The Internet of Things Run Amok?

Thursday Nov 21st 2013 by Bradley L. Jones

There are a lot of opportunities for technology professionals. The Internet of Things (IoT) seems to be adding even more for developers.

Did you know that car tires are being fitted with electronic chips? These chips do a number of things. The obvious benefit to consumers is that they monitor the wear and tear on a tire as well as monitor the pressure within the tire. This allows the car to report to you when you need to add air as well as report to you when your tire needs replaced. This is all done with simple electronics and an embedded transmitter that communicates with the car.

In addition to the constant delivery of wear and tear on the car, the electronics in the tire can keep track of when the tire is rotating, the speed of the rotation and the duration of the rotation. Using this information, it could be possible to determine how fast and how far the car travels on various trips. This information is also transmitted via WiFi when a connection is available.

Additional electronics with similar transmitters have been placed at intervals within major road systems. When the tire electronics sense an RITD (Road Information Transmission Device), it connects and obtains information about the location of the RITD as well as information on the composition of the road. This information is added to the information already being gathered by the tire so that the wear of the tire can be compared to the road surfaces that are being driven on combined with the speed and other data points.

All of this information can make its way back to the manufacturer in a variety of ways. One is a simple download to a wireless receiver at car dealerships and at auto service facilities. Additionally, at most major road intersections, wireless cameras have been installed, these camera systems can include sensors and transmitters that connect and communicate with the tire chips as well. The cameras are already downloading massive amounts of data to the internet, so this additional tire and road information simply gets carried along.

The result of these chips and the sharing of information is massive amounts of data. The data, however, gives tire manufactures the big data they need to gain insights to how their tires operate under every condition.

The Issues

There are several side effects from having tied the tires, roads, and cameras at the intersections to the internet. These Internet of Things applications can generate massive amounts of data. That data needs to be processed to be of value. Big data techniques are allowing data such as this to be quickly filtered and organized into usable information.

The other issue is that of privacy. While the information can be used by tire manufacturers to analyze tire wear and tear and thus build better tires, the data could also be used to track where the driver is, the speeds they are traveling, and to some extent what they could potentially be doing. What happens if the tire is spinning faster than the current road’s speed limit? The car would know and this information could be sent via the transmitters and be tracked.  Rather than using a radar gun, I cop simply needs to monitor the data being generated by the tire and RITD devices near the stretch of street being monitored. Based on the data, they could see you coming before they actually see you coming.

The reality is, the overall value of the data is yet to be seen. Additionally, I’ve only mentioned a couple of the electronics being added within a vehicle. When you start combining the data from the other sensors in and out of the car, the insights that could be gained from the data quickly become mind boggling.

The Internet of Things

One of the newest terms being bantered around is the Internet of Things (IoT). The internet of things implies that items can be uniquely identified and that these identities can then be connected or extended to an electronic medium such as the Internet.

My illustration of the chips in the tires, road, and intersections are all illustrations of how the Internet of Things can evolve. Similar applications could be chips in your toaster, your refrigerator, door knob, or anything you could imagine. You’ve likely read articles in the past on companies like Wal-Mart using RFID chips to track inventory. This is all illustrative of the Internet of Things.

My discussion of the tire chips and the RITD is not real as far as I know. I made it up to illustrate that things even as mundane as a tire or the road we drive on could be brought into the Internet of Things.   It is only a matter of time before they are.

Electronics continue to get cheaper, so it is easier to include them in nearly anything. Imagine the gallon (or liters) of milk that no longer has an expiration date on it because it has electronics that tell when the milk is actually no longer drinkable. Imagine that chip also letting the refrigerator know the milk is a day from being bad so that it can display that milk is needed.

The opportunities for building embedded systems that can be applied to everything we interact with are overwhelming. While I don’t expect there to be electronic banana peelers connected to the internet, there are still a multitude of possible things that could be.

Data Overload

The bigger opportunity beyond applying IoT is in the area of analyzing the data that comes as a result of IoT. The internet has around 50 Petabytes of information (1,024 Terabytes). There are hundreds of items around you that could be tracked. If each were generating data, then that data would all aggregate. When you start thinking about the amount of data that could be generated, it makes 50 petabytes seem like nothing.

Thanks to the Internet of Things, the role of the Business Intelligence (BI) Analyst is growing and when you consider the data IoT will generate, you can see that the role has a very bright future. You can expect the value to go up for people who are able to dig into the mountains of data being generated and turn it into useful information. Expect huge opportunities for BI big data people as the data starts flowing

The Point

So what is the point of this blog post? As a developer, you should start looking beyond the screens and the keyboards and start considering what happens when you take your solutions to other devices and products. Opportunities are there. No longer should you just think of the varying screen sizes and computing devices and platforms, but you should also start thinking of any other devices or products that might be a viable part of the solutions you are building!

If you decide to build the tire system and RITD, remember to give credit where credit is due!

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