The Internet of Things – An interconnected world

Posted on : 30-10-2017 | By : jo.rose | In : Innovation, IoT, Uncategorized

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Soon every device you own, and nearly every object you can imagine, will be connected to the Internet. Gartner estimate that 8.4Bn connected “things” will be in use this year, with estimates from various sources citing some 20Bn-30Bn by 2020.

Indeed, one of the difficult things about predicting the future growth in the internet connected devices is the unknown factor in terms of attempting to anticipate demand for devices that have largely not yet even been invented, let along commercialised.

At this point, even the strictest definitions of IoT remain fuzzy because companies are still working on the technologies and business cases. The pace of change is staggering, and so in reality making estimates is somewhat futile.

That said, whether it’s through your phone, wearable tech devices or everyday household objects, we will become connected in ways we can’t even imagine yet.

Many of us have dreamed of our daily life becoming less exhaustive and where our appliances carry out our requests automatically. The alarm sounds and the kettle or coffee machine starts the moment you want to begin your day. Lights come on as you walk through the house. Some unseen computing device responds to your voice commands to read your schedule and messages to you while you get ready, then turns on the TV news.  It lets you know about traffic or rail delays for your journey to work. Your car drives you via the least congested route, helped by video sensor-embedded stoplights adjusting their red and green lights according to the time of day,  freeing you up to get on top of your emails or prep for your meetings that day.

We’ve read and seen such things in science fiction for decades, but they’re now either already possible or on the brink of becoming so. And all this new tech is forming the basis of what people are calling the Internet of Things.

Changes are starting to take root in our cities as well. Better management of energy, water, transportation and safety are bringing people in closer touch with their surroundings and capturing our imaginations for urban bliss – a fully integrated, smart, sustainable city.

There are numerous IoT developments that are making smart cities a reality now, including;

  • Smart Parking – tracking of parking spaces availability in the city.
  • Structural health – Monitoring of vibrations and material conditions in buildings, bridges and historical monuments
  • Noise Urban Maps – Sound measuring in bar areas and centric zones in real time.
  • Traffic Congestion – Monitoring of vehicles and pedestrian levels to optimize driving and walking routes.
  • Smart Lighting – Intelligent and weather adaptive lighting in street lights.
  • Waste Management – Detection of rubbish levels in containers to optimize the trash collection routes.

We are also seeing dramatic increases in activity and innovation on the factory front.

An example of this is in York, Pennsylvania at the Harley-Davidson plant, where sensors linked to manufacturing execution systems are able to collect data and point to any methods that are inefficient and waste time while other sensors can tell when conditions such as air flow and moisture are best for painting and change them if necessary. These technologies may be expensive to adopt, but factories have seen results. Harley-Davidson has been able to make 25 percent more bikes with 30 percent fewer workers.

IoT is also having an impact on the farming industry  – John Deere tractors and machinery are installing sensors that collect data on air and soil temperature, wind speed, humidity, solar radiation and rainfall while smart watering systems save water by detecting leaks and watering only the most needed places in the fields. Sensors are being used to detect pests capable of destroying crops, which reduces the frequency and use of pesticides.

As you can imagine, life in ten years will look materially different from how it looks now as the pace of technology change accelerates, thanks in large part to the coming boom of the Internet of Things.

While these connected technologies take a huge financial investment from companies and from consumers purchasing smart products, the benefits of the “interconnectedness” of devices are seemingly endless.

The Internet of things continues to rapidly evolve and our everyday lives are along for the ride.

Ripple Makes Waves

Posted on : 27-10-2017 | By : Tom Loxley | In : Bitcoin, Blockchain, Crytpocurrency, DLT, Finance, FinTech, Innovation

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The big banks seem to have stopped resisting and begun embracing blockchain technology…well, at least when it comes to embedding the technology into their payments and transactions. Some time ago now Ripple (the digital currency and distributed payment network) pitched its tent on the Swift network’s front lawn and has been an increasingly irritating thorn in the payments provider’s side. (Description of Ripple provided by coindesk.com.)

It seems that Swift can no longer deny the clear advantages of blockchain technology, or perhaps in a savvy move, Swift has let Ripple do the hard work when it comes to the risk and testing involved in new employing a new leading-edge technology. But it’s more than just a new piece of code or tech that Ripple and the other big cryptocurrencies have brought to the financial services (FS) arena. It’s more like a paradigm shift.

For years the financial institutions have been upgrading software and bolting on workarounds to try and keep up with new demands and ever-evolving marketplace. This has resulted in a metaphoric Frankenstein of IT stacks and ageing and outdated technology. Some of the bigger institutions still have to wheel in the experts from the 80’s to deal with their issues because the tech is so old the IT workforce of today just don’t get exposed to it. Talk about choke points or single points of failure.

Big names from the FS industry have come out swinging against the cryptocurrencies boom with the likes of Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan and Larry Fink of Blackrock voicing their issues with Bitcoin. Now I’m not a diehard fan of cryptocurrencies, and I see the obvious concern with what appears to be the massive bubble that is Bitcoin and some of the other more expensive digital currencies, but there is part of me that hails them for the disruptive kick up the backside they seem to have given the FS industry.

Whatever you may personally think about Bitcoin and the early cryptocurrencies, their presence has created choice, a new way to transact value with some real benefits (transparency, security, more autonomy/control, speed, and lower costs) using blockchain technology, or Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) as it is becoming more widely known as in the FS circles. (As if renaming it and slightly tweaking the definition has somehow distanced them from admitting there is real value in something that was widely scoffed initially.)

By popularising blockchain technology, cryptocurrencies have forced the FS industry to take a serious look at their technology and this (in my opinion) seems to have busted the door open to other new FinTech ideas. In fact, it now seems that the bigger institutions are clawing to be the first in the FinTech race and woe betide the Innovation Executive who is responsible for passing on the next bit of groundbreaking software, especially if the competition picks it up. Innovation is the new name of the game.

Ripple has continued its assault on the Swift network by boasting that its distributed financial technology can help banks cut the time and cost of clearing transactions and at the same time allowing new types of high-volume, low-value global transactions. Ripple also hosted their conference called “Swell: The Future Is Here” over the same period in October and only a few miles away from Swift’s Sibos event. They came out guns blazing with Ben Bernanke and Tim Berners-Lee headlining at their event and have made it clear the time and location of the event was not a coincidence.

Ripples tenacity seems to be paying off with over a 100 banks and FS organisations signing up to its network. Swift is hitting back with the 3rd phase of its global payment initiative (SWIFT gpi) focussing on DLT. Many of the larger banks have joined forces with Swift to explore the DLT Proof of Concept reporting initial success.

Swift is not the only large FS organisation exploring in this space. Indeed, despite Jamie Dimon’s opinion of Bitcoin, apparently he’s not opposed to the underlying technology. JPMorgan has used the Ethereum blockchain protocol as a base for Quorum, a DLT platform designed to support any application requiring high speed and high throughput processing of private transactions within a permissioned group of known participants.

Many other FS organisations are also exploring privately and collectively in consortiums to win the race and harness the power of the blockchain.

The irony here is that while we’re all caught up in this whirlwind of disruption to the FS industry, at the end of it all what is the real impact a year or so down the line? Kelly, the insurance broker from Doncaster, South Yorkshire makes the deposit payment on her new 4 bedroom semi-detached and says…hmmm…that was quicker than I remember a few years ago… and then gets on with her day. Or am I just being cynical?