What Will Black Friday Look Like in 2021?

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For the most part, 2020 has been different in just about every way that one could imagine.  So, why would Black Friday be any different? Many jurisdictions are putting restrictions on retail shopping, and many more will likely do so in the coming weeks.

However, let’s imagine a less depressing time, way back in 2019. After devouring too much turkey, millions got into their car at ridiculous hours to get in line for the best deals that Black Friday could offer. To make the experience better (and get your over-fed butt off the couch), retailers have been using many IoT-based solutions to gain an edge. This Technology will undoubtedly be used in 2021; to enhance the customer experience and increase automation and limit contact/face-to-face interaction.

 

Google searches + GPS ads

 

You are sitting comfortably on your bed when you hear a loud groan from the kitchen. 

It appears that your trusty fridge has finally broken down, this time for good. So, you go to your favourite search page (i.e. Google) and start to look up appliances at the local Best Buy. Your plan is to go check them out in person the next day.

Upon arriving in the parking lot, you get a text message from Best Buy, offering you a great discount code on that same device you were looking at last night. 

Is this magic? No, not magic. Is it creepy? Yeah, perhaps a little. Google gathered two critical pieces of information that allowed them to make this connection; they knew what web page you were on. They have the GPS location of both your phone and all of the Best Buy locations.

 

Custom billboards

 

This one I noticed last Black Friday while waiting patiently for my wife to browse every store in the mall. 

There is a large LED display that shows ads regularly. This is not revolutionary. However, it changed the ad based on the person who walked by was kind of cool.

The billboard must have been using a camera combined with Artificial Intelligence to determine different characteristics of the person walking by. It would then display an ad that it must have figured would appeal most to that person. Again, kind of creepy but very useful.

 

Inventory based on traffic

 

I guess older dudes like myself are predictable, which is the basis for this next point. I was in a retail store when I overheard one staff member tell another one to get a bunch of specific inventory (such as colours and sizes of a particular shirt). 

Suddenly, the area was overrun with middle-aged white dudes, many of which headed right towards the shirts that were just re-stocked.

Like the custom billboards, the retailer must have been using a solution that took the information about the customers coming in and made decisions based on previous actions. Keeping inventory on the shelf allows customers to get what they want quickly, which is a significant advantage over online shopping.

 

Smart displays

 

I have told this story before, so I will minimize it here. As a really bad Do-it-yourself guy, I struggle to do a lot of things around the house. However, one thing that I have done is to replace a faucet. The bigger problem for me was finding the correct one. Thanks to a smart Delta display at Home Depot, I quickly found the one that met my needs in seconds.

As your retail staff looks to minimize its contact with customers, smart displays help customers find valuable information about possible complex purchases. 

It also helps at times when your team is overloaded with customers.

 

Faster checkout/failover

 

Ok, you have been targeted for ads, had inventory replenished before you got there and had all of your questions answered by a smart display; now, it is time to pay. Store like Apple has been moving the cash register to the floor by equipping their staff with portable devices to check out customers. However, even those solutions fail if the primary Internet access to the store fails.

Smart retailers have been using cellular gateways to back up their primary Internet connection for a while. In the event of an outage, the solution kicks in automatically to allow your team to continue to work. It is not just for the big box stores- solutions are available for retailers of all sizes.

IoT Made Simple: Three Big IoT Questions Answered

Question #1: How does IoT work?

Novotech's Answer:

IoT works by providing information that was not readily available before. Look at the case of an important machine at a factory. Workers onsite would walk by and look at the readings periodically, but it was impossible to get consistent readings every minute of the day. Getting this information regularly not only allowed your workers to do other tasks, but it also prevents unwanted downtime.

There are two main components to any IoT system; information gathering and communications. In this machine's case, sensors could take readings such as how hard the machine was working and its temperature. However, that information on its own is not valuable if it is not shared.

Communication involves two steps. First, the information is sent to be processed, usually to somewhere "in the cloud." It does this using technology like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Once the information is in the cloud, the software lets you be notified when you want to be, such as an hourly update and alerts to the device overheating.

This is the same way you can use your phone to turn up your thermostat at home while at work, how traffic engineers monitor the traffic level on the road, or how you can track your Uber driver on their way to pick you up! IoT is behind all three of these.

Question #2: What is an IoT device?

Novotech's Answer:

Every day, the line between an IoT device and a non-IoT device gets blurred. At first, your phone became smart, as you were now able to access the Internet. Next, it was devices that communicated through your phone to the Internet, such as your smartwatch. It was then devices in your home that used your Wi-Fi network, such as a smart thermostat. With the launch of 5G, this growth is not expected to slow down.

IoT devices are devices that do one thing; they can communicate on the Internet. So, the difference between a smart thermostat and a non-smart one is communication. They both can control the temperature of your home. This communication is usually two-way. In the case of a thermostat, it can push an alert to tell you that your home's temperature is outside of your desired range, and in most cases, you can communicate back a command to adjust the temperature.

As the cost to make devices smarter continues to fall, it will become the norm that new devices you buy will be IoT-ready instead of the exception.

Question #3: Who uses the most IoT applications?

Novotech's Answer:

The earliest adopters of just about any technology tend to be where it solves the most significant need, which was the case with IoT. Many companies had valuable assets located far from their offices and used IoT to monitor what was going on. Among these early users were Oil and Gas companies, Forestry and Mining.

As the technology started to improve, industries such as Transportation, Retail, Medical and Government started to deploy IoT at increasing rates. Today, IoT is found in just about every sector.

On the consumer side, the application was used first to either reduce costs (such as Smart thermostats) or improve safety (such as smart cameras). It also had a good following in the home medical market and the fitness/wellness space. However, as time goes on, it will become present in just about all areas of your home and work life.

Does IoT need to grow a conscious?

A while back, the employees at Google took a stand. They saw that some of their work in the exciting area of Artificial Intelligence was being used in various military projects, and they protested. In some ways, this was a very honourable stand, as they did not want to be involved in other people's demise. However, in other ways, it was a bit hypocritical, as the technology was already used in many different ways that were harmful to the masses in less obvious ways.

 

Nevertheless, the idea of developers protesting was at least the start of the technology world growing a conscious. It begs the critical question: does the IoT Industry need to develop a conscious in the future?

As I have stated for years, IoT is all about information. On its own, IoT is not the most useful technology, as the raw data that it gathers may not be all that useful to the average person. 

 

Imagine being told the exact temperature of your living room every minute of every day for an entire year. You will have over a million readings, but without the information being put into some contexts, such as graphs, charts or other usable forms, most people will have little use for this information. IoT is being used effectively by just about every industry and by millions of consumers each day. When your Nest device can adjust your temperature to save you money, it is doing so by gathering sensor-based information and acting on it. The same holds for retailers who use IoT to increase their displays' appeal, a restaurant using IoT to ensure that their food doesn't spoil and a nuclear energy provider using it to prevent unwanted accidents.

 

So, it sounds like IoT is the best thing to ever happen to civilization, right? 

 

Well, there is a not so great side. 

 

Remember the protests from the Google employees? Thanks to IoT-based solutions, their AI solutions would not likely be nearly as effective without gathering tons of information. However, no one seems to mention that part. And, there are also much less dramatic examples of IoT being involved in not-so-great solutions. When one talks about the world of Automation, IoT has its tentacles into just about every solution. When a robot replaces a human at an Amazon warehouse, it does so only with an astounding amount of IoT information. During the design process, IoT allows for the necessary information to program the device to be collected. Once the product is installed, sensors ensure that the device is operating efficiently and is not running into other workers. Should people in the IoT world feel guilty about being part of a solution that displaces workers?

 

It also does not stop at blue-collar jobs being affected. IoT is used at many different industrial facilities to provide real-time information about temperature, humidity, the presence of humans and dozens of other variables. We always talk about how this improves safety and productivity, but what we are saying is that you may not need to have as many employees on-site as before, are we not?

 

Think about a world where IoT is genuinely ubiquitous. Every machine in your home, office and school is monitored, every street light, traffic light, pump and valve are all adequately maintained due to IoT. What do you think happens to the headcount of those whose living involves servicing and installing these devices when they last much longer and do not break down as often? We can try to spin it about how much productivity gains and better return on investment you get for your purchases, and that is true. However, we fail to mention that this gain comes at the expense of people losing their jobs.

 

IoT will make science fiction movies come to life

 

In past material, I have referenced the movie "The Minority Report" before. In the film, where a futuristic society is shown, IoT is behind most of the technology. This ranges from identifying people with eye scans, displays that recognize people at stores, self-driving cars and more. While some of these things may seem like progress to many, they seem like a lack of privacy to others. Imagine how many times in a day, you may be recognized or identified in such a society. Does it seem like a huge stretch that some will fear that "big brother" may not always legally use this information? 

 

Will you ever genuinely have privacy if audio sensors, a big part of IoT deployments in some devices, can record your conversations? Combine this with your location being recorded, and one starts to think that some of this technology may not be as great as the movies make it sound. How much responsibility should the IoT industry take for a potential loss in personal privacy? We can always claim that we are only a small part of a solution, and we have no control over how our devices may be used. While there is some validity to that statement, it is also a relatively convenient way of excusing our role in the whole process.

 

What should the IoT industry do?

 

I don't think that anyone is proposing that we stop selling IoT sensors, gateways, network connectivity and software anytime soon. As well, one can always look at the negative side of any device or software if you want. For example, the automobile has done so much for society, so should we stop building them because some people decided to use them as a weapon in a murderous rage? I do think that the IoT industry needs to take some responsibility in some cases. We need not deny that our products are used to gather information for machines that may cause destruction, whether in the form of losing their job or a weapon of mass destruction. Unlike the team at Google that we are developing software, many IoT companies have zero influence in the end products built with their components inside. So, no one is proposing that we stop selling products that truly help the world become a better place. We need to start accepting our role; however, in some of the products that are not doing so. You can't claim how you are part of a technology that is changing the world without accepting the fact that, in some cases, those changes are used in destructive ways.

5 Things You Need To Know Before Moving Your Business To 5G In 2020

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First, I wanted to start with a small point, but it is a bit one. The key to this blog post is the word “plan,” as I have stated that it is not a wise move to buy a 5G phone in 2019. Simply, the lack of coverage means that the extra cost of a 5G product is a waste, as you will spend most of your time in 4G coverage anyway.

Businesses of all sizes need to be planning their move to 5G now. This is not just for their smartphones, but many will see a strong return on investment to replace their existing DSL/Cable connection with a 5G connection.

Like anything, there are always things to consider, here are a few:

 

One single 5G connection, one for every employee or both?

 

Your business can use 5G devices to either outright replace your existing wired connection in most Small to Medium-sized offices. 

It will offer enough bandwidth and low latency to power just about any office, likely at a fraction of the price. 

However, you may also want to benefit from a high- speed connection away from the office.

5G devices may also be ideal for your remote employees who need to access corporate-based information from home, a coffee shop or client location. For most businesses, a combination of both types of connections will prove to be the best.

 

Improved security with 5G? Likely, but not guaranteed

 

The heading seems to be a bit contradictory, so let me explain. 5G offers a security level that will meet virtually any kind of business or organization, assuming that one minds all precautions. Where the question becomes is if it will improve your security level.

Take that remote salesperson that you have. They may access sensitive information from home, a coffee shop or a client location. If you have taken all of the security precautions and the networks they are using are all equally secure, there may not be much improvement. 

However, much public Wi-Fi and home networks are not secure and are prone to hacking/snooping. By forcing all access to your valued data to go across a 5G connection, you can be assured of the security level.

 

5G gives you a disaster recovery plan included

 

For years, companies have been using cellular (and sometimes, satellite) connections as a backup if their primary Internet connection was unavailable. By using 5G as the primary (and a 2nd 5G connection as the backup), you have an immediate plan to evacuate a network outage. 

Of course, you would need to use SIMs from two different cellular providers, preferably two that do not share the same network infrastructure.

 

It is not all roses, though

 

As mentioned many times before, the first issue is that many areas of North America will not see reliable 5G coverage until possibly 2021. 

While 4G offers an exceptional level of speed on its own, this may not be enough to do what you need to do.

The other issue is coverage itself, assuming your area has upgraded to 5G. Some buildings do not lend themselves well to cell signals getting through. Think of a Home Depot store- that metal roof does block a lot of signals. Sure, there are in-building enhancement solutions, but you need to take this into account.  

Finally, I always think of cellular networks as living organisms that change to adapt to the environment. During a period of heavy use, the dnetwork will adjust, often shrinking in coverage. If you are on a fringe area during low network use, will you receive network signals during busy times?

 

Here are some guidelines for you to take away:

 

  1. If your office has less than ten people and you have reliable 5G coverage, make a move to 5G today. The only caveat here is that you will want to check on rate plans to ensure that you don’t get a huge bill shock.
  2. If you have remote employees accessing corporate-based information, you should be planning on moving them to 5G in 2020/2021. You may do so sooner if 4G speeds will be sufficient for them to do their work.

 

About the previous point, if 4G is sufficient, don’t spend the money on 5G.

 

  1. 4G hardware is much less costly.
  2. All of your existing network routing gear will work with a 5G connection with little exceptions.
  3. If in doubt, take a baby step. Talk to your landline provider to see if they have a lower cost plan and make it the backup to your 5G connection.

Rural High-speed Cellular Coverage & Infrastructure Planning

A large crowd gathers, often dressed in a combination of suits and construction worker gear. A giant red ribbon is cut with a ridiculously large pair of scissors. The media is there, and even political rivals are faking smiles and offering handshakes (at least pre-COVID). 

Everyone is thinking of the future as they build the next <fill in the blank>. It may be a bridge, hospital or highway.

Nothing seems to inspire the future as a large infrastructure project. While there is often a decent return on investment for a bridge, it pales in comparison to spending money in other areas that are far less “media-friendly.” Fixing legacy sewer pipes and repairing ageing bridges likely offers a better return on your tax dollar, but no one wants to put on a suit to talk about that. The same goes for upgrading Internet connectivity for rural areas; what is sexy about something you cannot even see?

However, upgrading the Internet connection speed for rural residents may be the single most significant investment that a government can make. It helps with so many aspects of their lives that a single dollar spent may translate into more than 10 dollars of return for the community, and it is also great for business.

First, before we get to the benefits, let’s answer a fundamental question:

 

Why should the upgrade be cellular (and not landline connections)?

 

Sure, it is technically feasible that money is spent on upgrading landline-based connections in rural areas. But, while it is technically possible, it is not economically viable. The sheer distance between homes in many areas makes it way too expensive to trench landlines between properties. In this case, cellular-based technology makes a lot of sense.

One may ask, “would we just put in 5G?” In an ideal world, you would, but 5G, also suffer from an inability to handle long distances cost-effectively. For many areas, a 4G Network would be a great choice. With the limited amount of traffic being sent, the speeds would be in the upper part of the range, more than enough to handle video-based traffic. Also, since the coverage would be better, commuters could also be used while driving through the area, increasing public safety.

As for the benefits of better Internet connectivity in rural areas:

 

Better education for children

 

With few exceptions, the education system in most rural areas falls below the standard offered in most cities. When you look at how larger school districts are starting to use technology, the gap grows even further. Many are now using smart boards and asking children to access video-based content as part of their homework assignments. When you can barely get dial-up speed for connectivity at home, this puts you way behind.

Higher speed connectivity allows children to access information in a way that puts them on-par with the students in big cities. It also provides for remote learning for children who are unable to attend regular school.

 

Better opportunities for business

 

I have stated on many occasions that no company, regardless of their size or industry they are in, can function normally without a reliable form of Internet access. This has limited many companies for opening or thriving in rural communities. It has also limited a type of business that rural locations could easily compete in: e-commerce.

By having access to the Internet, many rural businesses can access the world of Amazon and Etsy. Also, they can interact with customers online and in social media outlets better.

 

Better access to health care

 

When your primary doctor is 2 hours away by car, you may not get things checked out nearly as often. It gets even worse when you have to travel a full day by car to see a medical specialist. 

It is for this reason that life expectancy is often lower in many rural areas than their urban counterpart.

Virtual medicine is just starting to take hold, but it requires a relatively quick and stable Internet connection to be viable. By providing this, we can reduce medical costs and significantly improve the level of health care.

Naturally, it will not be sexy to provide better coverage for rural residents. I doubt anyone will make one of those cool time-lapse videos for people to watch. But, it does offer the best bang for the buck, and we need to do it now.

 

5 real-life examples 5G will change life forever

 

Ok, we have all heard the hype. 5G is blazing fast, it will allow you to do things that we never thought capable over a cellular network. But, what does that mean to your day to day life?

 

As a bit of a primer, 5G brings three things to the network that make it different from previous networks, namely the current 4G (LTE) that we have now:

- Its gain in speed is simply incredible. It offers upload and download speeds that easily beat most available landline connections.

- The latency (the amount of time it takes to send a bit of information back and forth) is so low, it opens up the possibility of truly real-time applications like never before.

- The network offers a mind-boggling number of users in a set geographical area

This all sounds great, but what does this mean for life for the average person? Glad you asked, here you go:

 

Reduced Internet inequality around the world

For many of us, it is hard to believe that everyone in the world does not have access to high-speed Internet. And, this is not just in third world countries, but also in major North American cities. Many still use dial-up as their main access method or have no access at all.

 

5G will help to alleviate this for both urban and rural users around the world. For urban ones (where 5G may be readily available), they can now access key things like online government forms, e-learning and more. Although 5G may not reach many rural customers right away, the expansion of 4G still offers a great experience for many of these things.

 

Improved Rural life

This point is linked to the first point … people in many rural areas will see a greater quality of life. They will have better access to healthcare (through advanced e-health), to education and to open businesses. This will help to raise the level of health, income and to open up many opportunities for advancement.

 

Increased urban capacity should equal lower data rates

Try browsing a video or making a real-time video conference call in most downtown cores during rush hour … yeah, it might not always work like you want. Network operators have done a great job in building out capacity, but there is always a finite amount of capacity. 5G will help to alleviate this and will in fact possibly create excessive capacity (if you can believe it).

This extra capacity should help to reduce the costs of cellular data, allowing for competitive data rates and the likelihood of much bigger data plans (even unlimited) becoming available.

 

Reduce the needs for office space (by changing how remote work is done)

The past month has seen millions of workers being forced to work remote, affecting the availability of tools like Zoom. It has also caught the attention of those who own and operate commercial real estate properties. Many companies have found that although it has taken some adjustments, many are operating well with employees working from home in their pajamas. It brings up a question … do companies need so much office space going forward?

 

5G will help to expedite this trend. When workers find out how great of an experience 5G brings, they will want to work from home more than ever. Employers will also love the ability to lock down corporate traffic and keep it off of the public Internet. This may reduce the demand for office space in most urban areas.

 

We will monitor and track everything

There is a huge trend towards making things “smart” in our lives … watches, scales and heating units are just a few of the examples. This works great when the device is expected to be used inside of a home or office as there is usually an available Wi-Fi network to connect to. However, this becomes a bit of an issue when the devices are used in multiple areas or while mobile.

 

Today, many have used cellular-based devices to track key shipments, but the cost was often difficult to justify for many applications. Technologies like CAT-M and NB-IoT will lower both the upfront costs and on-going costs, while the aforementioned uptick in network capacity will ensure that devices always have available resources to connect.

 

5G is here: let the cord cutting begin!

Hello and thanks for reading.

 

In many ways, North America is leading the charge on technology.  However, one area that we might have been a little slow is in the use of cellular-based connectivity for the home.  Most of us have a wired Internet connection for all of our kids to play Fortnite and browse YouTube on.

 

That may change, and faster than you think …

 

Verizon announced this week that parts of 4 US cities can now use 5G technology to replace their existing landline connections.  The service is reasonably priced and offers speeds that would allow most people to easily make the switch (and in fact, it may be faster than what is offered today by cable/DSL in their area).

 

To expedite this deployment, the FCC has started to make it harder for local governments to drag their feet on 5G by placing mandates to force faster approvals and even to force access to government-owned equipment for 5G equipment.  Not to be outdone, AT&T is trying to leapfrog over Verizon by offering 5G connectivity for mobile devices in as many as 12 cities before the end of the year.

 

What does this mean for landline providers?

For now, not much, but you have to know there are some nervous executives in many companies now.  Internet connectivity is often the main reason why people stay connected for other services, such as home phone and cable.  By moving those customers over to wireless, landline providers risk the chance of losing more than just the revenue from your monthly Internet connection.

 

However, I think this is just a natural progress.  As little as 10 years ago, Wi-Fi was not common in most homes and was not widely available in most public areas.  Now, just about every mall, airport and office waiting room offers free Wi-Fi access to customers.  People have just grown used to the idea of not being locked down by cables …

 

Do keep in mind two important things:

  • 5G really is about mobile, so the likelihood is that most of the gains in traffic will be from devices that were likely already using cellular connectivity, or in the case of self-driving cars, ones that could never use a fixed connection.
  • 5G won’t be everywhere that quickly. They will focus most on the urban cores, so don’t expect it in the suburbs for a while.

 

However, expect to see more announcements about 5G over the next 12-24 months …. It is coming.

5G will push cellular gateway sales into the stratosphere

Having sold cellular gateways for the better part of the last two decades, I have been in a position to see the growth as well as anyone.  The initial products were based on very slow cellular technology, making them ideal for only transferring small bits of data.  As such, they were usually used by those who really needed to connect remote assets badly enough ... police cars, oil wells and more.

 

As we hit the world of 3G, there started to be enough bandwidth to expand the appeal (and the increase in the network coverage didn’t hurt either).  We started to see cellular gateways used in applications such as retail, hospitality, mobile office and more.  We even started to see people “cut the cord” (meaning that they were using cellular-based communication even in places where traditional landlines were readily available).

 

The launch of 4G helped to continue this trend, right up until today.  Speeds are now capable of transmitting large amounts of data and the latency of the networks has decreased to the point that real-time applications like video are feasible and often comparable to landline speeds in some areas.

 

Well, you ain’t seen nothing yet- wait until 5G hits.

 

First, why is 5G different?  I mean 4G offered enough speed that many never even used all of the available bandwidth, so why do we need 5G?  In some cases, you don’t, and I have written about that a lot in the past.  But this will not stop 5G from sending the cellular gateway business into a “hockey stick” growth starting next year ... here is why:

 

The speeds and latency really are that much better

4G speeds were great, but when you started to load up users onto the connection, it started to show that it was not as fast or capable as your available DSL connection.  5G has got you covered ... most people will see as fast (or faster) speeds than they have now, meaning that it truly is a viable option to cut the cord at most small and medium businesses as well as in all homes.

 

People will value the portability of cellular more than they know

Ok, most of us (based on what I see at my kid’s sports practices) have found out the value of having a live Internet connection in their hands.  However, think of what it can do for your business ... you can move outside, such as in the case of a store wanting to sell their wares in the parking lot ... you can have the same connection as you move from site to site, such as in the case of a construction company ... you have a truly functional disaster recovery solution, in the event that you have to evacuate your building ... you don’t have to worry about construction accidents damaging your line when they are working outside.

 

The capacity of the network is staggering

One of the concerns that many had about 4G (and networks before it) was network capacity and its effects on speed.  Namely, if a network gets congested, will my connection speeds really suffer?  While no network has endless capacity, 5G offers the ability to support more connections than ever before, making this less of an issue.

 

It takes mobile gaming to a new level

Ok, this might not fall under the category of “corporate reasoning,” but one cannot deny the incredible amount of money spent by gamers each year.  5G provides a speed and latency environment that just screams out gaming, and I can see many of them looking for a common experience at home and on the road.

 

The cellular carriers won’t resist selling this by the ton

The final reason comes down to something simple ... cellular carriers will see this as a huge potential area of growth.  While the amount of data traffic will continue to grow exponentially over the next decade, not sure about the number of smartphone users.  Sure, they will add some here and there, but do you know anyone who wants a smartphone and does not have one?  Replacing DSL and cable lines in the home, especially for cellular carriers who do not have a landline counterpart in their company, is just too much of an exciting prospect.

 

While we like to avoid making these blogs too much of a sales pitch, Novotech looks forward to helping you make the leap towards using cellular gateways to power your business.  We have the best lines (list lines) and all of the expertise that you need to get started!

 

 

 

Why your GrubHub order doesn’t arrive without IoT

I have to admit; I was not one of the early adopters when it came to using food apps. Perhaps it is my age, maybe it is my level of pickiness when eating, or perhaps it is that I am a decent cook. Whatever the reason, I never saw what all of the fuss was about until COVID.

 

While we have not become regular users of the delivery apps, they had brought us some of our favourite meals that we were missing when the dining areas of restaurants were shut down.

 

The ability to get food from dozens of restaurants is something that most of us never saw coming, and if it were not for many IoT components, it would never have happened in the first place! IoT has allowed for two major trends in the restaurant world to occur food delivery apps and the “virtual kitchen.”

 

Food Delivery apps

 

These apps rely on three key pieces of technology to happen:

  1. The location of where you are (which is often done using GPS or other location-based services).
  2. The area of the closest available delivery person (using the GPS of their phones)
  3. Internet connectivity on three sides (the application’s servers, the restaurant and the user) provides cellular-based connectivity on at least one connection.

 

If any of these components were not functioning, much of the convenience of the process would disappear. This includes how you can track the location of your food while avoiding being surprised while in the shower, which is the UPS driver's domain!

 

Virtual Kitchen/Restaurant

 

For some, this is a new term that you may not be familiar with. We are all familiar with our local restaurant, where they have a fixed address that we go and visit. However, there is a growing trend in the food business where there is no actual storefront for you to visit a restaurant; instead, you can only place orders via your favourite food delivery app.

 

Many of these “restaurants” share kitchen facilities with other “restaurants,” which lowers their operating costs. It may be underutilized kitchens or facilities like schools that rent them out on the weekend for extra revenue.

 

Since their only way to receive orders from customers is via the application, most of these places have more than one way of accessing the Internet (in the event of an outage). Some of them use cellular-based routers to enable high-speed connectivity, especially in places where it is not feasible to have a landline installed (such as at a school cafeteria).

 

When you combine these new inventions, it is easy to see how it is changing the restaurant business forever (whether it is good or bad, I will leave you to decide). Either way, you can thank IoT for allowing it all to happen in the first place!

Kids may not go back to school in September… IoT is here to help either way

For the past two months, my wife (along with millions of other parents) is doing her new day job: a 3rd and 9th-grade teacher. The kids are still doing a fair amount of work online through various platforms and seem to be maintaining some schedule. Like most parents, though, we are wondering how long this can continue as it is.  

There has been an increasing number of reports in many areas that these practices will continue until there is a vaccine readily available. We are seeing this in many post-secondary institutions already moving to online only for the upcoming fall semester. So, how can we improve things if our kids are still home when September rolls around?

IoT is here to help, and it can help both if our kids do stay home or if the kids go back (requiring a fair amount of changes to keep them safe).

 

If the kiddies stay home

 

The idea of this does make me sad. One of my favourite commercials each year is the one from Staples where the parents sing, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year“ while shopping for school supplies. 

In all seriousness, IoT can help solve two issues if the kids stay home.

Each morning when I was in school, the teacher yelled out our name, and we yelled back, “here or present.” We then were pretty much planted in our chairs unless we had permission to get up. 

One issue with remote teaching is that teachers do not always know if kids are in front of their computers. It turns out that kids have figured out how to move around while on Zoom calls.  

One forward-thinking school decided to use Bluetooth seat sensors for their kids. If the child were to get up for more than a couple of seconds, a teacher is notified.

The other issue has to do with connectivity. Many of us with super-fast Internet connections forget that a massive part of the population does not have such luxury, especially in rural areas. 

One way to solve this is through the use of low-cost cellular routers. 4G provides enough bandwidth to get the job done, and today’s routers allow for unwanted / after-hour traffic to be blocked to prevent overages. The costs of each router can be made up by reducing spending on the upkeep of the schools.

 

If the kiddies go back

 

Yes, they are out of the house! But, how do we keep them safe and not have to shut the schools down again?  

One of the main symptoms of the virus is an elevated temperature, so scanning the kids for fever is a must. However, waiting until they are inside is too late; they may pass along the virus on the bus or in the schoolyard. We need to move the scanners out to the edge of the school property or on the bus. Mobile IoT scanners can be hooked up to smartphones or cellular modems to make this happen.

Once they are on the property, we need to ensure that they are social distancing. 

There are two ways, depending on the age of the children. For the younger ones, video scanning technology can help. It uses AI to note that kids are too close to each other and can keep track of this (in the event of a reported infection). For the older ones, we can use what is always in their pockets (or their hands)- their smartphones. In many jurisdictions around the world, Bluetooth-based tracking can track the distance between students and keep track of who may have been near an infected student.

The last thing has to do with kids being homesick. With temperatures being taken, more children will likely not be allowed to attend, often for up to 2-3 weeks at a time. This threatens to put them far behind their classmates. This is where smartboards come into play.

Now, the use of smartboards is far from new, but they are incredible for enabling the sharing of information. The teachers can easily share videos as well as the remote students, can easily see what is being written on the board. It also allows for improved interaction with the rest of the class.

Parents are excited for their kids to go back to school in the fall. 

However, no one wants to put them into an unsafe situation. IoT can help not only keep them safe but also to help them thrive in these tough times