When I was writing a course on RFID for a client (RFID4U) about a decade ago, it was the first time I came across the term ‘Internet of things’ or IoT. At that time, it was a fascinating subject, as mobile technology was not that ubiquitous, and sensors on everyday objects such as shoes were unheard of, at least in India!
To locate any object using RFID tags, one employs some methods such as the triangulation method. (It is to be noted that (a) somewhat similar technique is frequently used in nuclear physics and particle physics experiments – we used to call them ‘coincidence’ techniques; and (b) recently the ping detection by INMARSAT and the delays measured were used to identify the possible location of MH 370 was also triangulation technique.)
Around the end of 2008, there was this interesting advert by IBM about locating lost truckers on a desert highway: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5sSwc7ztVg
Internet of things (IoT) was born because it was thought that each and every item in the world could be tagged uniquely, they could be traced via the internet. There were some innovative thoughts of smart dust, which would settle on ‘things’ and these ‘things’ would communicate. Some imaginative examples were thought of: A smart refrigerator could inform your grocer regarding milk running low in the fridge, and a milk bottle could be delivered at your doorstep even before you returned from office. The tag and trace was envisaged for locating where the beef was sourced from for a Big Mac!
Massive amounts of RFID tags on every physical object would lead to IoT, but nothing much happened, because of mounting expenses in the application of this technology; and also managing data and devices became cumbersome!
Even now RFID tags are used no doubt – battery powered UHF tags for real time location systems, HF tags for cattle tagging, for managing inventory in retail stores, tagging babies in hospitals, ID wrist band tags for people attending events/conferences, near field communication tags for mobile to mobile transfers, and others. But IoT did not happen the way ot was imagined with RFID tags!
Unfortunately, because of tech complications, massive data, for individual tagging, RFID technology has not been able to beat the barcode systems as yet! There were some privacy issues as well, and IoT ideas did not take off!
In Mid 2013 an interesting RFID anthem was written and sung by the Dobkins– on the death application of item level UHF RFID: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXvkcEd9SEc#
Next in Future
Now in 2014, with so many communication devices and sensors, there are innumerable ways machines and devices are talking to each other. RFID tags and technology is back in some form or the other.
IoT has arrived, definitely!
There is an interesting commercial by CISCO – about Tomorrow is Here, emphasizing the concept of IoT with CISCO networks of course!
In South Korea there is a retail store where you enter your shopping list on a hand held device, and as you pass by the specific aisle, the product will appear in front of the shelf for you to pick up and place in your trolley. Then Metro Store of the Future in Germany had this prototype where you could walk off with your trolley full of groceries from a store, the RFID readers would identify your shopping and deduct payment from your smart card automatically.
What IoT can do (if implemented successfully) is mind boggling!
At the beginning of 2014, there was this news: http://www.thinfilm.no/news/thinfilm-acquires-kovio-technology-opens-silicon-valley-nfc-innovation-center/
Gartner cites “Internet of Things” as one of the top 10 strategic trends of this decade. Analysts and companies alike are predicting markets in the trillions of dollars by 2020-Gartner $1.9 trillion, IDC $8.9 trillion, Cisco $19 trillion. Industry giants such as Intel, IBM, Cisco, Qualcomm and NXP are placing major bets on IoT, and the San Jose Mercury News calls IoT a technological transformation “as profound as the Industrial Revolution,” in which “Silicon Valley companies that make the circuits are expected to profit enormously.”
Yet most applications of IoT focus on fixed infrastructure, where the sensor is a static node at the edge of the network and data is routed to a central server.
Low-cost, disposable sensor labels-able to autonomously collect information to later be read by NFC phones and tablets-offer a fundamentally different approach. With over 400 million NFC-enabled smart phones already deployed, a number projected to grow to 1 billion by 2015, linking ubiquitous sensors on Thinfilm Smart Labels with the mobile platform creates a fluid and agile alternative to traditional data infrastructures. It is this agile network that will truly launch the Internet of Everything.
Mobile phone technology has definitely advanced the concept of IoT. Even Apple is using an ibeacon app (indoor proximity app)where a shopper will know which store has Apple items on the high street! The ubiquitous sensor network (USN) is truly awesome! If humans wore tags, we will become part of the USN!
Machines and devices communicate, without human intervention – via Bluetooth, wireless network, zigbee, beacons, NFC, infra-red, thermal and what have you! Sensors are everywhere, M2M (or D2D) communication is here to stay now. And with wearable technologies M2P or D2P and vice versa is also possible. So while devices give-off various signals from a physical layer, these have to be integrated with a computer somewhere – that’s where we need massive data bases, big data analytics, and other rules based engines to get some intelligent decision from all that communication chatter.
Here is a small diagram that will give the application of IoT in a succinct manner.
Aside 1: Evolution of the internet
Aside 2: Here are some examples of rule based engines filtered unwanted data:
Example 1: When a product leaves a section, its EPC is noted. If the product EPC is not read again, at the dispatch dock, it can be assumed that it has left in a different spot or has been taken out without proper authorization. This can be automatically checked. Logic like this allows a RFID integrated system to define and manage business rules based on antenna/reader locations.
Example 2: In a store, a very expensive item is placed in the open for customers to view. If the item is removed, a loud alarm should go off. The item is RFID tagged. Three readers are continuously monitoring the tag’s exact location. As soon as the readers detect movement of the tag, a rule may be written so that the store’s RFID hardware lets off all the alarms; then shuts all doors and automatically informs the police.
Example 3: At an inventory hub, as soon as a pallet crosses the gate, a rule may be written in the ERP to update the stock list automatically.
Aside 3: IoT in Education