The Internet of Things

From concept to reality: Plans for a network that connects everything and everyone everywhere are well under way.
By John Edwards
On the Road to Everything Everywhere
Although IoT standards are far from complete, some organizations—particularly in Asia—are leveraging existing RFID protocols to develop IoT-like solutions. The U.S. government has not introduced any funding initiatives specifically earmarked for IoT projects, Halliday says. In Europe, after an initial spurt of enthusiasm and several trial projects, IoT development is now lagging. "We have to keep in mind that at the moment, people are tightening their belts and thinking about how much they spend," says Mark Harrison, director of the Auto-ID Labs at Cambridge University, in England. "They may not be willing to spend large amounts of money to embrace this Internet of Things. If it's available at very low cost, as a promotional feature or as an extra benefit to an existing product, then [businesses] will start to embrace it."

But enthusiasm for the IoT is building rapidly in China, according to Jeremy Liu, technical director of the U.S. division of Invengo Technology, an RFID systems developer in Shenzhen, China. "The Internet of Things is a very hot topic in China, where people know that RFID can enable it," Liu says. "People are focusing on how to use RFID and what RFID can do—RFID and now the Internet of Things. I think it's much more popular in China than it is in the West."

Halliday agrees, noting that at the end of last year, China announced that the Internet of Things was written directly into its five-year plan. Barthel, meanwhile, says he's seen an upswing in the number of IoT conferences being held in China. "Basically, they copied programs you could see in other countries, mostly Europe," he says.

Other Asian governments also are focusing on the IoT, Halliday observes. "I know the Korean government is financing things," he says. And he points to Japan's Tokyo Ubiquitous Technology project, which includes a neighborhood and attraction automated sightseeing system. A person walking through the feasibility experiment area with a smartphone will have his or her current location identified automatically. This allows the user to obtain information on nearby shops and restaurants, tourist attractions, events and transportation. The participant also can access a "virtual tour guide" and other functions that provide brief descriptions of key sights.
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