How to Develop an IoT Strategy

Forget the hype and think about whether a technology or application adds value to your company.
By Mark Roberti

Today, the Internet of Things is a fuzzy concept, and there is little agreement about which technologies are IoT technologies and which standards apply. What's important is to focus on creating value for your company. That can be done by tracking and managing "things" more effectively or by adding intelligence to your product. Choose the right technology for each application, and don't worry about whether the "experts" call it an IoT technology or something else.

Smart Product Interfaces
What makes a product "smart" is not always clear. Whether improving the way customers control products makes the items smarter, embedding an RFID transponder in an electronic device to enable remote control is going to become more common. Intel recently developed a computer and tablet central processing unit that has a wired link to an ultrahigh-frequency RFID chip. By sending signals to the chip, the user can control the device. The CPU, for example, could be locked until it receives a password via an RFID reader. Or it could be customized without opening the box if the user sends instructions to the RFID transponder (see A New Tool for Electronics Companies).

Illustration: iStockphoto
NXP Semiconductors received the Best in Show RFID Journal Award at RFID Journal LIVE! 2014 for its new Near Field Communication chip that has input-output ports similar to the passive UHF chip Intel is using). The advantage of NFC is that many mobile phones have a built-in NFC reader, so companies can create new products that receive instructions from a smartphone. You could, for example, use a smartphone's relatively large, well-lit touch screen to set an automatic NFC-enabled light timer, instead of having to press tiny buttons on a hard-to-read timer display.

For applications in which products can be programmed remotely and automated over the Internet, wireless communications protocols such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and ZigBee will likely be employed. For example, Nest, recently purchased by Google, makes smart thermostats and smoke/carbon monoxide detectors that connect to the Internet via a home Wi-Fi network. These devices can be programmed and controlled remotely; the smoke detector sends messages to the user's phone and other Nest devices in the house if it detects smoke.

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