‘Smart’ Internet of Things devices are coming to fast and furious. At the CES trade show earlier this year connected automotive technologies and a swathe of new offerings focused on homes were exhibited.
Although many of the devices on show at CES won’t trickle into households for a while, already the market is brimming with IoT-type devices.
For example Amazon’s Echo, an Internet-connected speaker that can be used as a central interface for other IoT produces in a home.
The Amazon Echo employs voice as its primary interface, and its far-field voice recognition works even while music is playing. The Echo, initially released in late 2014 ahead of wider availability last year, can communicate with other smart devices and services.
For example, you can use a voice command to have it play music from Amazon Prime, Pandora, iHeartRadio or TuneIn. Alexa, a cloud-based service integrated into the Echo, can answer questions or read aloud audiobooks, news, traffic, weather, sports scores, and so on.
Echo can also integrate with home automation-type systems, such as WeMo, Philips Hue, Samsung SmartThings, Wink, and Insteon.
Sounds good for aspiring James Bond who want to control lights, curtains and music with just their suave voice!
A raft of companies are building Internet-connected personal baby video monitors, such as iBaby, which can be a great innovation if you don’t trust the babysitter. Connected baby monitory can allow you to watch your baby remotely, usually on your mobile device.
Unfortunately the security of many of these baby monitors is questionable. (In response to revelations last year about security flaws, iBaby updated its authentication process.)
Now that your baby is ok you can perhaps take a nap? Enter Samsung's Sleepsense. Now this I like; it is a little spooky as it can recognise that you are falling asleep then perform tasks such as switch off the TV and lights, then turn down the heating. When you start to wake up it can make the coffee and warm the house.
While you are sleeping this device monitors your breathing and heart rate. If you want, you can get a sleep score based on seven elements: Total sleep time, sleep efficiency, time it took to fall asleep, number of times you woke up, number of times you got out of bed, percentage of time in rapid eye movement and percentage of time in deep sleep.
Whoa, now that’s some level of monitoring.
What’s under the covers?
In some cases the technology stacks driving IoT devices can be found in other applications. For example, NoSQL databases which have been used to drive large-scale Web applications are proving popular for IoT applications (NoSQL-style approaches have been around since the late '60s).
The key difference from a conventional database is that it is not based on a relational schema.
However, that’s not to say there aren’t emerging technologies and standards specifically intended to power IoT applications.
One example, announced earlier this year, is Wi-Fi HaLow (based on the IEEE’s 802.11.ah specification), which will operate in the 900MHz band and offer better penetration and double the range of 2.4GHz Wi-Fi, as well lower power consumption.
The trade-off is a peak speed that’s expected to be limited to around 18 megabits per second.
“Wi-Fi HaLow will enable a variety of new power-efficient use cases in the Smart Home, connected car, and digital healthcare, as well as industrial, retail, agriculture, and Smart City environments,” the Wi-Fi Alliance said in its announcement earlier this year.
Certification of HaLow HaLow is not expected to begin until 2018, however. Despite that it is indeed is big news and will help to accelerate the IoT.