An IoT watchdog for the smart city
umlaut expert Vladimir Rakic on the “Internet of Things” and the challenges of creating and maintaining an interconnected infrastructure.
With the “Internet of Things”, the digital world becomes more connected to our physical lives. What will this development change in our daily routines?
It can remove many everyday headaches: No more searching for empty parking lots, no annoying visitors knocking on your door to read your meters. Public trash cans are always emptied before they are full. Our vision is a city which is so smart that humans only manage it while ‘things’ get to do the work.
What kind of ‘things’ are you referring to?
A ‘thing’ can be a smart meter reporting data about energy consumption, a vehicle tracker reporting an ongoing theft or a healthcare device signaling some dangerous event for the person carrying it. In fact, it can be any device equipped with the logic and means to utilize available telecommunication technology and transfer data remotely, so that corrective actions can be taken in near real time, with or without human interaction.
Where do you see relevant use cases already?
umlaut has its own expert unit for IoT. Among our clients are energy distributors who were pioneers in smart meter rollout, payment processors with solutions on all continents, vehicle manufacturers deploying brand new telecommunication features and municipalities rolling out smart city solutions. All of them require unique adaptations and a very special kind of IoT solution to serve their cause. This variety of projects reflects the potential IoT will have in future and its impact on our everyday life.
On the other hand, there are definitely risks for early adopters. Experts from non-telco industries have to understand the telecommunication world in order to design robust applications and solutions for the market. The main reason why our clients reach out to us is to help them secure their IoT rollout. My team then helps to eliminate the risks and to maximize the benefits of selected IoT solutions, for example by adding data analytics on top.
One of the tools you work with is the so-called IoT “watchdog”. What exactly does that entail?
In many cases, the difficulty lies in controlling and maintaining IoT entities when they are already in the field. The "watchdog" function does exactly that. We basically train the ‘thing’ to help itself and to react to any possible disaster scenario. If for any reason a device should stop communicating, or start to communicate too much, then the "watchdog" comes into play by identifying the trigger of the problem and finding a solution, for example by restarting our ‘thing’ or by reminding it how to function successfully with communication patterns from the past. That may sound simple but understanding the use case behind IoT deployment and designing an optimal architecture with the most suitable "watchdog" requires time, patience and quite a few prediction capabilities, but it is doable. And if done properly, it can ensure a long and successful deployment, help people and in some use cases, and it can even save lives, for example when we talk about healthcare devices.
Where will we see “watchdogs” in the future?
It can be everything from a small healthcare device towards a high-speed train. We see applications in all major industries – energy utilities, banks and payment processors, automotive OEM’s, healthcare product suppliers and others. It can for example prevent expensive replacements of deployed IoT assets, such as electricity and gas smart meters, SCADA gateways in production, DALI devices in home automation etc. With the help of the "watchdog", we have successfully reduced the amount of customer complaints originating from unsuccessful payment transactions that have been reported by merchants operating POS terminals at their stores worldwide. Furthermore, our "watchdogs" have helped to eliminate many instances of connectivity issues in public transport.
What makes you think now is the right time to develop IoT solutions?
IoT has just started to influence our lives for the better. New technologies such as 5G offer ultra-low latency and will therefore further boost the commercial adoption of IoT, enabling new use cases and fast reactions based on triggers in real time. I am sure we will see many new and fundamentally different IoT use cases in the near future from various smart city initiatives, but also innovative IoT products that will have the potential to disrupt the market in each of the verticals where they get deployed.