’ve experienced hearables, wearables, touchables.  Just sneeze in the wrong way and you might end up changing your alarm.  What’s next?  Smellables?   I’m happy to say I doubt any company is going to be looking down that avenue for their next idea.  What is being looked down though is gesture-enabled devices.  No, you’re Kinect isn’t going to make a comeback.  I’m talking about being able to control your smartwatch without touching a thing or augmenting your virtual reality devices.

Google’s ATAP has spent several years developing Project Soli.

Project Soli is the name of this new technology that’s aiming to change the way we interact with devices on a daily basis.  It uses a miniature radar to detect touchless gestures in a way similar to how bats navigate.  The sensor tracks sub-millimeter motion both accurately and at high speeds.  Through the addition of specific gestures, users will be able to control devices in different ways.

For a simple understanding, it’s quite similar to sign language.  Rather than a single ‘sign’ being a command though, it requires movement.  For instance, to turn the volume up on your smart watch, you might need to pinch your fingers together and move them up.

How does it work?

Project Soli works by emitting electromagnetic waves in a broad beam.  Objects within range will scatter the energy and reflect a portion of it back towards the radar.  Every movement of the fingers is tracked backwards through the high-quality and diversified information capturing.

 

What can Project Soli be used for?

Any device within reach, really.  Soli isn’t a huge machine or a complex sensor, it’s a chip small enough to fit into a watch which uses only a small amount of energy.  It’s not affected by light and even works through most materials, so the sky’s the limit so to speak.  It can be used in everything from watches to cars to most other IoT devices.

For developers of IoT devices, this is one of the first technologies that is almost designed to work together.

Soli is expected to start shipping later this year and is already accepting a small number of companies to develop.  Levi’s is just one of those companies.  Their plan? To stitch the chips into their clothes for Project Jacquard, a unique endeavor intended to make clothes themselves into a type of smart-device.

Whether gestures are going to be the next big thing or the next big flop remains to be seen.  As a lover of all things tech, I am certainly going to be keeping a close eye on Soli .

 

Making a Mark in Marketing

The Internet of Things has been making a splash in all sorts of unexpected industries.  From city infrastructure all the way down to baby monitors, its affecting our world in a way that’s not been seen since the internet.  Its next venture?  Marketing.

Real-time Marketing

Marketing is one of few industries that changes minute-by-minute.  Consumer perception is a difficult thing to understand and what worked last week might not today.

A recent survey stated that over half of top global marketers expect the Internet of Things to revolutionise the marketing world by 2020.  Why?  Because data is everything, and there’s no better data-gathering tool right now than the IoT.

The IoT is able to gather data in real-time in devices where it was previously unattainable.  It can analyse customer buying habits, help garner insight into how consumers choose a product, and even help expedite customer service.

How IoT Changes the Game

How something is marketed can change at the drop of a hat.  For instance, let’s look at a simple product like eggnog.  It’s a seasonal item and therefor selling in June is unlikely to garner many sales, and so it tends to come out around Christmas.  Now, let’s say there was a huge egg-scare and people are suddenly avoiding eggs.  What happens now?

Without the IoT, businesses are slow to respond to this trend.  Eggnog sales are down, but most companies don’t know why.  They keep it on the shelves and end up losing potential customers.

With the IoT, the system recognizes that Eggnog sales are down… but what’s this?  Egg-free eggnog sales are up.  The system was able to analyse this trend in real time and within a day, the business has started prioritizing egg-free eggnog.  Sales stabilise for this business.

Consumer behavior is an ever-changing beast.  Thanks to the IoT, this beast is a lot more tame.  It can help with a lot more than just egg-scares, too.  Knowing why one product is bought over another is just as important when it comes to marketing.  Was the price too high?  Was the product not in the right color or size?  Sure, you could ask the customer all these questions, but with the IoT, it’ll be able to predict the answers based on data received.

It can also help with targeted ads.  Social communities are an important part of social media and focusing efforts towards these communities to reach prospective customers is extremely helpful.  Determining emerging trends with one group of people would help you to sell the same type of product to other similar groups.

Being able to answer the why’s of consumers is the number one job of any marketer.  Being able to answer in each moment allows marketers to adapt instantaneously to new trends.  As it happens, the Internet of Things is the tool required to do both on a global scale.

IoT: Skillset Required

When it comes to the Internet of Things, there are certain skills required to be able to implement and maintain it.  Go to far, and you’ve got an overly complicated system that few can use and has many redundant features.  Don’t set up enough and you simply won’t have the data you need to make an impact in your business.  The IoT is a very delicate system and as such, requires people that understand it fully.  Unfortunately, those people are few and in high demand.

Most businesses just don’t have the skills.

A recent survey of mid to large-sized companies showed that the vast majority of businesses are interested in implementing IoT features.  That same survey also showed that few are actually ready to deal with the change.  The biggest problem?  A stark lack of skills.  Only 20% of companies interested in IoT said they were confident they had the skills needed to implement their IoT plans.

Security, support, and data specialists are among the most demanded.  With such a high demand though, having people in-house has become a challenge for many.  In fact, nearly 75% of businesses said they had plans to outsource at least part of their IoT workload.  When a skillset is in such low supply and high demand, there’s really no other option.

What skills are needed in the IoT?

For starters, you need to be able to understand technology, how it works, and how to embed systems accordingly.  Understanding the capabilities of machines, what’s needed, and where its needed is key to efficiency and a key part of being an IoT expert.

You’ll also need some knowledge of networking, computer programming, and cloud computing.  Communication is what keeps the IoT alive, and these skills allow your sensors to do just that.  With cloud computing, you’re able to handle the massive amounts of data being sent much more easily.

A background in big data can help, too.  You have to remember that your sensors are going to be sending huge amounts of data out.  Being able to analyse and interpret this data is absolutely necessary when working in the IoT.

Lastly, network security is a huge addition that can help.  Making things work properly is great, but keeping them safe is just as important.  With scandals such as the attack on Dyn, you’ve got to be very careful on how you’re sending and receiving data.  Knowing a bit about cyber security is a necessity when it comes to working on the Internet of Things.

When it comes to a game-changer like the IoT, it’s not unexpected to have such a big demand/supply disparity at the start.  A different set of skills is required for it than has been for most other jobs, and training for it takes time.  As it stands, outsourcing and offering training programmes is a company’s best bet for breaking into the IoT-era.