What happens when Internet connectivity goes beyond computers and phones? That’s the premise of “Internet of Things” technology. The concept dates back to 1999 when Kevin Ashton coined the term (also known as “Device to Device Communication” and “Machine-to-Machine “M2M” Technology).
Today, the Internet of Things is a commercial reality in Canada and elsewhere.
- French company SigFox is building a dedicated cellular network for the Internet of Things in the San Francisco area. The network will serve bicycle locks, smoke detectors, dog collars (Whistle, a California start-up has received venture funding to build fitness tracking collars for dogs) and other devices. Designed as a slow speed network (100 bits per second), annual service charges are planned to be $1 per year per device.
- Cisco Systems is starting a $100 million “Internet of Everything” research centre in Toronto (one of several centres around the world) to take advantage of a multi-billion dollar market opportunity in the Internet of Things.
You might think this technology is intriguing. I certainly do. It also feels new, like “still under development at Google” new. That’s not quite true. We’re accustomed to thinking of PCs, laptops and tablets as Internet devices. The Internet of Things trend is all about applying connectivity, sensors and other technology to many other contexts: space, mines, malls, stadiums and more.
According to a Telus commissioned survey, only six per cent Canadian companies are using Internet of Things technology in 2014 – the vast majority have not made a move (source). Despite that low adoption rate, the survey found that IoT spending in Canada exceeds $5 billion.
In my view, this is analogous to website development in early to mid-1990s. There is a great opportunity for your organization to move early to grow with these technologies.
The Internet of Things (IoT, for short) is here right now. I’ll cover ways that individuals and organizations can take advantage of these technologies to reach their goals. Some in the technology community have an early adopter mindset where they’re willing to try anything new. If you have to persuade someone else to give you budget for IoT, you can use this article as raw material for your business case.
How organizations use it
IoT technology is based on the premise that everyday devices deployed throughout the world can help us understand our environment. If you read some reports and predictions about IoT technology, it almost sounds like some kind of science fiction utopia.
Let’s get back to reality by considering five organizations that are involved in Internet of Things technology in Canada and elsewhere.
- Improve productivity by eliminating manual data collection.
Arrow Transportation Systems, a logistics company in Vancouver, uses IoT technology today. Instead of having staff manually collect vehicle and driver data, the company can now collect data automatically and free up staff time for other purposes.
- Increase sales at stadiums and malls.
You might be wondering if IoT technology can help reach revenue objectives. Toronto start-up Flybits is working on technology to increase revenue at shopping malls and sports stadiums. In the near future, this technology will provide considerable opportunities for facility owners and other companies active in these environments. This technology also has non-profit applications on college and university campuses.
- Track vehicles, shipments and other assets used GPS trackers.
Sendum Wireless Corporation, based in Burnaby B.C., started by producing pagers. Now, the company makes GPS trackers and software for companies to track shipments, vehicles and other materials. In addition to the location, Sendum’s devices have the capability to track temperature, humidity and other variables.
- The rise of the digital oilfield – Shell
Shell is now producing 21st century oil fields with IoT technology. By installing sensors in wells, the company is able to monitor pressure, reservoir patterns and other factors. The Smart Field, as Shell terms it, presumably also has safety benefits – fewer surprise changes threatening the safety of staff in the oil field. Increased connectivity also means that field staff can seek additional advice and information from head office.
- Canadian venture capital firm funds “Internet of Things” ventures.
Toronto based venture capital firm McRock Capital focuses on funding “Industrial Internet of Things” companies. McRock’s efforts are particularly encouraging for the future of the industry. For the past several decades, many Canadian technologists and entrepreneurs had to head to the United States for funding. Perhaps more homegrown investors will follow in McRock’s footsteps in coming years.
- Never lose your phone (or anything else) with this Vancouver company’s new device.
Losing important possessions could become a memory if the Linquet takes off. Established in Vancouver in 2011, Linquet produces small devices that can be attached to phones or other devices. Company founder Pooya Kazerouni describes the technology in these terms: “Simply attach Linquets to your things and link them to your phone via our free app. When the phone or any valuable goes out-of-range both your phone and that valuable will alarm to alert you.” Linquet plans to charge a monthly service fee of $2.99 for its service.