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5 Reasons Why Synchronization is Critical to IoT

5 Reasons Why Synchronization is Critical to IoT

Unless you’re a networking nerd, synchronization is probably more familiar as a term used with wristwatches or iTunes than as an IoT term, but the future of the IoT may actually depend on this topic.

Synchronization — the way an IoT device adjusts its internal clock in order to align with the clocks of other devices in a network — lies (surprisingly) at the center of many of today’s IoT challenges, particularly for low-power IoT.

Clocks help devices pinpoint the moment when, for example, a sensor measurement is going to be shared with the network. If your device’s clock is out sync with those of other devices in the network, it will miss messages, collide with other messages being sent by other devices, or waste energy trying to get back in sync.

Clocks drift out of synchronization, especially those using low cost, commodity computing parts that are often used in low power IoT. So to keep networking running efficiently, clocks need to be synchronized in order to make the data flow in a reliable way.

More than a few inventors of wireless IoT technologies didn’t focus too intensely on synchronization, perhaps because they were using TCP/IP as their networking model, which while I’m thinking about it reminds me — even if slightly off topic — of this:

Most “low power” IoT protocols implemented something similarly byzantine when they designed their method for network sync. For example, here is a picture of 6lowPAN — which famously claims to be a low power means of implementing IPv6 on a wireless network — initiating the sync process:

For 6lowPAN, this process is repeated many times — let’s refer to it as “strobing” — until the endpoint has synchronized its listening cycle with the host. Unfortunately, with 6lowPAN all this “strobing” takes power, can only be done one endpoint at a time, and if the data rate is low the endpoint will burn up lots of battery life as it listens and strobes.

For 6lowPAN and others in the IoT using “old school” network sync, the cost of not getting it right is high for at 5 reasons:

1) Battery Life

Like politicians promising to change Washington, most low power IoT technologies don’t tell the truth about battery life. Cellular people you already know who you are.

ZigBee, Thread and others are also guilty because bad sync processes do to batteries what badly under-inflated tires do to your car’s gas mileage. Multi-year battery life is what makes low power IoT … low power. Bad sync = bad battery life.

2) Connection Time

Some wireless technologies can take many seconds or even minutes to connect, due almost entirely to weak synchronization schemes. For an on-demand world where we expect immediate results when it comes to IoT, a bad sync method in a mission critical environment can render obsolete information created only seconds earlier.

Smart city or public safety applications, for example, are poorly served with slow-sync technologies. Slow-sync protocols are also a no-go for IoT control apps like implementing a kill switch on a piece of industrial equipment.

 

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3) Dense-Packed Endpoint Environments

Environments with lots of endpoints are intimidating to IoT protocols with weak sync schemes. As in, they shouldn’t even get into the ring to pretend to compete.

Imagine trying to run a query in a warehouse with 2,000 endpoints and establishing sync with each endpoint— one-by-one — in order to engage in a group broadcast or to query a group of endpoints or to send out a security patch. Industrial IoT environments are particularly sensitive to this issue.

4) Indoor Location

A growing part of battery-powered IoT has to do with locating things. Outdoors, we seem to be relying more and more on GPS, but indoors is another matter.

Being able to locate something indoors in any kind of real-time way requires fast synchronization with a gateway/access point or, more importantly, with other endpoints on a peer-to-peer basis. Slow-sync protocols are a no-go for these applications.

5) Security

IoT technologies with weak sync schemes take longer to exchange keys and are more vulnerable to unwanted discovery and spoofing. Fast-sync protocols are also better able to support two-factor authentication and can remain in a quiet/listen-before-talk mode that protects privacy and inhibits unauthorized discovery.

The Future of Wearable Technology – 3 Key Drivers

The Future of Wearable Technology

The hype around wearable technology seems endless, as consumers and businesses alike expect these devices to take over our lives. In fact, research data by CCS Insight mentioned that the wearable market is projected to be worth $25 billion by 2019, with smartwatches commanding a 60% share of the market.

While there’s a growing demand for smartwatches, the technology is far from perfect and is still in its infancy. Nevertheless, recent developments make the future look promising. Read on below as we reveal the three key drivers behind the future of wearable technology.

1. Better Wearable Operating Systems

Experience has taught Google, Apple, and Samsung to make smartwatches more user-friendly. Every time they update operating systems, it offers users something new.

Google’s new Android Wear 2.0, which LG will be using with their Watch Sport and Watch Style, is loaded with new features including the new Google Fit and the smarter Google Assistant. The best part is the addition of Android Pay via NFC and Smart Reply system that makes the devices very similar to smartphones. This will be competing against the Apple Watch, which is already built with Apple Pay services.

Aside from tech companies, watchmakers Swatch and Tag Heuer have also showed interest in developing their own smartwatch OS. Based on a report by TechCrunch, Swatch aims to create an in-house OS that focuses on things that many devices sorely lack, such as battery life. Their executives said the system will be focused on ‘thinking small,’ requiring less power to run it.

2. Standalone, Tether-Free Devices

Manufacturers are now looking at making reliable smartwatches that are tether-free, performing similar tasks to smartphones without having to pair them together. This will address the common concern of many users that think wearables are just mobile accessories.

Samsung has successfully launched their own standalone smartwatch that comes with its own SIM card slot and able to run apps and connect to Wi-Fi or mobile data. Apple is also rumored to be developing a tether-free watch.

Although you can currently find various standalone watches on Amazon, they have unsatisfactory ratings and reviews with issues regarding reliability, compatibility, and unreliable OS. However, more reliable standalone and tethered-free devices are set to be released on the market soon, which will help smartwatches gain mainstream acceptance.

3. More Accurate GPS

Mitsubishi that made headlines when they accelerated their plans to deliver their ‘crazily accurate GPS’ this year, which is expected to be released in 2018. Jamie Hinks wrote in his article on T3 that the project aims to link up to four new satellites.

The Japanese company isn’t aiming to replace the US GPS system, rather they only plan to iron out any inaccuracies in the tracking service so that locations can be mapped accurately as more industries start utilizing the technology.

According to a post published by Telogis, the wide availability of GPS gave birth to the telematics industry, integrating the other technologies (i.e. computers and mobile devices) to allow for remote management of smartwatches, smart cars, and other assets.

Smartwatches will also be more reliable in tracking the locations of its users, which is vital for demographics such as the elderly. As GPS becomes more available, high-tech, and accurate, it’s expected that more technologies and industries will be developed that utilizes its potential.

In summary, the future of the smartwatch industry is looking bright and promising, despite its ups and downs. The technology is a great platform that will help businesses process requests better and make people’s lives easier in every possible way.

Written by JBiTech, a tech blogger. Armed with her strong passion for consumer gadgets, wearable tech, and mobile innovations, she can be your ultimate resource for the latest buzz in the tech industry.

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Imagining the Airport of the Future with Today’s IoT Technologies

Imagining the Airport of the Future with Today's IoT Technologies

Think back to your most recent experience at the airport. For all its romance of a bygone era, the airport experience has become a drag.

You show up hours early only to stand in line after line, with harried TSA agents doing their best to stay positive or at least neutral as they deal with hordes of worn-out and tired passengers just trying to get home.

As a passenger, the security checkpoints can feel demeaning and impersonal. Remove your belt, take off your shoes, no, sir, you don’t have to take off your shoes, we changed our policy on that, please stop hopping on one foot.

Once you get to the gate, you sit around for an hour or run breathlessly through the airport only to show up and find there was a five minute delay anyway. You wait for your Zone to be called for boarding and ask yourself why they chose the word Zone when everyone crowds around the entrance in a meaningless blob. The plane won’t leave without you, folks.

Finally, you board and bump and tersely, yet politely, say “Excuse me, please,” while fighting for overhead bin space. When you fall into your seat, you try to concentrate on the “Top 5,000 Food Destinations in Orlando” in Generic Travel Magazine Quarterly when it hits you: did you leave the oven on?

There has to be another way.

Imagining the IoT Airport of the Future

With the Internet of Things, there is. The experience can change for the better, and significantly so. Connected technology can help reduce wait times, increase security, and simply give passengers a better user experience.

And the best part? The underlying technologies to do so are here, even if they aren’t broadly adopted by airports quite yet. Let’s examine how the experience changes.

Luggage

First, you walk in the entrance and look at the sign for departing flights. It knows the planes associated with those standing nearby thanks to low-energy bluetooth beacons and puts those flights in a highlighted category at the top. You’ve got 35 minutes until your international flight, plenty of time.

You walk to drop off your checked baggage and put it on the scale. It measures the weight, calculates a total, and you pay on your smartwatch. The baggage is tracked throughout the process, and you can check to see where it’s going at any time.

Temperature, humidity, and g-force sensors in the smart bag help give it a health rating you can check on your phone at any time. If the bag is opened, you will know, and there are smart tags on all your valuables so you can track if they were removed.

When your luggage gets out of range of your watch, it automatically locks (but you can use the on-board finger scanner to unlock it if your watch is dead). The TSA has the ability to open or close the bag, but a history of who does so is tracked. Together, these measures can virtually eliminate the problem of things disappearing from your luggage.

Security

You stroll over to the security checkpoint and start walking down a short tunnel. The TSA agent at the other end smiles as you walk through. The tunnel does a few things.

First, it communicates with your smartwatch. Your watch relays your carry-on’s contents (via an RFID reader reading tags on each thing inside), as well as who you are and what plane you are boarding. The security guard operator has a HoloLens that allows her to see meta information about each person walking through the tunnel, including if their bag has been scanned and cleared.

You’ve opted-in to facial recognition, so a face scan confirms your identity. Divorcing travel information from your identity, the system uses blockchain technology to match with your previous trips and assigns a risk factor using an open-source algorithm that is constantly improved to decrease false positives and checked by researchers to guard against bias.

As you walk through the tunnel, it scans to make sure you aren’t carrying anything dangerous. Algorithms flag potential security issues or obstructed views, which are confirmed by TSA agents working behind a wall (so your scanned image is dissociated from your person).

They alert the TSA agent at the other end of the tunnel to flag you down if there is a potential problem, otherwise your watch and the tunnel illuminate green to inform you that you are good-to-go. If you accidentally forgot you had your pocket knife on you, the watch turns red and directs you to a manual check.

Those without smart devices or bags are still able to walk through the tunnel, they just drop their luggage off to the right before entering. And while they may not get notifications on their watch, they still get lights within the tunnel indicating that they can walk right through.

Boarding

After you leave the tunnel, your watch silently illuminates with a notification to get directions to your gate if you’d like them. Bluetooth Low Energy beacons inform you of your location within the terminal, and your watch indicates a countdown to boarding.

Your boarding time is slightly different than everyone else’s to eliminate the line to get on the plane, and the first to board are those with window seats. With ten minutes to spare, you decide to grab a coffee on the way to the gate.

At the gate, you scan your watch on an NFC reader and the flight attendant smiles and welcomes you. He knows your name and your seat, and kindly directs you to it. On the side of the seat, your row number illuminates a specific color and pulses at a frequency that matches a pulsing light on your watch until you sit down.

As you settle into your seat and close your eyes, you ask yourself if you left your oven on. You pull out your phone and check your home monitoring app.

Nope, everything is fine. You snuggle into the corner and start in on “Top 5,000 Food Destinations in Orlando” in Generic Travel Magazine Quarterly. Who writes this stuff, anyway?

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Mood Predicting Wearables

Mood-Predicting-Wearables
illustration by Viet Huynh

If you are working on some natural language processing application, you probably came across sentiment analysis at some point. MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and the Institute of Medical Engineering and Science (IMES) have now released a prototype of a wearable device that can predict the mood of a speech.

The device recognizes speech, transcribes the audio into text, and combines physiological signals to determine the tone in real-time with 83% accuracy. Sentiment analysis is available for five second intervals during a conversation. The algorithm runs locally on purpose, keeping the privacy of users in mind.

The research team found that their device is approximately 18% more accurate than prediction via pure chance. This is a significant 7.5% improvement over existing approaches. Tuka Alhanai, the co-author of the research paper, plans to improve the algorithm by tweaking the neural network to organize different features (text vs. physiological data) at various layers of the network.

Alhanai also added that they are planning to collect more data, deploy with more commercial devices (e.g. Apple Watch), and improve the accuracy to “call out boring, tense, and excited moments, rather than just labeling interactions as ‘positive’ or ‘negative.’” The ultimate goal would be to elevate the algorithm to be deployed for social coaching tools. A wearable device might be a discreet tool to help navigate difficult social situations for people with anxiety or Asperger’s.

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