100's of M2M / IoT blog posts.

  • People Sweden Are Getting “Microchipped” ... Should You Do It Too?

    by Larry Bellehumeur | Nov 16, 2018
    A while back, a company (Three Square Market) made headlines as they were offering to implant an RFID microchip inside of the hands of their employees.  The idea was to replace things like keys and access cards.  Labour groups around the world went berserk, referencing movies like “1984” in the process.

    It appears that these chips have resurfaced, this time to replace the need to carry personal credit cards, keys and other things and it has come from the country that brought us IKEA and ABBA.  While the numbers of people having it done has increased from year to year, it is still only a small fraction of Sweden’s population that has had it done.

    Is the world more welcoming to the idea now?

    First, let’s address some of the question that people have:

    What is involved in the process?
    It is a very simple procedure and one that is quite quick.  A video that I found shows it being done in a couple of minutes with little (or no) blood.

    What does it do?
    It can be loaded with information that could replace all of your payment cards, your forms of ID and even any access cards.

    What about security?
    It does not have any GPS capability, nor can it transmit information on its own (only when linked to a reader).  In addition, the reader has to be close to the chip (inches away), so it is difficult for it to be cloned.

    Personally, I have some mixed feelings about this.

    First, what one wants to do with their body is their choice.  I was against companies moving towards this for their employees, but if someone wants to do it to themselves, knock yourself out.  As well, as someone who often runs alone in remote areas, the idea of first responders having access to key information about me is kind of appealing, if I were to have a major issue.

    However, I am concerned about a few things ... have we thought through any medical issues, for one.  How does this device hold up inside of the body, does it pose any long-term health issues?  As well, what is to stop a criminal from scanning hands in close quarters like elevators?  I fear that they haven’t thought through all of the security implications fully ...

    Finally, most people (as I wrote previously) have not even ventured towards the concept of Mobile Wallet yet, let alone something like this.

    Bottom Line
    I do see this as being something that will become more standard as time goes on, but I think it may be just a bit too far ahead of its time, as there are still too many questions that need to be answered.


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  • Why hasn’t Mobile Wallet become even more popular?

    by Larry Bellehumeur | Nov 14, 2018

    They use to have a joke back when Blackberries were all of the rage, and they called it “phantom buzzing.”  Even when an avid user would not have it on their hip, they used to claim they could still feel the buzz.  This highlighted how much users missed their device when they did not have it ... and this was only for email!

     

    Today, so much of our personal life is on our phone ... most of our communication, how we shop, make reservations, our health and so much more.  The idea of forgetting your phone is not fathomable to most of us, especially the under 30 crowd.

     

    So, if we always have our phone with us, why hasn’t Mobile Wallet taken off more and why has its growth rates tapered off?

     

    The idea of Mobile Wallet (paying with purchases using applications on your smartphone or watch) is being done by less than half of those who have phones that are capable of it.  You can observe this at any Starbucks ... despite the wide publicity of the Starbucks App, you still see a lot of cash and debit card payments.

     

    For some, it is security.  The funny part is that in most ways, it is actually more secure.  Compare losing your phone to your wallet.  Your phone is usually locked and most phone platforms allow you to easily wipe the phone remotely.  As well, some payment apps also demand a fingerprint scan.  A physical credit card offers none of those protections, and can be used to purchase things at some retailers/online ... sure, there are precautions, but it is likely more vulnerable.

     

    I think the bigger issue might be habit, combined with convenience, or the lack of it.  Most people are pretty quick at getting their wallet out, so there is not much time saved by using mobile wallet.  As well, I have had my phone lock the moment before I start the transaction, something cards do not do.

     

    So, will it ever pick up its growth?  Perhaps, as the growth rates are much higher among the under 40 crowd than the over 40 one, so it may just grow over time.  I think it will also pick up when you start to see other things in your wallet move to your phone ... I mean, I still need to carry my health card, driver’s license and other things, so other than going for a run, it is rare that I am away from my home without my wallet.  I think those things moving towards your phone will expedite its growth curve ...

     

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  • Vanishing Cashiers: Are We Seeing The End Of The Customer Service Era?

    by Larry Bellehumeur | Nov 12, 2018

    There was an IBM commercial, probably close to 2 decades ago now, that foreshadowed the downfall of the cashier.  To watch it, click here.

     

    So, the idea of a true “self-checkout”, one where you did not even have to stop at a kiosk, has been floated around for decades.  There were always obstacles to it, namely how to prevent items being taken without being registered.  Like many innovations in the world of automation, Amazon was leading much of the charge.

     

    Amazon Go’s stores have famously announced that they will not use cashiers or even self-checkout kiosks, but instead will blanket the stores with cameras and sensors.  While it seems that they are just trying to give the customer the convenience of not having to stop and check out, there is far more at play here.  These sensors/cameras are combined with big data and artificial intelligence software to calculate how to better target consumers.

     

    While there are obviously privacy and security concerns here, it begs another question ... does this expedite the demise of the role of cashier?

     

    Now, I have publicly stated that most times I am shopping (among the few times I am not using E-Commerce), I try to use the self-checkout lanes.  It is just a personal preference.  Based on the line-ups at many stores, most people still like to go to the cashier, though.

     

    It appears that Wal-Mart is joining Amazon in by-passing the whole check-out experience.  While still an experiment, their “Scan and Go” technology is being used in an app that can allow customers to checkout while in the store.  While not quite living up to the IBM commercial, it is starting to go that way.

     

    Does this mean my grandkids will never see a cashier?  With over 3M people listing “Cashiers” as jobs in the US (according to the Dept of Labor), it will take a while to see this end.  But, like my fellow Novotech-er, Richard Hobbs, points out ... once I started to pump my own gas, it didn’t take long for that to become normal.  Once people start to accept these technologies, they will be adopted at a breakneck speed.

     

    So, maybe my kids will tell my grandkids about how they used to have to line up at a cash register, just like I tell my kids how someone use to pump our gas when I was a kid ...

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  • IoT is powering license-plate readers everywhere … is this a good thing?

    by Larry Bellehumeur | Nov 08, 2018

    Hello and thanks for reading.

    The use of IoT technology to help improve traffic is not only widespread, but for the most part, is considered to be a good thing by the public.  The use of sensors on the roads help to detect unexpected issues, such as traffic jams or bad road conditions.  As well, signs alerting drivers of the length of time to a certain landmark (such as an airport) help everyone’s commute.  Finally, although I am currently leading my wife in the “photo-radar ticket game” by a score of 4-3, even I admit that they can help to reduce speeding in certain areas.

    Where the issue comes is when information is if IoT Traffic solutions are also used to gather data that can be used against someone in a criminal matter.  This was recently reported in a Washington Post article, where it was revealed that the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) is placing LPR (License Plate Readers) along side road side signs.

    This debate comes down to what your expectation of privacy is while you are operating a vehicle on a publicly-funded road …

    One argument is always that if you have nothing to hide, why should you care?  To further that argument, many police cruisers are now using OCR (optical character recognition) software to scan license plates at truck stops and in traffic on freeways, so why is that any different?

    The other argument, namely from the ACLU, is that the sheer size of the deployments, as well as the lack of transparency about them, makes it likely that the use extends far beyond the scope of catching possible cars involved in the drug trade.  Why wouldn’t this information be able to be used to track “dead-beat dads” who do not pay their child support?  The other argument commonly used is the security of this data, or in other words, could this data be used to help criminals by knowing where a potential victim is?

    The reality is that we are constantly being watched, and for the most part, society is safer because of it.  Your credit card activity is monitored by your card issuer … People post (maybe too many) details about much of their life on Social Media … Google tracks all of your web searches …. And the list goes on and on.

    I personally don’t see how this is much different.  I think society has long answered the question of whether we are willing to trade away privacy for convenience …

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  • What some great minds think of IoT and AI

    by Larry Bellehumeur | Nov 02, 2018
    Hello and thanks for reading.

    I remember asking a high school English teacher one time about why we still read/studied the works of Shakespeare, even hundreds of years later.  His response stuck with me …. “Because, genius knows no time barriers, he will always be a genius”.

    Now, I am not sure if people like Elon Musk and Bill Gates will be remembered in the year 2400, but it is important to listen to such men when it comes to predictions, as they have already shown the ability to change the world we live.  I came across this article from Forbes, where those two, as well as others, shared their thoughts on IoT and Automation.

    While I won’t comment on all 19 items, here are some thoughts on some key ones:

    If you invent a breakthrough in artificial intelligence, so machines can learn, that is worth 10 Microsofts.” — Bill Gates

    While I am not sure that it will be worth THAT much, the idea makes sense.  A machine that can learn would replace thousands of workers, be able to make decisions based on billions of variables and would improve the quality of life for all.  That would be a valuable company.

    “I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, I’d probably say that. So we need to be very careful.” — Elon Musk

    In many blogs, I have quoted both the Terminator movies and The Minority report, as both of them show possible examples of how AI and robotics can be used in negative ways against us.  While I think we can build in many safeguards, this is something that does worry me, and apparently, Elon Musk.

    “As the Internet of things advances, the very notion of a clear dividing line between reality and virtual reality becomes blurred, sometimes in creative ways.” — Geoff Mulgan


    Last night, my son and his friend decided to play a game of pool, in my garage.  I don’t have a table.  They were doing it using AR (Augmented reality) in an open space.  Sure, it wasn’t totally lifelike, but imagine where it will be in 5, 10 or 15 years?

    “Everything that can be automated will be automated.” — Robert Cannon

    There is always the question of “is there demand for a new technology”.  Steve Jobs brilliantly showed that the right product can create new demand, so one wonders if some roles that will be automated are simply being done because it can be done.  I think we will start with roles that no one wants to do (or there is a lack of supply to meet demand), but it will be interesting to see where it goes from there

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  • Deploying IoT in Retail? Read this before moving forward …

    by Larry Bellehumeur | Oct 30, 2018

    Hello and thanks for reading.

    I cam across an interesting article from AdAge (click here to read) where they covered 5 questions that a retailer should ask before deploying IoT.  Here are the 5 points, and some thoughts on each ….

     

    1. What is your end goal?

    The main point to get across here was that IoT in itself will not help your business.  IoT is about the power of information, as it allows you to see/learn things that you would not have known before.  However, it is how you change your business processes based on that information that benefit your organization.  So, if you learn more about the buying patterns of your customers, but do not change your Marketing strategies, the information is worthless.

     

    2. How will your strategy improve the customer experience?

    In the age of Amazon, the vast majority of things we need can be ordered while sitting on the couch.  Retailers need to improve the experience of dealing with their stores, both from an online strategy as well as making it more appealing to visit their locations.  Basically, they need to do what Amazon cannot.

     

    IoT can help, but only if it is used right.  Things like targeted advertising is great, but as the article points out, if you don’t do it right, people will ignore it.

     

    3. What will you do with the data?

    Another way to spin this is to say, “are you in a position to use this data today?”  So, as an example, if you are able to see how long a particular demographic looks at a display, are you able to use that data to formulate a new strategy with your existing CRM/ERP systems?  In many cases, companies fail to upgrade the backend to match the great data that IoT gathers.

     

    4. How will you capitalize on the network effect?

    This was once a very big problem in the world of IoT.  As an example, the Operations team would use IoT to keep things moving, but never shared the data with the Finance team to improve billing.  As well, Marketers would gather data on customer traffic, but fail to tell the customer service team to better improve their staffing levels.

     

    IoT helps both your machines work better, as well as your team, but only if the information is both shared and displayed in a way that helps that particular department.

     

    5. How will you maintain security?

    In many cases, securing an IoT device is as simple as enabling security settings and changing the default username and password.  As well, most cellular carriers allow you to use private networks to make it harder for hackers to gain access to your data.  However, this is a concern for most corporate customers, and rightly so.

     

    The industry is starting to take notice and offering things like end to end encryption, right down to the sensors, but we need to push vendors to do more.

     

  • How Wal-Mart is “really” listening to their customers

    by Larry Bellehumeur | Oct 29, 2018
    Hello and thanks for reading.

    Having started out my career in the world of technology working at a call centre, I can verify that when they say, “calls may be recorded”, they really are.  We had to sit through grueling coaching sessions to review how our calls went on a regular basis.

    It appears that Wal-Mart is taking this to a whole new level.  As revealed in a Washington Post article, Wal-Mart has filed a patent to allow them to use sensors to also do this when it comes to the interactions between customers and cashiers at their stores.  Before you get too hysterical, filing a patent is often a long way from actually building a technology, let alone implementing it.

    However, it does take the world of IoT to a creepier place than some of us would like it to go.

    The idea of the patent is to be able to gather audio data (such as how fast the interval is between beeps from the product scanner) to help to better train their team.  That goal may be a good thing, as it would potentially lead to shorter line-ups on your Sunday morning run to the store.  However, the idea that interactions between employees and customers may be recorded is troublesome to some.

    One of the areas of concern may be in the area of health, as most of these stores employ pharmacists.  Customers expect a certain level of privacy when asking the most personal health questions.  As well, these audio sensors will also likely pick up conversations between customers themselves, which adds little value to the shopping experience.

    It also is the kind of solution that may not bring value compared to the negative connotations that it creates.  Said another way, the benefits of knowing more about the interactions between your staff and your customers may be outweighed by the drop in moral your team has by feeling that they are being constantly watched and evaluated.

    Sure, I get the idea that if you are doing your job, you have nothing to worry about.  This is often the same thoughts that are shared when the idea of body cameras for front-line police officers is brought forward, and there is some truth to this.  

    However, does that mean that you are OK with the same level of scrutiny?

    It has been said that if you were followed by a police officer for 500 miles (800Km), even the most cautious and law-abiding driver would get a ticket for something.  New solutions will monitor things like how many keystrokes an office worker has made or the frequency that a warehouse worker moves their hands to grab a box.  Would you be ok with such monitoring at your job?

    The Bottom Line
    Sure, you are in your place of work to do just that … to work.  So, there is a level of expectation that you are giving a maximum effort while you are there.  However, IoT solutions should be designed to help increase productivity through an increased level of information (or a “carrot”), not to be used to punish (or as a “stick”).

  • Should IoT grow a conscious?

    by Larry Bellehumeur | Oct 23, 2018

    Hello and thanks for reading.

    For a relatively new technology, IoT sure has done a great job in creating (or increasing) controversy.  Its ability to gather information in new ways has enabled many key technology breakthroughs that have helped society.  Along the way, it has also played a role in helping to enable technologies that are among the most polarizing out there, including:

    • Self-driving cars
    • Automation
    • Artificial Intelligence
    • Drones

    Now, it is helping to increase the likelihood of making killer robots come true.  So, should IoT “grow a conscious?”

    When most people think of robots with weapons, movies like RoboCop may come to mind.  However, many of the moves in this space have been instead focusing on the military as a way to replace front line soldiers.  This is not the first time that we have seen different forms of automation in the military … one only has to look at the rapid growth in the use of drones to see this.  However, those devices have always been acting with the guidance of a human … many planned devices can act completely on their own.

    This movement has started many campaigns, including the “Campaign to Stop Killer Robots” comprised of many different groups including technology experts and human rights groups.  In addition to the lack of rules of engagement, there is also another factor to consider.

    Can we control these devices if they decide they do not want to be controlled?

    This is the fear of many smart people, including the late Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk.  If we enable these devices to work on their own, they may not be bound to our rules and negotiated treaties.  One only has to watch one of the Terminator movies to get a visual of what that may look like.

    In the end, we are not quite at that stage yet, but with the rapid rise of AI, we need to start having these conversations now.
     
  • Isn’t it great when technology is simple to use?

    by Larry Bellehumeur | Oct 19, 2018

    Hello and thanks for reading.

    While I am writing this, I am at the auto dealership having some work done.  For the most part, the idea of doing work on your own car is becoming a distant memory, as cars are filled a ton of technology that requires complex equipment and training to work on.  

    This is a common concern for many when it comes to technology ... are we making things too complex without seeing enough benefit?  If adding a bit of complexity makes things last longer or safer, it is likely a good idea.  However, in the age of IoT, this is not always the case.  We are seeing products cost much more than their “dumb” counterparts and consumers are not seeing a reason to upgrade.

    It is for that reason that I truly love simple technology.  In the past, I have written about my love for my home rowing machine, the Concept 2.  Like it sounds, you row on it.  It has some technology that allows you to see how you are doing during the row and to record different activities for comparison.  The company has done a great job in providing an easy to use experience, in addition to producing a well-built machine.

    This contrasts to a new coffeemaker that I bought that was so complex, I had to actually (gasp) read the user manual just to make the first cup of coffee.  It had multiple layers of menus for many items that most would not use ever.

    This is especially important for products that may have an appeal to the elderly market, who often are not as technology savvy as the younger generations.  Enter products like the GrandPad tablet ... this interesting product takes much of the complexity out of connecting to the Internet for your loved ones.  It uses cellular, so no need to set up/run Wi-Fi in their homes and has easy to understand menus.  While this product may not appeal to everyone (many will find the iPad an easy to use choice), hats off to those trying to make things simple.

    I think many manufacturers need to take a step back and ask ... how can we take out complexity out of our product, or can we produce a simpler version for those who “just what stuff it work.”
     
  • The best way to invade a country is not using military force …

    by Larry Bellehumeur | Oct 05, 2018

    Hello and thanks for reading.

    Another day, another story about a failure in cybersecurity.  However, this report is potentially much, much scarier than all others.

    A story in Bloomberg Businessweek, if true, would be the worst case scenario for many of us.  Few people fear that a country with a military as powerful as the US could ever be attacked on a broad scale using military force.  It would likely prove to be an act in futility.  However, a truly well orchestrated cyber attack could be just as dangerous.

    The report cited over a dozen unnamed sources that claim that China had placed spy chips inside of various pieces of equipment, including some made by Apple and Amazon.  The companies have denied the report, and perhaps there is nothing to it.  However, the idea of such an attack is a threat that is both real and one that could have huge consequences.

    Much of the equipment used in the business world is manufactured overseas, often in China.  Think equipment that powers the traffic lights, air traffic control, the power grid and much more.  The idea that there may be a cyber attack on these things is well documented (both by the media and by Hollywood), so there are very large protections in place to prevent this.

    But, if the attack came from the device itself, how would you prevent it?

    This particular alleged attack was not aimed at causing such havoc but was actually targeted at gaining access to key commercial and government secrets, but is there any reason why it could not be aimed at much more?

    I have written extensively at how there is a lack of IoT security among many devices, mostly those in the consumer space.  Having been involved in many high priority and secure deployments, I can tell you this is not the case for most high-risk deployments.  There are strict rules and procedures followed, and I have never been made aware of a successful attack on any of these assets.  However, all of the procedures in the world will not stop an attack from within the components of the device themselves.

    It kind of reminds me of the movie Terminator Genisys, where the plot to take over was based on something embedded inside of a new operating system is going to cause huge issues … in this case, we need to learn from Hollywood to know more about what is inside of our devices before we widely deploy them.  This means increased security at facilities and more required testing for possible breaches need to be mandated by the government.

    However, will e
     
  • How IoT protects your valuables, even your $1M bottle of scotch

    by Larry Bellehumeur | Oct 04, 2018
    Hello and thanks for reading.

    I remember the shock that many of us had when we heard that Bruce McNall, then the owners of the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings, had bought a baseball card for $410K ($760K in today’s dollars).  There was a funny appearance on a talk show (I think Dennis Miller) where they pretended to take the card out and ruin it … only to have them produce the actual card that was in a case that looked like it would withstand a nuclear blast.

    Fast forward to today and it appears that the trend towards collecting is in rare bottles of scotch.  A 60 year old bottle of “Macallan Valerio Adami” sold for just over $1M USD.  Like McNall’s card, it is important to not only own such an item but to store it in a manner that preserves its contents.

    Enter IoT … regardless of what you collect, IoT has a solution that allows you to protect and preserve it.

    For the bottle of scotch, I imagine they would want to monitor:

    Temperature
    I do enjoy a drink now and then and have a bottle of scotch sitting in the make-shift area that I call a bar in my basement.  I have no idea if this is the correct temperature range for scotch, but I am sure that the owners of this bottle have an ideal range.  IoT lets them know if things are not ideal and to correct this over the air.

    Humidity
    While I think that most scotch drinkers wouldn’t think to monitor the humidity of their bottle storage, I would imagine that both the inside of the case, as well as the room where it is stored, will be monitored for the ideal humidity range.

    Vibration
    As durable as many glass bottles may be, I would imagine that the owner would want to know if there was even the slightest amount of movement, either caused by an earthquake or by a potential trespasser.

    Motion
    Even before a potential thief were to get to the bottle, the owner would want to be notified that there was unwanted motion in the area where the bottle is stored.

    GPS Tracking
    Finally, one would imagine that the bottle and/or case would be equipped with some sort of GPS tracking device in the event that it was stolen.

    Maybe your collection is not worth 7 figures, but there are low cost IoT solutions to protect whatever it is that you cherish … 
     
  • Top 10 ways IoT is (and will) change your day to day life

    by Larry Bellehumeur | Oct 02, 2018

     

     

    Hello and thanks for reading.

    Let’s get right to it … here is the list, starting with number 10:

     

    10) Lower your golf score (or make you better at whatever sport you play)

    IoT gives you the power of information, which is important in the world of sports.  By being able to see, often in real time, how you are performing, you can make changes to improve your performance.  It also allows you to be more effective in your training to improve your form.

     

    9) Reduce your energy bill

    IoT allows for you to know if you are wasting energy (such as through badly sealed windows), lets you reduce the heat/AC when no one is there to enjoy it and to lower your water bill by only watering your grass when needed.  It also alerts you to doors and windows being left open, which can help with the next point.

     

    8) Make your home safer

    By knowing what is going on, your home will be safer.  This includes preventing your children from using the stove when you are not home, making sure that your garage door is not left open and to alert you of a trespasser on your property while you are away.

     

    7) Reducing your commute to work

    Sensors on the road can detect issues such as ice build-up or traffic jams, alerting you to avoid the area before you leave your home.  As well, IoT solutions are preventing drivers from heading into unsafe areas caused by natural disasters and weather.

     

    6) Making it easier to fly

    IoT solutions allow airlines to run more efficiently, meaning that your plane will be on time more often, your bag is less likely to get lost and airport security lines will be reduced.  It also can even help you find a great parking spot!

     

    5) Keep your kids safe

    From monitoring infants in the crib, to being able to let them into the house when they forget their key (or use fingerprints), to letting you know they got on/off the bus to school to letting you know that they are driving safe, IoT helps keep kids of all ages safe.

     

    4) Improve your child’s education

    IoT is improving how they learn.  Gone are the days of textbooks … instead, children are learning through interactive tools like smart boards and tablets.  As well, sensor solutions keep them safe in the event of an emergency and reduce the cost of education for school boards.

     

    3) Improve your performance at work

    When you have better information, you make better decisions.  IoT lets you have the power to do that while also allowing you to change the work environment to allow you to maximize your productivity.

     

    2) Keep your older loved ones safe

    Monitoring solutions allow you to keep an eye on your parents or those with special needs while allowing them to maintain their dignity.  This includes letting you know if they have eaten, taken their medication, if they are lost and confused and if they have fallen.

     

    1) Keep you healthier

    Our own health is the most important thing to us.  IoT solutions allow to maintain a healthy weight, get the right amount of exercise and know if there is an oncoming cold.  They also help you relax and get the right amount of rest.

  • IoT and Agriculture: Using the power of Data to improve how our food supply is managed

    by Larry Bellehumeur | Oct 02, 2018

    Hello and thanks for reading.

    Few areas have seen change over the past few hundred years more than the world of Agriculture.  Years ago, the vast majority of the population was involved in the production of food … now, it is a relatively small percentage.  However, thanks to technology advancements, we are producing more food than ever.

    Today, the world is demanding more … better quality food to be produced, while reducing the impact on the environment, as well as doing so with less water and pesticides.  IoT is here to help.  IoT is all about information, and this information allows for improvements for farmers that we wouldn’t have dreamed about even a decade ago.

    Here are a few examples:

    Smart irrigation = less water used

    By knowing precisely how much rain has fallen in a particular area, farmers can optimize how much irrigation to do.  This not only produces better crops but also reduces water usage.  Solutions even allow for certain zones to be set to accommodate the different water needs of particular plants.

     

    More accurate planting
    Using a nerdy technology called “RTK”, farmers are able to plant more efficiently.  By better aligning their crops, they use less resources and are able to plant longer hours during the early part of the season, even while in total darkness!

     

    The use of drones
    Besides being cool, drones plan an important part in the world of farming.  They allow farmers to see things that might not be apparent from the ground, such as dryness levels, how plants in dense areas are growing and how close some plants are to being ripe.


    Improving the storage of grain and other crops
    First, bar code technology is used to ensure that the correct crop is placed in the silo, eliminating the chance of cross-contamination.  Once inside, smart sensors are used to monitor things like humidity, temperature and even a possible theft.

    Making the cows “smart”
    IoT helps improve livestock monitoring by using ear tags to monitor location, using sensors to monitor for periods of conception and to track the behaviour of the animal … all of which is viewable on a smartphone application.  As well, smart lactation solutions allow the farmers to know the optimal time to milk each cow for maximum output.

    Keeping our food system safe

    Once the product leaves the farm, smart solutions allow for better tracking of food from farm to table, as well as ensuring that each food product is stored at its ideal temperature/humidity level while on its way to the store.  Finally, IoT solutions help alert consumers quickly of possible contamination issues, as well as preventing them from getting into the food system in the first place.

  • Will self-driving cars eliminate the demand for public transit?

    by Larry Bellehumeur | Sep 27, 2018
    Hello and thanks for reading.

    I have heard on a number of occasions (namely from local politicians) about how the most important form of politics is the local kind, namely your Mayor and your town council.  This blog isn’t a place to debate that one way or the other, but I do agree that their decisions often have more of a day to day impact on the average person than other levels of government.

    One of the key areas of local politics in many areas is the future of the car.  Most of us love our car and don’t want to make the move to public transit if we don’t have to.  This explains rush hour in most areas of North America, often with only a single person inside each car.  In theory, most people “could” take public transit to work, but often choose not to.

    This has often made it difficult for your local politician.  They want to be seen as doing things to reduce issues like pollution and traffic levels  and want to be seen as “going green”.  This is the thinking behind many of the massive plans for public transit, ranging from increased subway lines to dedicated bus and bike lanes to even wide-area commuter trains to bring people from the suburbs.  Despite their efforts, traffic does seem to be getting worse each year.

    Enter in the self-driving car to solve all of the issues … or does it?

    News articles from all over the US (and likely in most developed countries) have shown there is a big movement from many politicians to abandon many large-scale public transit projects as they may become obsolete with the introduction of the self-driving car and its ability to change the business model of companies like Uber.

    The theory is that once drivers are eliminated (which is Uber’s biggest cost today), the cost difference between a direct Uber ride and using public transit will be so small that the vast majority of users will opt for a ride in an Uber.  As well, the thinking is that once we take humans out of the equation in driving, traffic will move so much quicker that the traffic jams of today will not be a concern.

    Is this realistic?

    I do agree with some of the thinking in the above statements.  I do think that Uber’s drop in cost will drive more people towards this service (and likely away from some areas of public transit like buses).  As well, I do think that self-driving cars have the potential to increase the capacity of most roads.  However, there are some flaws to this thinking if it is the basis for not going ahead with projects like light rail.  

    Here is a quote from Jarrett Walker (a transportation consultant from Portland) that sums it up well …. “Highways today can carry about 2,000 cars per lane per hour. Autonomous vehicles might quadruple that. The best rail systems can carry more than 50,000 passengers per lane per hour. They move the most people, using the least space. No technology can overcome that geometry”.

    The Bottom line
    I think cities need to take a pause before considering eliminating many large scale projects.  Uber and other services are (and more in the future) definitely putting a damper on the demand for certain bus routes and this needs to be considered in future planning.  However, there will be a demand for subways lines and light rail for many years to come, as there will be for other solutions such as electric bikes and scooters.  We need to keep our options open to all ideas to solve these issues … 
     
  • A dog that won’t eat your shoes…

    by Larry Bellehumeur | Sep 24, 2018

    As someone who runs through different parks on a regular basis, I definitely have a lot of interactions with dogs.  As a dog lover, I don’t mind at all actually, and often stop to pet the ones who seem like they want to bust off of their leash just for the opportunity to “say hello”.

    Having a dog comes with a lot of benefits, namely they truly are great companions.  However, there is obviously a downside, such as some dogs who are prone to chewing on many household items.  Enter SpotMini … if you aren’t familiar, watch this short YouTube video and come back … I’ll wait for you.

     

    Ok, now that you have seen SpotMini, let’s talk more about it.  As the video shows, the “animal” can do so more than just be a four-legged companion.  It seems to help with the dishes, be able to run errands and more.  It seems that SpotMini may be an ideal companion for many who are looking for both companionship and for a little extra help around the house.

     

    So, is this the future of the “family dog”?

     

    While I don’t see millions of households abandoning “Fido” in short order, I do see some great opportunities for such an invention.  Its familiar form factor as a dog does help (somewhat) to reduce some of the fear that many would have towards using a robot in the home.  This will be key as one of the main demographics that may benefit would be the elderly, as this could help to alleviate some of the extra burden expected from the health care needed for the aging baby boomer population.

     

    As well, one only has to wonder where this technology will go?  If you just add some of the technology that we have now to this device (such as Alexa, GPS and more), you can see how its value would increase further.  Add in the power of Artificial intelligence to learn patterns and our likes/needs and this device could truly become a lifesaver for many in our society.  One can see how it may help to make many people live more independently for many years.

     

    As well, as time goes on, it would make sense that these devices would become even more life-like …. Just like how the different Terminators did in the movie.  Hey, wait, is that a good thing to compare it to?

     

    Well, to date, there have been no recorded incidents of SpotMini acting up.  In fact, in one video where a man tries to interfere with it opening a door by tapping it with a hockey stick, SpotMini just continued on its mission of opening the door.  Perhaps they have programmed in some “iRobot” code into it (feel free to watch the underrated movie with Will Smith if you do not know what I am talking about).

     

    The Bottom Line

    There is definitely a market for a device like SpotMini in our society, as its flexibility and form factor will be very appealing to many people.  I don’t see it replacing the family dog anytime soon, so you still may have to come home to the odd shoe chewed here and there…..

     

     

  • So, the use of automation will increase the amount of jobs?

    by Larry Bellehumeur | Sep 19, 2018
    Hello and thanks for reading.

    When one thinks of automation, the idea that comes to mind is that it will change how many businesses operate, namely by streamlining production and work.  For many, this is a fancy way of saying that it will put millions out of work.  However, it appears that our friends at the World Economic Forum see things differently.  Click here to read their report.

    I will spare you reading a 147 page report.  It goes into great detail how automation and IoT will change how business is done, what jobs will be in demand and how it will eliminate many jobs.  This is the usual scary story that we hear … but this time, it comes with a twist.

    It estimates that while 75 million jobs will be eliminated in the next 7-10 years, as many as 133 million new ones will emerge.  The jobs being eliminated will mostly be “tasks that have become automated or redundant”, while the jobs being created will be in new products and services to help the world make this transition.  The report goes on to echo what I have said for years in that the most in-demand roles going forward will be in Data analysis, Engineering and skills that are “distinctly human” and cannot be duplicated by machines (such as Sales and Marketing).  The report goes onto say that the majority of current workers will need to have substantial skill training (as much as one year full-time) to adapt to this changing climate.

    So, does this mean that we are all good then, since it will create more jobs than it eliminates?  Far from it, actually …

    Most of the new jobs being created will require specialized degrees, and with the growing economy, these jobs are already not being filled.  So, the current mismatch of the labour pool (where we have millions unemployed who lack the skills to thrive in the new economy, while companies have equally large demand for skilled roles that they cannot fill) will only be made worse.  So, even if the WEF were to be correct, where will these 133 million new skilled workers come from?

    We need to act fast …
    • Start to invest in training for engineering, design, sales, creativity and other key sectors
    • Offer tax breaks and incentives for companies to re-train their key workers
    • Change our focus in post secondary education to get more students to move towards these sectors
    • Start to change how we educate our children, starting as young as age 5, to thrive in this new environment.

    A short plug, if I may … I do cover these topics and more in my E-book (The Internet of Things Made Simple), now available on Amazon and iBooks.
  • Will the public’s current fear of autonomous cars slow down their progress?

    by Larry Bellehumeur | Sep 07, 2018

    Hello and thanks for reading.

    Even as a kid, I had an odd fascination for numbers.  To be clear, I never saw myself going into Accounting as a field, but I was often able to find unusual patterns or anomalies in ways that many people could not.  This perhaps explains why I have had good success in the past as an investor in the stock market … or maybe that is just dumb luck, who knows?

     

    A number of polls have come out in the past few weeks with regards to self-driving cars that seem to be quite contradictory in nature (from the Brookings Institution):

     

    “While 70% of people expect a widespread deployment of self-driving cars within 15 years, 59% said that they would be no safer than human cars while 69% said they were concerned / very concerned about sharing the roads with them”

     

    So, to look at it another way, most people think they will be coming but believe that not only will they not improve safety, there is actually cause for concern to their presence on the road …. Hmm, that is interesting.

     

    Why you may ask?  A commonly cited figure is that 90-95% of all car crashes were caused by three factors that a self driving car might eliminate as they do not get distracted, they do not drive drunk and they can be programmed not to speed.  If you eliminate those things, how would a self-driving car not be safer than driving with the “average” human?

     

    There is a strong reason why I have put the word “average” in quotations.  I think most of us truly need to examine how could of a driver the average person really is.  Sure, if you took away all distractions, they may actually have decent skills, but let’s be realistic.  Humans can be at less than their best behind the wheel for many reasons … here are a few:

     

    Loud kids in the back that need yelling at, looking at your phone to find an address, you had a little too much to drink last night or did not sleep well, your boss just chewed you out in front of the team …. Need I go on?

     

    The average driver driving at their average capability in today’s world is not a great driver and it is likely that a good self-driving car would prove to be as good (or likely much better) than they would be.  Throw in that the road would now be surrounded by other vehicles who aren’t being driven by people who are equally as distracted and how is it that anyone would ever think that a world with self driving cars would not be safer?

     

    Sure, I will be the first to admit that we are not there yet, but in 10-15 years, I am quite certain that we will be. 

     

    To finalize, one thing that seems to separate a good driver from a bad one is being able to anticipate what another driver will do.  In the world of self driving cars, the theory is that not only will one vehicle be able to anticipate the move of another, they will actually communicate it to one another.  Imagine how much better / safer merging onto a highway will be when there are no egos involved?

     

    The Bottom Line

    I am in total agreement that we continue testing before we do any large scale deployments.  However, one only has to look at things rationally to know that this move will make the roads safer and quicker to get around than they are now.

  • Using automation to make our airports safer

    by Larry Bellehumeur | Aug 16, 2018

    Based on the line-ups at most airports, a lot of us fly and we fly quite often.  Despite all of the issues that we seem to have with airlines and with airports, for the most part, they do a decent job in moving us from one place to another.

     

    One of the biggest issues with running an airport is security... I am not referring to the ones who make you take your liquids out of your bag.  I am actually talking about the security of the airport itself, which can be equally as important.  Preventing unwanted people and vehicles from entering into sensitive areas is an important job for any airport, but given the sheer size of the tarmac at most major airports, it is a difficult job.

    Enter in automation … or in this case, an automated vehicle.  The security crew at the Edmonton Airport have worked closely with local technology groups in Alberta to create what is believed to be the first unmanned ATV that has the capability of monitoring the 20Km (12.5 mile) fence that surrounds the airport.

     

    The vehicle is fully autonomous and helps to not only improve the security effectiveness but also aids in doing routine maintenance checks while allowing the staff to focus on other items.

     

    One of the issues at the Edmonton airport, considering its remoteness is the potential for wild animals to attempt to enter.  The patrol unit is capable of not only detecting animals (as opposed to people), but is also able to correctly identify which animal it is.

     

    Like most smart automation deployments, the goal is not to replace any of their existing security staff but rather to allow them to do more with less.  The eventual goal for this unit is to be able to do some remote inspections for other projects, like Oil and Gas sites as well as temporary events.

     

    The Bottom Line

    Let’s chalk this one up to a success story for the moment.  It takes various equipment that has been used in other areas and makes it a viable solution for an actual problem, which is more than many IoT-based solutions tend to do.  If further thinking goes into more solutions like this, the IoT industry will be just fine in the future …

     

  • The simple cellular modem ... the world's best enabler of wealth

    by Larry Bellehumeur | Aug 08, 2018

    As an avid investor, I am often fascinated by what the richest people in the world are investing in.  Sure, it is no guarantee that they will be investing in the best growth opportunities at any given time, but their approach of putting their money to work and protecting your investment dollars is not the worst way to invest your money. 

    One of the philosophies that I use to invest is that I want my money to enable me to provide good value....so a good combination of earning more money with the balance of protecting against excessive downside risk. 

    So, the idea of getting good value (ROI) and enabling are important to me....maybe that is why I like selling cellular modems, the ultimate enabler of wealth, at least for a salesperson.  I mean, where else can one device potentially lead to up to 16 different revenue sources....often many times more than the initial cost of the modem itself? 

    C'mon, 16 different revenue sources? 

    Yep, 16... don't believe me, here they are:

    16 sources of revenue

    So, am I saying that you can make 16 different revenue sources from each modem you sell?  Well, probably not.  Not all services are going to appeal to each customer, sadly.  But, I think it would be realistic to get 5 or more frequently on the same modem sale. 

    As an example, I have seen sale that involve:

    - Antennas

    - Accessories, like cables and brackets

    - Device setup / staging

    - On-site installation services

    - Cellular Airtime, of course

    - On-going break/fix

    - Financing

    So, I got to 7....and it might go up if the customer decides to integrate the data into their ERP solution and is considering powering some sites from a solar panel. 

    The point is......this customer is seeing great value from all of the services, which end up costing many times more than the initial cost of the modem when totaled over the life of the modem. 

    The Bottom Line

    The goal is not to get you to consider selling services/products to your customer that they may not need.  The goal here is to show you how the modem is the ultimate platform to provide services for your customer, ones that will greatly benefit them and add to your sales total. 

    Webinar


    Interested in learning more? Watch this webinar as I walk through all of these services in more detail.  As always, contact your regional Novotech Sales manager for more details.

  • Top 5 things that are hurting your IoT cell signal ​

    by Larry Bellehumeur | Jul 31, 2018

     

    Hello and thanks for reading (or watching).

     

    So, you’ve gone ahead and deployed an IoT solution that uses cellular connectivity…..now, it is important that you are set up in a way that ensures you are always connected.

     

    The first step is ensuring that you have a strong cellular signal, both from a connection standpoint, as well as from a speed standpoint (as speed can fall dramatically as your signal strength decreases).

     

    Here are 5 things that will affect your signal strength, some of which you have control over and some that you do not….

     

    1. The “remoteness” of your application

    Ideally, all IoT deployments would be done with 5 bars of cell coverage, but one of the powers of IoT is to work in areas that aren’t always traditionally covered well by landlines, so this can often mean some remote applications, such as a mining site or at a national park.  Since cell towers are usually built to handle smartphone type traffic (which there is less of it in most remote areas), coverage can be weaker when you leave major urban areas.

     

    2) The amount of “beautiful things” in the way

    Many people appreciate things in nature like rolling hills, rivers and lakes.  However, your IoT device does not share your affinity for these things.  Challenging topology means that not only are there are lot of things blocking your “view” of the cell tower, it is often very challenging to put cell towers in the area in the first place.  This helps to add to the remoteness level of the first point.

     

    3) Windows, Floors and Doors

    Cell towers are designed to maximize outdoor coverage.  This is why cell coverage tends to get better when you step outside of a building, as the signal does not have to fight its way through any obstacles.  Materials like wood and drywall can have some effect on your signal strength, but the real culprits are concrete and metal.

    4) Every aspect of using a phone in a car

    In some ways, it is amazing that cellular signal ever works reliably in a moving car.  First, the concept of moving at highway speeds means that you are constantly changing between cell towers without reducing your signal strength and speed.  However, cars by their nature are not friends to cellular signal.  They have a lot of metal (see point 3) and although they have glass in most directions, it tends to be tinted and most people have their phone below the “glass line” of their car anyways, making it less useful in the first place

    5) Mother Nature

    Trees are beautiful to look at, as can be the rain.  However, Mother Nature is not a friend to the cellular signal of your solution.  Heavy vegetation, along with changes in the atmospheric pressure can have effects on your signal strength at various times of the year.

    In a future blog, we will show the Top 5 ways you can combat these obstacles to increase your
    changes of IoT success!