Estevan Silveira @ Envisioning
The term Internet of Things (IoT) was popularized in 2012 by radio frequency researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. IoT is equal to integration. It is that simple. But what can be integrated? Everything, to some extent. Vehicles, healthcare devices, home appliances... Every physical object bearing electronic components and, more importantly, an internet address, can take part of this networked infrastructure in order to connect, collect, and exchange data. How come? It is easy to accept a number to every existing computer, but how would it be possible to assign an address to each object present in our daily lives? With IPv6, the most recent version of the Internet Protocol (IP), apt to provide more than 2 billions of billions (3.4 × 1038) identifications per square millimeter of the Earth surface. Even though providers are slowly adapting to IPv6, users adoption is on the rise.
While there is no mass dissemination of addressable objects, let's stick to the smartphone, the internet thing par excellence. Now, think of the widespread use of those in Africa, a continent almost rendered nonviable by colonialism, noting in passing that in most parts of the continent, no 'wired' telephone infrastructure existed before the advent of 'wireless'. Just this very fact indicates that time is ripe for innovations ― for Africa by Africans. Nigerian-based Hello Tractor for instance enrolls 'smart tractor' owners in a network from which farmers obtain agricultural services via SMS. The word 'smart', in such context, could be translated to mayele, an ambiguous notion that slightly means 'street wise', or a smartness 'from below'. 'Uber for tractors' and other mayele initiatives could soon comprise the pan-African IoT community dubbed 'Building Wakanda'.
Internet of Bodies
The early adoption of smart objects showed us just how privacy and security issues leave a lot to be desired. Daycare cameras are subject to break-ins, in-home voice assistants become wiretaps and personal wearables data is collected without previous consent. What is more, from the perspective of the Internet of Things, people are things. And if they are things, they must be traceable, monitorable and addressable. On top of that, data-driven marketing, not content with merely aggregating, analyzing, and interpreting all the data from IoT devices, wishes now to pursue crafted behavioral events.
In response to the newly-formed Internet of Behaviors, conscientious people are repurposing the drastic acronym to Behavior for Bodies, denouncing in the wake the process of human cyborgization. It marks a position-taking about the integrity of the human body and mind, requiring pacemaker security recall and regulation of fitness tracking devices, among other things. Against this backdrop, Amazon 'reverse centaurs', workers serving robots and uninterrupted calls from Amazon Dashes, could adequately plead harm. And they would certainly win the case, because the gear they are compelled to use tells a lot: real-time tracking devices, automatic driver-scoring apps, and always-on AI spy cameras.
Analysts have been commenting extensively on self-aware and self-diagnostic devices for the optimization of the supply chain, alerting stakeholders to a range of error incidents. Seamless integration can be added through a cloud-based system to ensure an error-free operation. In sum, error-prone processes grow into error-proofing activities.
Smart buildings have drawn more attention, nevertheless. But if you want a smart building, you have to map it first, modeling a digital replica of it. And for doing that, you have to plug 'intelligent' objects into an array of systems in order to crunch traffic data back from them.
What Lies Ahead
Internet of Graphene Things
The Internet of Things entails energy-consuming smart things, but everything indicates, on the current state of things, classic electric batteries are not applicable for the ‘smartness’ our future will demand. If it is difficult to realize that around 30 billion connected things are expected by 2025, it is not easy to imagine how all of them will be powered. Scientists have found that graphene, the most popular material ever known, may be the solution. As the element can absorb and generate electricity from waste light, the next big thing will be graphene-based batteries able to power sensor nodes of IoT networks.
Internet of Plastic Things
Graphene can replace lithium ion batteries currently used to power most IoT devices, but soon we will be able to do without them altogether. Researchers at the University of Washington have discovered a 'handcrafted' technique for modulating wireless signals used by IoT objects to communicate with one another, or backscattering, as it is technically called. In plain language that means the signals from a Wi-Fi transmitter are reflected on objects bearing composite plastic antennas made of conductive materials. The big idea is to modulate signals mechanically, as rotating movements, and read collected data through on-off cadence, as gear tooth positioning. The good news is that the antennas can be 3D printed with recycled plastic, reducing the ecological rucksack of the future garden of objects.
It is possible to track the movement of goods from raw materials to the end consumer (and even in circular economies) and keep reliable digital records of an asset's origin, characteristics, and ownership. For this to take place, a smart contract is deployed to a local hyperledger fabric network via a blockchain platform. As the asset is moving along the supply chain, it is scanned via RFID or barcode by IoT devices, which publishes an event notification to the blockchain platform. The platform then notifies all applications involved in the process that the scan has taken place. An application listening to the platform then invokes a transfer action, which automatically updates the asset's location in the ledger.
A tagging method made up of nano-scale tags capable of detecting change or collecting data about its surroundings. Due to nanotechnology advancements, these tags can inform or keep track of data such as location, data logged along supply-chain or chemical composition. This could be applied to monitor a variety of items, from inside a living being and animal migration pattern to the product packaging and complex supply-chain systems.
The process of acquiring information from distance using remote sensors positioned on a satellite, drone, or aircraft. The sensors used to process information can be passive, only responding to certain stimuli, or active, detecting and recording reflected or emitted energy. This data processing method enables the monitoring, tracking, and mapping of large areas as well as data-informed decision-making.
A ticketing service that allows citizens to move about the city freely, processing the payment for the journey only at the end of commuting or the day. The service is enabled by an online platform, which users access through a mobile app. The app communicates with the chosen mode of transportation via Bluetooth through a be-in / be-out manner, recognizing the selected mode by proximity. The ticket validation requires only a confirmation click from the passenger. It also includes carpooling networks, usually chosen as the first or last mile of the trip. This system collects commuting data to offer personalized trip recommendations according to user habits and information about any unusual traffic's conditions while automatically applying discounts whenever possible. Finally, the day trip's total payment is then deducted from the user's account at the end of the day.
A crowdsourcing additive aggregation method that integrates distributed information sent by contributors, such as votes, GPS location, assessments, predictions, and opinions through approaches such as summation, averaging, or visualization. Information pooling is useful for gathering location-based information, evaluating and selecting alternatives, eliciting and validating customer or citizen needs, forecasting, or market research.
A crowdsourcing approach that breaks a massive project into a series of smaller tasks that only take a few minutes for each contributor to complete, similar to a distributed task-force. This method functions as a scalable effort and time-efficient batch processing of highly repetitive tasks such as categorizing data and translating or correcting texts. Microtasking platforms work with pre-determined, qualitatively equivalent, and homogeneous contributions produced from highly repetitive tasks.
A mapping method that geographically pinpoints and stores where certain events are occurring in real-time based on crowdsourced data collected from Mobile Crowdsensing Platforms. The crowd-sourced mapping approach is processed through a website or a mobile application that does not require registration to report the event. This method is used to map happenings like weather changes, maintenance problems, accidents, fraud, cyber-attacks, sexual harassment, and other crimes. Also, the crowdsourced data fed into the platform allows processing, modeling, evaluation, and, finally, prediction of events in specific areas, thus supporting decision-making processes for citizens, city planners, and policymakers.
Traditional rainfall monitoring techniques (rain gauge, satellites, radars) can be costly and weather stations are often sparsely located. Commercial Microwave Link (CMLs) can provide near-ground rainfall observations in sparsely gauged regions, complement existing observations in regions covered by conventional monitoring networks, and improve the space–time resolution and accuracy of rainfall products. A CML provides a line of sight radio connection between two locations, and is commonly used to interconnect cellphone base station towers as well as other operators. The technique of rainfall estimation using CMLs is based on the fact that rainfall causes attenuation to the radio signals between transmitter and receiver stations in the network. A measurement of rain-induced attenuation can be used to derive the average rain rate along the path. The CML method enables rain measurements in places that have been hard to access in the past or where rainfall has never been measured before. Furthermore, CMLs' implementation cost is minimal; the network infrastructure is in place and the CML data is already collected and logged by many of the cellular operators for quality of assurance needs. However, there are some limitations with this technology. As data stems from a network operated for a different purpose with no default process to distribute the data, unlocking and acquiring CML data is a challenge. Further, fluctuations in signal levels can also be caused by changes in water vapor content and air temperature, as well as strong solar radiation. Other limitations include the overestimation of rain-induced attenuation due to an assumed baseline determination.