Internet of Things at ACM

How many motors are in the typical automobile? The knee-jerk response might be “one, the big metal thing under the hood”. Upon further reflection, we may recall the motors that operate many devices in today’s automobile: windshield wipers, power windows, door locks, sun roof, reclining seats, and so on. Power devices were once luxury equipment. Today, since motors have fallen in price, most cars include these luxury items as standard equipment.

We take motors for granted, therefore motors have disappeared. And now, as it becomes possible to add a computer and an IP address to almost anything electronic, we bring about the Internet of Things (IoT). Computers are disappearing too.

ACM Presents Disruptive IoT

Steven Loving is a director at Arrayent. Arrayent makes a platform for companies that want their products to be IoT-aware. For example, a garage door company that wants to offer iPhone control to their customers can do so without re-inventing TCP/IP themselves. Arrayent handles the IoT portion so the maker can focus on their core business. Steven shared his vision of the IoT future at Tuesday’s ACM meeting. Some of his ideas are summarized here.

Don’t Leave Home Without It

Don’t leave home without it was once the catch phrase of a major charge card. Today, many of us leave home with just three things in our pockets:

As near-field communication (or one of its descendants) becomes prevalent, we may only need the smartphone.

Products Don’t Matter Any More?

Products don’t matter any more? I immediately wanted to argue against this idea. Everyone wants quality products, right? The point: As manufacturing techniques become common knowledge, companies need to come up with new ways to differentiate themselves from the competition.

Connected products are special. For example, consider an ordinary sump pump. How does a buyer distinguish one from another? If one sump pump contains a tiny embedded Linux system with an IP address, it can alert the owner when water has approached a dangerous level, if there is a power outage, or if flood conditions are simply too strong for the pump to handle. Bad news does not get better with time, and if the sump pump can send bad news early, the owners can take corrective action while there’s still time to do so.

Mobile First

A great quote from the presentation…

Do you know anybody building a product with an LCD on it? Shoot them. I have an LCD in my pocket. It’s called a phone.
~Steven Loving

In other words, the mobile-first strategy that many developers apply to apps also applies to IoT.

Side note: Clearly, Apple gets it. That’s one reason why they released HomeKit.

Incumbent Companies Are Scrambling

Why are cable companies offering security services in addition to standard packages of television and movies? Because users are moving to Netflix and Amazon Prime. Cable companies that offer internet service must come up with other services if they expect to survive. IoT might offer a way. Self-installed home monitoring services will give customers a reason to stick with their old cable provider. Of course, this will force security companies like ADT to come up with something new, too.

IoT Progression

What opportunities will become available when every device has an IP address? Tuesday’s presenter predicts the following sequence of events:

  1. Connected products.
  2. Connected systems - products talking to other products.
  3. Communities of systems talking to each other.
  4. Network effects.

We’re currently experiencing #1 and #2. What will happen as #3 and #4 begin to roll out? We cannot be sure. However, we can be certain that this will be an exciting time for software developers, electrical engineers, and entrepreneurs who build companies in those areas.

Thanks Chicago ACM

Thanks again Chicago ACM for putting on a great program.