Internet of Things Insights from Rob Tiffany
Despite the great promise of IoT to improve business and society, many think it’s being held back due to complexity and the associated lack of required skills to make it a success. Is it possible that the antidote to this complexity and skill shortage problem lies in the existing open standards and technologies that comprise the World Wide Web? In this podcast, Rob Tiffany makes the case for using existing W3C standards to power the Internet of Things.
Internet of Things Insights from Rob Tiffany
Back in the early 2000 era, the idea of connecting various devices and granting them access to other authorization apps was quite rare. However, in today’s time, this thought is omnipresent in all sorts of industries. Hardware components decide the cost, abilities, experience, and application of an IoT product. Unfortunately, only 20% of IoT professionals can deal with this part as the skills required are quite different from those dealing with the software portion. Hence, building products using this technology is not as easy as it seems. Since the innovation of Internet-enabled appliances is comparatively new, security is also a big threat while dealing with the hardware circuitry of these products.
Hardware components of IOT
Irrespective of the device being designed, the building blocks of almost every IoT device is likewise. The three most prominent hardware components used in this technology are:
- Sensors: They collect data from the surroundings and constrain the waves before they get transmitted to the next building block.
- Microcontrollers: The waves from the sensor are received by the microcontroller for signal processing after which, they regulate the consumption of power while managing the storage. This device also decides the correct responses to different types of signals received.
- Medium: Communication is aided by the transfer of information between the various transmission blocks and thereby to the cloud. The micro-components making this possible are some radio chips, network protocols, and wireless modules.
These components provide different experiences depending upon the use they have been put up for. But their physical topology always consists of these three elements.
For instance, it is really cumbersome to take real-time recordings of the sensor in a thermostat while regulating the other parameters at constant intervals. The sensor takes time to register the change as the factors like room temperature cannot be altered rapidly.
Also, in an automated industry or office, the conveyor belts need to be regulated frequently. If not, the motor might start to make inarticulate sounds subjecting to a change in the applied load. If some rapid adjustments aren’t made pertaining to the change in load, it might even heat up causing a smoldering smoke to emit.
The aforementioned examples suggest how it is important and quite mandatory to have a clear knowledge of the design being implemented, so as to select the correct components for the required task. The predominant jobs of sensors, microcontrollers or the communication mechanism do not change with respect to the IoT application. In the first case, the sensor will record different temperature readings of the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) system and similarly in the second instance, it records the conveyor belt frequencies generated by the motor driver. This output is further fed to a signal conditioning circuit which enhances and adjusts the readings to make them readable by the next building block. Next, the microcontroller handles the sensor output to act upon the temperature of the room or the speed of the conveyor belt. The controller of the motor is also adjusted. Lastly, the medium or the communication circuitry has an established connection with the resources of cloud computing that helps scrutinize the information given by the conveyor belt sensor or updates the owners about their changed room temperature.
- Cost to customize linked devices: At some point or the other, every device connected to a distant one needs to be personalized that is, it needs to possess some unique keys. This increases the cost for the end user. The complexity in assorting the peripherals of a system to the central unit weakens the security of the network.
- End-to-end network security: Having just WPA-secured Wi-Fi connectivity to a router doesn’t help in privately browsing to some remote server. This is because the local keys are not renewed regularly. For instance, nowadays no one really alters their wifi passkey thinking it to be a hassle.
- Authenticity: Most websites or marketplaces no longer sell genuine components even after taking a lump sum of money. There is no way to check if a component is perfectly working while buying it. Many fraud sites have been leveraging through this.
Chandramouli Srinivasan - Founder and CEO of Hurify
However, problems are never stopping signs but guidelines. Commenting on the reason why Hurify, an online IoT hardware store, was founded, its CEO Chandramouli Srinivasan says “We launched our marketplace in April to address the complexity around fulfilling hardware needs of an IoT project. Easy access to hardware products coupled with a global shipment commitment simplifies management of IoT hardware acquisition for a project owner. Additionally, the marketplace creates real utility for the HUR token – the only medium of exchange on our platform. We view this as foundational to our goal of being a one-stop solution for IoT development”. To overcome the eminent problems being faced by the world in designing IoT products, Hurify has created a unique marketplace for IoT’s hardware components but also developed HUR tokens as their only medium of exchange. This enhanced the transparency as well as the reliability of the components being bought. Also, every kind of component is in the same place hence loitering about on websites to find the perfect hardware is no more required. This startup is thus surely bringing the IoT journey to life.
The Way Out
While being carried over the internet protocol, the data can be tunneled from the sensors to the applications in order to encrypt it end-to-end thereby enhancing its network security. The other factors which need to be enlightened upon are the validation between a device and server, the integrity of the information and its confidentiality alongside the creation of a safe session key. In the year 1995, Netscape had released the first public SSL (Secure Socket Layer). The purpose behind the same was to allow online clients to exchange information in the safest possible manner. They used applicative distant servers to deliver any form of media or data irrespective of their OS. Client authentication was completely based upon secure and private end-to-end transmission, not disclosing passwords to any third party website and; by keeping the hackers at bay. This authentication was achieved by using the same unique key on both the transmitter and receiver sides of the channel. Now, to distribute this unique key without its exposure, the technique of asymmetric cryptography was brought to light where a unique key was secretly shared between the entities even on a public medium without the need for the key to being exposed.
The Bottom Line
The purpose of this article was to introduce the basics of IoT from a device point of view. To be precise, everyone needs to be equally aware of the type of hardware to be dealt with alongside having the knowledge of the software aspects of the technology. There’s still a wild west out there regarding IoT hardware. Even the product managers need to have a proper understanding of the prominent components required rather than holding an expertise in all the areas of this technology. This will also clarify their knowledge of how the end-to-end IoT solutions are put together.
Security systems installed in a typical facility consists of cameras, access control, intrusion sensors and fire alarms. Typically, these devices are places behind a firewall on a dedicated network. Building control systems are installed on a secondary network can contains lighting, HVAC, fire protection, elevators/lifts, chillers and air/moisture sensors. These systems serve their purpose and will continue to be adapted and make facility systems design more complicated. This complexity can be controlled using common development tools and platforms. Not only will this approach make the process of creating smarter, safer, more energy efficient systems but will also reduce the number accidental deaths and injuries that occur every year.
The redundant network design approach is not a very efficient nor cost effective way of operating a facility. This is starting to change as savvy building managers are making the decision to integrate security and building control systems and map them onto a single network. This can entail integrating multiple disparate systems, sensors, NVR devices and video management software. The concept of integrating a camera or access control system to an HVAC system, or a visitor/facility management system or edge recording device to a lighting or fire protection system may seem unusual to some. Yet, this is where many security systems integrators and manufactures are missing out on untapped applications and services opportunities. Modern integrated security and building systems can give facility managers and security directors the tools to improve, simplify operations and reduce the efforts of the operations staff and points of control teams.
In the past, the security industry has relied on it’s own approach to integrated systems know as physical security information management (PSIM). PSIM attempts to provide an open architecture to integrate multiple security system products into a single operating platform. This approach has been very hit-or-miss and has left a bad taste in the mouths of systems integrators and end-users. On the flip side of the coin, facility managers have their own integration platform known as a building automation system (BAS). As it relates to physical security, BAS systems are intended to integrate with PSIMs and control individual security systems. However, BAS systems come in many different flavors; many of them are not viewed in a glowing light by building operation end users. Past integrations are not all filled with doom-and-gloom. There are some successful integrations attempted by the collaborative efforts of building controls and physical security organizations. The question is why is this design practice not more common where the benefits and economics make sense?
In order to facilitate the adoption and implementation of an integrated system the use of open standard protocols is an absolute must. The building automation industry created BACnet and LONworks which allow for real-time remote connectivity between sensors, actuators, controller devices and software. In the case of LONworks, hardware manufactures have the ability to include a chipset with built-in building control system support. It took some time, but finally the security industry created the protocols ONVIF and PSIA. These open architectures allows the end-user to choose vendors selecting either security or BAS equipment based on features and price. The end-user can also decide to install partial system upgrades without the risk of making costly investments in obsolete legacy systems. With that said, The security industry is curious about implementing the building controls protocols but needs an easier way to integrate them into their hardware and software products in an ad-hoc applications based manner.
There are security directors that are not completely sold on the idea of integrating with building control systems. On the other hand, facility managers may question the benefits of sharing a network with security systems especially when functions do not overlap with life-safety systems. However, system integration between building controls, physical and now cybersecurity offers more than just staffing convenience and operational efficiency. Here are a few results from a truly integrated security system.
Faster Response to Incidents – With the use of a robust mobile software solution and integration approaches such camera-to-access control-to-lighting or HVAC staff members can be freed from a console which makes them readily available to respond to incidents or equipment failure.
Provide more accurate compliance reports – Data provided by building controls and security edge devices can be paired with artificial intelligence technologies such as neural networks and genetic algorithms. This helps facilities to comply with government regulations with regards to security.
Reduce accidents and save money – Integrated systems provide better control of building and security systems. For example, if some accidentally stumbles into a restricted area or manages to make it to overly heated or chilled area the access control system, Variable air volume (VAV), or other HVAC system components can send alerts and create historical trend reports. Also a single network architecture can make managing system components easier.
Integrated building control and security systems are gaining some traction. However, it is still not a mainstream approach among many manufactures and systems integrators. One proposed solution is to utilize a common platform that is utilizes the industry protocol standards as application and system component building blocks.
The dream of making money with IoT, AI and Blockchain
Have you ever think about how could you make money with the Internet of Things (IoT) or Artificial Intelligence (AI) and of course with Blockchain? What would happen if you could use the three of them in a new business model?. Apparently, Success, Success and Success.
In the next sections I provide information of some business models implemented with these three technologies.
IoT Business Models
As IoT moves past its infancy, certain trends and economic realities are becoming clear. Perhaps the most significant of those is the realisation that traditional hardware business models just don’t work in IoT. Take a look at “The top 5 most successful IoT business models” that have emerged as particularly effective applications for IoT.
If any of you is building an IoT product, this article ” IoT Business Models For Monetizing Your IoT Product” show how to make money with IoT.
Zack Supalla, the founder and CEO of Particle, an Internet of Things (IoT) startup, suggest “6 ways to make money in IoT”.
Finally, in “How IoT is Spawning Better Business Models” we can read three ways companies like Rolls Royce, Peloton, MTailor or STYR Lab was rethinking their business model and have created revolution in the marketplace.
Blockchain Business Models
It sounds repetitive, but yes "Blockchain technology may disrupt the existing business models”. The authors´ s findings concerning the implications of blockchain technology for business models are summarised in the following picture.
Do you think that blockchain will likely to cut into big-players’ revenues? Then, this article: “New Blockchain-Based Business Models Set to Disrupt Facebook and Others”, is for you.
If you are ambitious and you are planning to build a viable business on blockchain, then read “Building an International Business Model on Blockchain”.
I am also an advocate of the coming era of decentralization (at least in my most optimistic version) and Blockchain is a step more to create value when the End of All Corporate Business Models will arrive.
AI Business Models
Companies from all industries, of all shapes and sizes are thus faced with an important set of questions: Which AI business models and applications can I use ? And what technologies and infrastructures are required?.
It seems that we all are convinced that artificial intelligence is now the most important general-purpose technology in the world that can drive changes at existing business models. Not surprised then, that AI is Revolutionizing Business Models. The “data trap” strategy, that in venture capitalist Matt Turck’s words consists of offering (often for free) products that can initialize a data network effect. In addition, the user experience and the design are becoming tangibly relevant for AI, and this creates friction in early stage companies with limited resources to be allocated between engineers, business, and design.
New Business models with the intersection of IoT, AI and Blockchain
With IoT we are connecting the Digital to the Physical world. Connected objects offers a host of new opportunities for companies, especially in terms of creating new services. The amount of data generated by the billions of connected objects will be the perfect complementary feed to many AI applications. Finally, blockchain technology could be used to secure the ‘internet of things’ and create smart contracts in a decentralized infrastructure that boost the democratization of technology and creation of sustainable communities.
You must remember that new business models that include IoT, AI and blockchain need among other characteristics: Volume and Scalability. Volume of devices, Volume of data, Volume of customers, volume of developers and powerful ecosystems to escalate.
Good luck in your search and implementation of your new business model.
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Too much time waiting for the IoT year
After years of waiting for my wishes to finally come true that it was finally the year of IoT, I give up. There will be no IoT year. Other technologies are usurping the dubious privilege of leading the technology bubble. Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence are now much cooler.
As has happened on many previous occasions, the IoT will be replaced by other acronyms that will make you forget bad experiences and failed expectations. And with the new acronyms the illusions of those of us who continue to trust in the beneficial implications that the "new IoT" will bring to society will appear again.
Event Organizers were the first to notice the decline of IoT
The first to realize this situation were the organizers of IoT events. If a couple of years ago the weight of the new secondary on stage (Blockchain and AI) did not seem worrying to detract from the main actor (#internetofthings). Now they are the stars and the IoT is marginalized and surrounded by other technologies, badly hurt and melancholy.
Quo Vadis IoT events ?
Will IoT events disappear? Sure. Doesn’t matter if is in 2 or 3 years, but IoT only events will not make sense. In the last 3 months I attended several IoT events in London, Amsterdam, Madrid, Bilbao. I see a slow decline and transformation of #IoT events. Most of them do not satisfy my expectation. I am tired and saturated of see the same tired case studies parroted over and over again.
As my friend Rick Bullotta, I'd like to see some more innovative stories, some failure stories/lessons learned, some HARD FACTS about how long it looks to build, what it cost to build, return on investment.
Of course, we will continue seeing IoT companies, products and services in the Big Events like CES in Las Vega, MWC in Barcelona or Cebit and Hanover Messe in Germany or in industry specific events or company specific events like PTC LiveWorx or Bosch ConnectedWorld . But the same way that we do not see today Internet events we will not see Internet of Things events beyond 2020. It will be a good sign because the Hype will have disappeared and the reality and the market will have been imposed.
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In part two of a three part series, Leonard Lee and Dean Freeman of neXt Curve discuss how IoT enables new business models with Rob Tiffany, CTO of Hitachi Lumada.
With the IoT surfacing as the next great destination for investment, many industry titans are scrambling and fiercely competing to seize their share of the revenues in the IoT market. Currently, IoT is at the core stage of industries like energy management, healthcare, logistics, manufacturing, and transportation. In convergence with various technologies like blockchain, AI, and edge, IoT has the potential to disrupt all the aforementioned verticals. Companies like IBM, Intel and Cisco are swiftly investing in the IoT technologies to take a lead in next era of technology. The adoption of IoT in all industries is becoming so vital that tech giant, Microsoft has announced to invest $5 billion in IoT over next four years globally.
A report from IDC states that the worldwide Internet of Things market will grow from $656 billion in 2014 to $1.7 trillion in 2020 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.9%. As per the report, connectivity, devices and IT services will be responsible for the majority of the IoT market in 2020. IDC estimates that all the three services will account for over two-thirds of the worldwide IoT market in 2020, with devices (modules/sensors) alone representing 31.8% of the total. With the increase in market size, the investments in IoT globally shall rise from over $800 billion in 2017 to nearly $1.4 trillion in 2021 indicating a worthy investment with quick ROI. Current investment in IoT holds a promising return as the adoption of IoT increases with market size and spendings. As investment is worth in IoT, it is now important for investors to know which startup having innovative technology would be ideal for them to invest in. The number of startups in the IoT rose rapidly from just 13 in 2013 to 189 in 2014. Following is the list of top startup companies using innovative technologies like blockchain, AI and edge which will aid an investor in selecting an ideal company.
Discovery IoT is a revolutionary solution that enables brands to track their products through their supply chains, accurately on a real-time basis. They are developing a tag, Cliot, which will hold the ability to track products with embedded sensors and is built at the cost of $0.10. With IoT in convergence, Discovery is using the latest technologies like blockchain, AI and edge computing (mesh network) to solve current problems including stock-outs/empty shelves, product obsolescence/expiry etc., faced by the supply chain industry. Participation in Discovery’s sale will be the next best destination for investors as their solution will soon be adopted by a massive audience. The pre-sale of DIS tokens will be made available for a limited period starting from June 15, 2018 and ICO will be made available for 6 weeks starting from August 1, 2018. They will abate bonuses as per rounds, to attract more investors, keeping in mind that the early investor gains handsome return. Discovery has a strong team lead by Selvam VMS, Co-Founder & CEO, a veteran in the field of supply chain management with more than 10 years in the domain. He is accompanied by Kumar T, Co-Founder & CTO, a techie with more than 15 years of knowledge and experience in the areas of IoT and AI. Also, they are supported by various professionals, experts and senior advisors like Aly Madhavji and Nandakumar Balanujan with 36+ years of experience in supply chain; and incubated by the Blockchain Founders Fund.
IoTium is a startup based in California with an aim to advance secure network infrastructure for the industrial Internet of Things. Their Network as a Service (NaaS) solution is designed for the building automation, industrial automation, oil and gas, manufacturing, transportation and smart city industries, empowering them to securely connect legacy onsite systems to cloud-based applications to leverage new analytics, machine learning, and predictive analytics applications. Till date, IoTium has secured $8.4 million in Series A funding and is backed by investors including GE Ventures, March Capital, and Juniper Networks, as well as Pankaj Patel, former Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer at Cisco. The funds have been used to expand its trail in the oil and gas, transportation and smart city industries with the launch of the IoTium NaaS. This investment has helped them in a recent distribution partnership with The Panel Shoppe and a building automation firm, Relevant Solutions.
Evrythng is a startup based in London, New York, and San Francisco which creates IoT and smart solutions to make products more intelligent and interactive. They collect, manage and apply real-time data from smart products and smart packaging to drive IoT applications. The company aims to ensure that connected devices can be managed and enhanced through real-time data and analytics throughout the full product lifecycle. This includes assigning digital identities to devices which allows them to be tracked and thus driving IoT a step further. This provides businesses with insights into their supply chains and consumers with awareness of the counterfeit product. The startup has secured $42.3 million in four funding rounds with lead investors being- Sway Ventures, Atomico, and BHLP. The company's clients include Coca-Cola, Avery Dennison RBIS, Crown Holdings and West Rock.
Notion, an IoT startup based in Denver, Colorado, provides home security and monitoring through adaptable sensors. The low-cost sensors can be used to monitor unauthorized entry and take temperature readings of a user's home. Notion’s small sensor can be placed near doors and other locations around the house to monitor motion, temperature, water leaks etc. The startup has secured $16 million in funding by following a solid crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter through six investment rounds and has used the funds to expand the development of home sensor products and to tap into the insurance market. It has attracted audience and investors including Draper Nexus, Translink Capital, Mesh Ventures and XL Innovate.
Starting from home devices to industrial machines and automobiles, it is widely speculated that the next tech revolution is likely to be spurred by the ability to connect things. Therefore, the tremendous interest generated in IoT evident from the growing number of startups and mounting investments is a testament to IoTs potential to create enormous business opportunities around the globe. As the technology is yet to mature and the market for it is far from being saturated, the time is ripe for investing in IoT based solution providers.
IoT stands for “Internet of Things.” Breaking down the phrase, we get two words Internet and Things. Internet stands for Interconnection of Networks. It was born in the late 1950s and was known as ARPANET. Experts say that the concept of IoT was taken with the ARPANET but, because of the lack of hardware and software support, it was tough to bring Internet of Things to the real world. Between 2006 and 2008 the first European IoT Conference recognized by EU. In this conference, experts talked about commercializing IoT. Finally, in 2009 CISCO was the first one to connect thing around us to the Internet. Later on, in 2009, companies like IBM and Ericsson also developed IoT solutions for the real world.
Smartphones were the first devices that connected people to the Internet even while roaming. This breakthrough came with the launch of the first iPhone. That is the first instance when IoT started impacting our lives. Since, then a wave has begun to flow across the globe to make everything around us, “smart.” The growth of IoT has been exponential since, 2009.
How IoT Affects Our Day-to-day Routine?
Our day starts at home and ends at home. IoT has reached to our homes and is spreading like wine. Households are getting smarter. Starting from the door from where we enter to the bed we sleep, everything is smart.
There are two types of Home Automation, semi-home automation, and complete home automation. Semi-home automation is where devices can do some of the daily tasks for us and have limited access to other gadgets of our home. Total Home Automation is where the gadgets have full access to the house.
Devices like Amazon Echo, Apple home pod, and Google home are capable of playing songs according to our mood, booking a cab, setting reminders, providing weather updates, making a call, controlling lighting, etc. and they do it via voice commands only.
The gadgets that we use daily are getting smarter as well such as IOT enable smart air conditioner, Fans and monitoring devices like gas meter, water meter, electricity meter, etc. IoT is also prevailing in security solutions for homes and offices. IOT enable Smart smoke detectors, motion sensors and intelligent bio-metrics database are already implemented in homes and offices.
The automobile industry has evolved quite a lot when it comes to automation and safety. Automatic Gearing system and electronic parking system have changed the way we drove the car. Some of the examples of how automobile industry is facing change because of IoT are automatic emergency SOS message, automatic service booking, maintenance alerts, automatic fuel sign, Trip analysis, breakdown information, etc. If there is an ideal car having all the specifications mentioned above, then the owner of that car will save a lot of precious time which others cannot.
Internet of Things is helping us save the environment by smart gas detectors. These gas detectors are spread across the city which collects data of all kinds of hazardous gases and measures its density in each area of the town. Using this data, we can take the appropriate steps to reduce carbon emission in the city.
Smart gas detectors have the capabilities to detect even a small leakage which could destroy an entire city if not fixed in time. IoT has the skills not to improve our lifestyle but also to save lives and towns.
More significant the building higher is the maintenance cost. IoT helps to reduce the maintenance cost by suggesting the most effective solutions to maintain a building by measuring its condition time-to-time. IoT can also help reduce the risk of the data security breach at any level. It also protects the structure from fires.
Blood Pressure and Diabetes are some of the most dangerous diseases that kill slowly. The risk of such conditions has reduced to a fantastic level as people started using wearable techs such as smartwatches and fitness trackers connected to their smartphones. According to a GFK survey, one in every three people around the world wears a fitness tracking device. Some of the fitness trackers also track the sleep and send the sleep data to their smartphones. The app creates a detailed report using that data which user can access from anywhere provided the internet connection.
How will it benefit us?
IoT is making everything around us smart as mentioned. As these things will get smarter, it is going to replace humans in performing all the non-productive tasks hence, improving productivity. The tasks which we would have never imagined to do as humans are going to be accomplished by IoT.
Control Homes Remotely
Robots connected to the Internet will clean our homes whenever instructed regardless of our situation. With the help of IoT, monitoring will be extremely easy. We will be able to see and control our home from far away via an app. Although, staying away from home, IoT will make us feel as if we are at home.
Preemptive Vehicle Maintenance
Any vehicle needs maintenance. In our busy lives we might not always get time to provide proper maintenance to it. IoT will help us complete the tedious task. It will send the remainder to car service center for us to send the mechanic and service the car. With the help of GPS we can also track it live on our phones so, no chance of theft. IoT will also benefit at the time of emergencies. The system present in car will automatically detect the type of emergency and ask for the relevant help.
No one can deny the Climate change happening around the world. We cannot reduce the global warming but we can surely stop them with the help of IoT. Smart sensors help us collect and organize pollution data according to Country, state, city and area. We already have the ways to reduce pollution all we needed was “data.” IoT not only improves our lifestyle but also save lives.
Eco Friendly Buildings
The concept of energy efficient building is prevailing around the world. Such buildings are known as “Green buildings.” IoT can help us save energy that is consumed in big corporate offices and public places. That energy can later on be used at the time of crisis.
All kind of wearable tech comes with GPS functionality and smart watches comes with Internet as well. Most of them has a panic button functionality through which we can alert our loved ones at the time of emergency. The heart rate sensor present in the fitness tracker tracks our heart rate 24x7 hence, it gives an alert to the nearest hospitals automatically whenever our heart rate deviates from the normal range.
Internet of Things has been impacting our lives since 2009 and is going to impact forever. The only difference will be that the impact will be much more than what it is today.
As the Global PM and CTO for Lumada, it's been a rewarding journey to create a portable Industrial #IoT platform that could run at the Edge on a factory floor, in a train, inside a data center or in any hyper-scale public cloud.
This composable platform (use just what you need for your specific use case) combined with our revolutionary Asset Avatars (Digital Twins) that bring Lumada to life, is the very definition of "Visionary." I also want to send a big congratulations to our Visionary friends at PTC (ThingWorx) and SAP (Leonardo).
Thanks to all the Hitachi collaborators, colleagues and friends I was lucky enough to take this journey with.
Get a free copy of the Gartner report here:
Today, retail stores are constantly focusing on leveraging the emerging technologies like cloud, mobile, RFID, beacons, etc., to provide connected retail services and better shopping experience to customers. For example, store owners are integrating sensors in the key zones of retail stores and connecting them to cloud through a gateway that enables real-time data analysis related to products, sales, and customers from these sensors.
Interestingly, IoT and connected technologies are taking the retail industry by storm. 96% retailers are ready to make changes required to implement the Internet of Things in their stores
IoT in retail can help retailers improve store operations, enhance customer experience and drive more conversions. Moreover, IoT can help retailers solve day-to-day problems such as tracking energy utilization, managing in-floor navigation, detecting crowded areas, reducing check out timings, managing product shelves, preventing theft, monitoring goods, etc. Let us how IoT helps in few of these scenarios.
In-Store Navigation with IoT-enabled Devices
Identifying in-store navigation is one of the common problems in retail stores. Here, IoT devices with integrated technologies like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, magnetic positions and augmented reality, etc., can facilitate in-store navigation to help customers navigate through the store and find the desired product.
It gives customers a multichannel shopping experience through digitization of physical assets. In-store navigation also helps increase the path to purchase rate before a product stock outs.
Bluetooth low energy (BLE) beacons are small sensors placed strategically throughout the retail store. These sensors are equipped with Bluetooth smart technology and compatible with smartphones. This BLE beacon device sends out continuous radio signals to nearby smart devices in the range. Smart devices in that range catch the signal and trigger events such as availability of a new product or launch of a new offer. Further, that device sends a unique ID to cloud server. The server checks that ID and responds back, through which communication between signal and smart device is established using a unique ID. Almost all customers nowadays carry smart devices like mobile phones and tablets. If BLE is used, customers can be notified on their smartphone with personalized coupons and deals as soon as they enter the store.
The above solution improves customer’s in-store experience and also increases footfall ratio. It also facilitates quick product search and increases conversion rates while generating a powerful shopping environment that can help enhance product offerings and store layouts.
Energy Management with Smart Devices
Energy consumption is a major cost consuming factor for the retail businesses, be it in refrigeration, lighting, heating, air conditioning, etc. Using these energy sources efficiently can bring cost saving of up to 20 percent per year. IoT-enabled smart devices can help resolve problems of energy management and saving.
There are several IoT-based platforms that can log, monitor and beep alarms or alert the in-store personnel about temperature, energy usage, heating, gas leakage, electricity breakdowns, etc., with the help of integrated sensors. Using these smart energy management devices, store owners can directly interact with the controllers of refrigerators and retrieve prioritized information with the help of sensors.
Every year, a large retail chain attributes nearly $2B of loss to wasted or spoiled food, with issues relating to its legacy refrigeration system, accounting for approximately 15% of this total—or $300 mm. In case of emergency situations like powercut or excessive heating, alarms from the controllers of these refrigeration systems reach the operations team only after 5 or 6 hours, and there is no mechanism to provide warnings before these situations occur. Here smart refrigeration IoT device can provide cloud-based temperature monitoring solution to notify the controllers about emergencies using temperature sensors and mesh networking technology.
Theft Prevention with Geo-Fencing
The crime of shoplifting in the retail industry is increasing day-by-day, because retailers fail to provide sufficient attention to shoplifters. According to National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP), more than $25 million worth of merchandise gets stolen from retail shops each day. Adding more to retailers’ loss is retail shrinkage, which includes shoplifting, employe theft, paperwork error, vendor fraud and many more.
To overcome the problem of shoplifting and retail shrinkage, retailers can use Geo-fencing technique.
Geo-fencing relies on the global positioning system or a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag that allows a store operator to create a virtual barrier or zone around specific locations in retail shops. When a customer tries to move product from the specific location, an alert is triggered and a message is sent to the store in-charge. Geo-fencing enabled in IoT devices or beacons can help retailers in a number of ways; from keeping goods safe, tracking customers and employee movements, managing company-owned resources to minimizing incidents of theft and loss.
Customer Engagement with Sensor-Enabled Shopping Carts
The sensor-enabled shopping cart is a technique adopted by most of the retail merchandisers. These shopping carts help retailers grow their business in every aspect by helping them visualize shopper’s flows by category/subcategory, understand the shopping pattern, analyze the dwell path, and enable faster checkout.
This smart cart design involves sensors with connectivity protocols around the cart, which have the ability to track the movement of the wheels and match up with the distance the cart has traveled. It helps retailers with an accurate data of shopping carts with the inside-store journey. The data from this cart can be sent to the server or to cloud for further analysis.
With the exponential increase in the IoT and connected devices, it is difficult to ensure scalability, security, and robustness of these devices. Cloud computing platforms like AWS help enterprises accelerate their development to deployment cycles, enhancing robustness and scalability of the entire IoT solution.
People perceive cloud as a platform only for storage and computing. However, there are many other capabilities that cloud offers with cloud computing, such as application deployment, data transfer, database management, etc. Moreover, with the onset of IoT and connected technologies, the role of cloud computing has expanded even more in terms of enabling communication between devices and providing scalability to applications.
How Cloud Computing Helps in IoT Deployment
In today’s time, deploying an IoT solution takes a lot of effort and time, due to the increased number of software applications and hardware integration it requires. Also, when it comes to deploying a new, robust and scalable IoT platform for any industry vertical, it can be very tedious and costly to set up the infrastructure. For example, in a smart factory model, there are many machines and devices to be connected to the cloud. Developing a whole new infrastructure for those Internet of Things applications from the scratch can take up to five to six months’ time in development, deployment, and testing. This prolonged time delay is not appropriate since enterprises need to respond to the market demands quickly, especially when the market competition is too high and when the connected devices and technologies are increasing exponentially. This is where cloud computing plays a crucial role in IoT deployment.
There are several cloud platforms and service providers such as AWS (Amazon Web Services), Azure, and Google Cloud for deploying IoT solutions. Of these, we will focus on the integrating AWS cloud platform in this blog.
Why AWS Cloud Platform
Cloud service platforms like AWS help enterprises accelerate their development cycle from months to a few days and hours, allowing them to build a robust and scalable IoT solution. AWS platform also allows easy and secure on-boarding of billions of devices according to the enterprise’s needs. It is one of the robust platforms for accelerated development, which enables the developers to connect the device to cloud quickly. AWS has recently launched AWS IoT 1-Click that easily triggers the Lambda function for any device to perform a specific action.
AWS is offering various services like cloud computing, machine learning, analytics, storage, IoT platform, security, AR & VR, etc. With AWS, organizations are just paying for the services that they utilize, which provides the benefits of cost reduction and better asset management.
Let us see how an enterprise IoT solution can be leveraged with the AWS IoT platform.
Sensor and Device Connectivity with Edge Analytics
The most important and basic aspect of an IoT solution is to connect all the devices and sensors to the cloud for management and control. Since the development of software and services to connect the devices to the cloud is tedious and time-consuming, AWS IoT Core helps IoT developers with AWS IoT SDK, which allows them to choose SDKs according to their choice of hardware for applications development. These applications help users in managing their IoT devices on air.
- Device gateway also consists of the AWS Greengrass a software agent that runs the computing on the edge for the connected devices. Greengrass consists of the Lambda Function, which allows users to run the rule engines, which are coded for particular events like temperature rise, light intensity, etc. AWS Greengrass also brings the AWS to the devices so that they can perform the local compute on the data when they are already using the cloud for other processes like management and storage. It can also be programmed for transferring only necessary information to the cloud after the local compute has been executed.
- Greengrass enables the device to cloud data security by encrypting the data. This data can be secured for both local and cloud communications. So, no one can access this data without any authentication. It uses the same security model as AWS IoT Core, which contains the mutual device authentication and authorization and secured cloud connectivity.
- Organizations can also create the digital twins, also known as Device Shadowing, for their IoT devices in the AWS cloud. In device shadowing, the current state of IoT devices gets replicated in the cloud virtually and this virtual image can be accessed at the time of no internet. This helps in the prediction of the desired future state of a device. IoT Core then compares this desired state with the previously accounted state and can send the command to the device for making up this difference.
Cloud Computing and Storage
The Internet of Things generates a huge data at every moment. The storage and management of this data require a lot of infrastructure deployments and maintenance efforts. AWS provides storage and computing services, which help enterprises in reducing the infrastructure development cost. These services also provide real-time analytics and accessibility of the data at any moment. Also, the developers can access the required data from the cloud without any delay.
- When we talk about the data management, AWS Kinesis can be considered as a great example of the real-time data streaming and analytics. It continuously analyzes, captures, and stores the huge heterogeneous data (terabytes per hour) that gets generated from the IoT devices or any other resources.
- After the data has been stored, Amazon EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) provides a secure, resizable, compute capacity in the cloud. Its web service interface allows developers to scale their computing requirement with minimal efforts. Users can scale up and down their computing resources according to the requirement and they just have to pay for the resources utilized. Apart from that, AWS also provides data storage services as AWS S3 and Glacier. They both provide 99% durability, comprehensive security and compliance capabilities that can help meet even the most stringent regulatory requirements. Amazon S3 and Glacier both allow running powerful analytics on the data on the rest.
- For Database management, AWS provides its service called AWS DynamoDB as NoSQL database that can support both key document-based database. Due to the NoSQL database, it enables benefits like ease of development, scalable performance, high availability, and resilience.
- For data and asset security, AWS has features and services like AWS Identity and Access Management, AWS Key Management Services, and AWS Shield along with the AWS Cloud HSM to enhance the security.
eInfochips (an Arrow company) is an Advanced Consulting Partner for AWS services. We help clients in implementing a highly scalable, reliable, and cost-efficient infrastructure with custom solutions for IoT on the AWS platform. Know more about our AWS services.
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