The Internet of Things.

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The Internet of Things – also known as Machine to Machine but most commonly described as “an ecosystem of technologies monitoring the status of physical objects, capturing meaningful data, and communicating that information through IP networks to software applications”. – See more at: http://blog.atlasrfidstore.com/internet-of-things-and-rfid#sthash.89FeGYhk.dpuf Sounds a little bit like that nightmare scenario where the computers take over. (Kubrick’s space station computer,Hal, was early to that game!). But let’s not panic yet; this term is less worryingly more concerned with building links between devices, often via Bluetooth or Wi Fi to enable a degree of automation to daily chores. phew, that’s all right then.

What is it in everyday terms ? In a simple form this is the remote Bluetooth speaker playing music that you hold in your phone. More and more people are enjoying the benefit of a wrist band linked to an app again by Bluetooth, which monitors various measurable to display as output on your mobile phone. Fitness tracking apps abound! (as does increased obesity… ).The-Age-of-Everywhere-Computing-is-Here_smarthome

Extending the concept into Home automation is more than a mere ambition.

Home automation, a term that has become increasingly popular in the mansions of Mayfair where the mundane task of opening a pair of heavy drapes (I dare not stoop to call them curtains) is no longer reliant on the mind and muscle of a human being they have now undergone a home automation installation so that it no longer relies on a human being even being in the building. Open your app, choose a room and manipulate various aspects including the aforementioned drapes.

Google snapped up Nest Labs recently for a handsome £1.9 billion, giving them a foot in to door to this sphere of activity. Nest are currently looking at many more ways to join devices in the home via this technology, from security systems to health tracking. imagesMore recently, news emerged that Google are about to launch a “smart tracking system” to enable the user to be alerted to the vicinity of specified people, places, shops etc. Google Nearby is set to be standard on new Android handsets and will compete directly with Apples Homekit and iBeacon smart shopping system.

The Google app will use the phone’s GPS, Bluetooth and even microphone to work out location of the user and then automatically trigger commands – for instance, waiting for the user to issue instructions such as ‘open the garage door’ but only when in close proximity to that particular door, or automatically turn on the lights when the user is close enough to the house in question. If you like the sound of this type of system then why don’t you take a look at getting new garage doors as well. you might as well treat yourself. Why not consider the pros and cons of Garage Door installation vs repairing. The system is expected to work with appliances such as Google’s own Nest smart thermostat to enabling a user to adjust temperature without anything more complex than a voice command.

The key point to notice in all this is that many of the big names in technology are heavily investing and this signifies a belief in and the inevitable increasing application of this technology in this environment. It’s going to grow increasingly pervasive. Apple have announced their forthcoming Homekit at its Worldwide Developers Conference. This system will perform numerous domestic tasks such as unlocking doors, turning on lights via the iPhone. That’s a relief I am sure!.

For the moment its worth acknowledging that the world is on the cusp of a revolution, a change driven by miniaturisation and computing advances which will deliver noticeable changes to the way we live, even if its only that we don’t have to move our increasingly obese behinds from the sofa in order to draw the curtains. The more significant consideration which will come as a secondary outcome is that these digital devices and their interconnectivity with servers and databases will begin to generate masses of data from day one. Imagine having that level of micro knowledge about the behaviour of …well most of us. But perhaps we should save that thought for now and concentrate on the matter in hand… the ahhh… World Cup, ….now, where did I put the beer…er.. the remote? What do you mean its all over?…who? Germany! Doh!!! well in that case, Vorsprung durch technik and all that.

Attention all Gadget Thiefs!

What is the last thing you look at before going to bed and the first thing you wearily gaze at in the morning? For a growing number of people it is their smartphone. Smart phones are now engrained in society with 7 out of 10 people owning them. Phones are now an extension of ourselves, holding our pictures, music, contact details, and apps. So imagine having your precious device lost or worse yet stolen.  Until recently a stolen smart phone was a very easy thing to sell on, there’re expensive, portable and in high demand.  Now authorities are catching up with the thieves.

Authorities from around the world have put imagespressure on Google, Microsoft, Samsung and Apple to add a “kill switch” to all devices.  Apple and Samsung devices have already implemented this function and it has been proven that it works. In the first 5 months of this functionality the number of reported thefts of iPhone’s in London dropped by 24%.

These are known as “hard Kill Devices” meaning once activated the phone essentially becomes worthless.  “An activated kill switch converts an easy-to-sell, high-value multimedia device into a jumble of plastic and glass, drastically reducing its street value.” said the report by New York Attorney General.

With 3 million smartphones stolen each year it has become a multi billion pound monster.  This type of functionality is long overdue.  Organised crime routinely target phones as a mean for income since it often is more valuable than people’s wallets or purses. “Almost a third of US robberies involve phone theft.”  There are however concerns over people hacking this functionality being used by malicious hackers remotely deactivating peoples phones and the mill switch can be avoided by putting the phone into air-plane mode.  Other critics state that this will only work for the phones as a complete piece, not stripping down the phone for parts.

With technology advancing all the time, phones get better and better and we are storing more of our lives in them. So it is about time that we take phone security more seriously and develop phones with security systems already installed in the device and not have to rely on third party apps that could potentially be a security risk.

Microsoft plans on rolling out anAntiTheft-e1330012035815 update including this lock by July 2015 and Google has said they will implement Activation Lock on all new devices manufactured and in the next major Android update all phones running the most current OS will be protected. With all the major players in the phone industry agreeing to this it is calculated that 97% of the smartphone market place will be protected by a kill switch resulting in a huge loss to crime around the world.

 

Indoor Mapping, a Step in the Right Direction?

Who doesn’t love Google maps and especially Street View?  Well, now its looking increasingly likely that for those of us challenged with finding our way around large buildings, the mapping technologies we have come to rely on by and large are going to be applied to the internal corridors, rooms and cupboards of our buildings. Teacher’s note, no more excuses for being late to double history with the dreaded fourth form.

Up to now the variable signal strength has curtailed any rush towards mapping inside buildings but now a new technology could bring this feature to iPhones. The technology has already been applied in small measure by Google who have provided floor plan based internal mapping since the same technology was applied in 2011. But now that Apple has acquired WifiSLAM, the inventors of this technology, it seems likely that internal mapping may be available on a wider basis in the not too distant future.

Here at app developers we have been scratching our heads to try to think of the most useful application of this sort of mapping. Ever been at an airport of train station, running late, where’s the check in for Malaga!? Well this mapping feature could really be useful in that sort of situation especially if you find yourself in a place where the native language is a barrier to rapid navigation through a huge concourse. Similarly, train stations, tube stations and other public spaces could soon be easily navigable using these maps.

But thinking laterally for a moment, is this a good thing? What about the excitement, the mystery and the unpredictability of life’s little navigation challenges? How much do we really need to be led by the hand…err by the app or map? The application of technology is fantastic and can help in some situations but having an ever present aid like this can make monkeys out of some of us. Take the irresistible Sat Nav for example. It used to be the case that we would reach for a map, even that ten year out of date one from the petrol station would do the job, maybe adding a few extra miles to the journey where new roads have appeared, but at least we engaged our brains and got ourselves across town, cities and continents without so much as a bleep from anything electronic. Nowadays it’s almost a given that you use a sat nave to take you from home down to the local take away. Our brains have disengaged with map reading and geography whilst our spatial, distance calculating functions atrophy under the smothering embraces of Sat Nave turn by turn guides.

What next? Google mapping of the route from the front door to the garden?

Onwards and upwards…or sideways?