IoT Fuels The Connected Enterprise

Brought to you by HARMAN’s Engineering a Connected Life program. The views and opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent HARMAN’s positions, strategies or opinions.

The Internet of Things as a concept isn’t a new one; the phrase itself was coined in 1999 by British entrepreneur Kevin Ashton. At the time he was working for Auto-ID Labs at the time. Though when he made the original statement he was talking about a network of RFID connected objects. As a result of numerous technologies advancing to a point where this larger IoT framework can become reality the Internet of Things has grown into a vastly larger entity today encompassing far more forms of connectivity as well as countless devices and reaching into numerous areas of our lives.

As the Internet of Things continues to grow, many estimates suggest IoT Devices are expected to reach 6.4 billion by the end of 2016 and spike up to 21 billion devices by 2020. Many of those devices will of course be found integrated into our personal lives. Many of the applications for connected devices will be integrated into our daily life and to deliver services for us from companies.

From an enterprise perspective I see three main issues that need to be dealt with from the tech perspective: management of connected devices that are deployed to the customer, a flexible cloud infrastructure to handle services and data collection, and a solid analytic backend to help enterprise make use of the data that is generated through the connected devices and their interactions. So, lets take a closer look at these three underpinning needs for a successful IoT deployment.

Device management might seem like a no brainer, but making use of the device management platform in the right way to best serve the end user for the product and services they desire is key. One way a device management platform can be leveraged is by ensuring that the devices are up to date at all times. It is much easier for the enterprise to push updates to devices then to rely on the consumers to do so. This approach ensures that the device is always up to date and that any security concerns due to out of date software are mitigated. Another benefit of utilizing a device management platform to update devices is that it ensures that the end user will continue to receive consistent services without experienced any negative effects that might be the cause of out of date software conflicts.

A device management solution always lays the groundwork that allows the enterprise the flexibility to facilitate connectivity between devices and consumers in new ways. Being able to have a smart electric car talk with a smart home and coordinate lowest cost and most efficient charging schedule based on known events in a calendar are just one way a device management platform might facilitate such communication. Another way would be by tapping into what is arguably the center of the smart home, the TV. Smart TVs are a mainstay of today’s tech landscape and finding new ways to leverage their connectivity and prominent place in the modern home can be the key to deliver new and useful services to the consumer.

There is likely little question that no single technology facilitates the rapid expansion of the Internet of Things more so than that cloud. Cloud technology has it made it possible to do far more than just connect a single device to the Internet; it has truly become the glue that makes the Internet of Things such a powerful force. The cloud has allowed companies to create suites of devices that can all connect back to a single platform hosted in the cloud and communicate together, store their data and be controlled. But it also allows for delivery of services to end devices that are capable of offering them.

Some of the more familiar applications of the cloud are Software As A Service or SAAS, it has actually become quite a common model today. Another popular cloud application is Platform As A Service or PAAS which makes it possible to build and maintain applications without the need to develop their own infrastructure, and ideal fit for companies which want to service connected customers but do not have the scale to offer a robust infrastructure to support them. SAAS and PAAS would not be possible without connectivity, and luckily there is no lack of that when it comes to the IoT. For companies looking offer services to their customers through connected devices being able to leverage the cloud and platform or dedicated providers to do so can be a big advantage in time and money.

The third piece to offering real value to customers through connected devices, and ultimately in deriving value from the Internet of things is tying everything together with an analytics platform that allows you to leverage the data which is collected by the connected devices. Data is at the heart of connectivity; devices collect data from their environment and can report back on their interactions with other devices and users. Collecting this type of data can allow a provider to better fine tune their service in real time as well as deliver more value to the end user by tailoring the service more specifically to them.

Having all devices tied back to a cloud platform allows the service provider to look at individual user data as well as groups of user data. This can allow the provider to identify trends in usage and even predict what areas of their service might become more popular, allowing them to make smarter business decisions. Collection of data also gives the provider the ability to produce historic reports so usage growth over time can easily be visualized. Of course dealing with data comes with some issues and risks such as data ownership and how to deal with a large breach. Dealing with the idea of data ownership up front in a privacy policy is always a good idea, make it easy to understand and clear so the user is less likely to be confused. Data, and large collections of data are always going to be at risk, but if a company of provider can come up with a way to make it anonyms much of the value to a thief can be removed right away, it lessens your risk exposure.

When it comes down to it connectivity of devices offers companies many new options in ways to better service their customers and provide new and exciting services for the end users. But connectivity is just the first step, the devices need to be managed, they need a cloud platform they can connect back to and that will collect the data and they absolutely must have an analytic engine to make use of all that sweet data that they are collecting and generating. Not every company is going to be in a position to build all of these aspects themselves which is why it makes sense to utilize companies that already have such an infrastructure in place, it will save time on development and costs on deploying and maintain such an infrastructure. But ultimately it will get you to market quicker, leave you more flexible and allow you to better service your customer, which is what every company wants.

 

 

A Fun Pro Blogger Meetup in Bangkok

A few weeks ago I was a speaker at the Bangkok Entrepreneurs Internet of Things event that was co-sponsored by DRVR. The event went great and my talk about using telematics data to improve urban life was well received so that was a great outcome.

Like any Meetup event there is always a fair amount of networking that goes on after the event. Though I meet a number of really fantastic people there was one gentleman who stood out and was trying to meet just about everyone he could, Jeet. A fun and energetic guy who was there to meet other tech minded people and recruit them for his pro blogger event the following week.

Blogger meetup

I don’t always monetize my blogs, but I figured it was worth going to see what the event was all about.

The event was essentially a pitch session for an ad network called Revenue Hits, which really wasn’t too bad, they didn’t do a high pressure pitch or anything, they laid out the information for their network and referral program along with it’s pros and cons. Everything seemed to be on the up and up. I don’t think an ad network like that is the right fit for me, but there were defiantly several bloggers at the event who thought it would be a better solution than the ad networks they were currently enrolled in.

Like any event like this the networking you do tends to be the most valuable. I have stayed in touch with Jeet who invited me and we have had a few solid exchanges since then, I think he and I have some value that we can offer to each other in the blogging space. I also meet two great locals Soma and Zipporah both talented entrepreneurs with great ideas and passion for their projects.

Ultimately I think the Meetup was a fantastic experience and I meet some wonderful people and made new friends. Time well spent.

Getting from Data to Knowledge

A big piece to the Internet of Things is the data that it generates; I often refer to this as the pot of gold at the end of the IoT Rainbow. The fact that connectivity is allowing us to capture so much data is a great thing. But we have to keep in mind that this is really just raw data, this is the commodity we have to process the raw data into a new viable product, and that takes a few steps.

d-i-k

I think the obvious first step is to have the devices in place and connected to collect the data and send it off to the cloud to be processed. After it is sent off is when the second step of the process begins. That raw data can be crunched and analyzed into information. Now there are a lot of ways that this can be tackled depending on if someone wants predictive analytics or a historical view for trending. But regardless of the approach that data has to be turned into information that can be acted upon.

Once we have information, the process is not finished. That data has to make the final transition into knowledge. We make that transition by putting the information in front of the user in a way that is easy for them to understand and on a UI that is intuitive for them to use while interacting with the data.

We can collect all the data in the world, but if it has not been processed down and turned into information and then knowledge for the user then it has no real value.

IoT Without the Internet?

I recently took a trip to Northern Thailand to support a volunteer effort at a school that serves a rural hill tribe. The project was backed by two Thai startups Knit by Jib and Drvr. Both outstanding startups that value the idea of doing social good and believe that education is a fundamental necessity.village back of truck

This school itself isn’t
to easy to get to. After taking an overnight train from Bangkok to Chaingmai we still had two days of travel ahead, including the last leg which was a three h
our drive in a 4×4 truck through mountain roads and paths.

While I was visiting this village I was wondering how could I help this school through my specific set of knowledge and capabilities with the Internet of Things, there was just one issue. The village the school serves is completely off the grid, no power, no Internet and just to get a mobile signal you have to travel about 15km. How do you get the benefit of the IoT without actually having Internet, or power for that matter?

Well the power issues is fairly easy to address, this is Thailand after all and sun is one thing we have in abundance. There are a number of low power devices that can run via solar power and can be contained in a weatherproof case of some kind.

Village 1Of course there are solution in place for such lacks of connectivity, a device can cache data and then send it back up to the cloud later for analysis. Or a mobile device can be used to query sensors once they are in range to get real time data.Village kids

So, the tech solutions are there, now just finding out how IoT can help this school was the key. I spent a lot of time exploring the area around the school and talking with the teacher to assess what the school needs to help provide a better learning environment for the community they serve.

Water is really the primary concern for the school at this point. They can only get fresh water about five months out of the year. Water, being sort of essential for life and all, clearly moves to the top of the list. Knit by Jib is working on a project now that will help extend how high up on the stream the schools water is sourced from; which should allow them to get clean, fresh water year round.

Just because the IoT can’t physically bring the water to the school doesn’t mean it won’t have a role to play. I can envision sensors used for the water tanks at the school to measure level, letting the teacher know when they need to turn the valves on to fill the tanks, or even possibly some sensors to check water quality, I still have some more research to do on this front.

Another issues that the teachers face is nutrition, as the diet of the locals is very limited. It is often the case that the only balanced meal the students get each day is prepared by the teachers at school. To this end the teachers are currently running a school garden where they grow the village_rainbowfood that is used in some of the students meals. An automated watering system linked to a soil moisture sensor seems to be a simple project that can be put together to help out in this regard. Of course because there is no electricity in this village the system would have to be solar powered so it could operate consistently, and then that whole system would need to be maintained. All are interesting challenges.

Ultimately it comes down to how much benefit can this school get from technology projects like this. Just installing them could help a little bit, but I am unsure how much benefit it would really be. I have been thinking that the biggest help these projects could accomplish would be as a learning experience for the children and maybe provide some inspiration along the way. The point of these projects and outreach is to benefits the school in its mission to provide quality education to this remote, rural area. I have a lot more thought to put into this before I can decide what, if any benefit can be offered through technology. I will be sure to post more here as I work through ideas.

The Internet of Things: Shaping The Future of the Automotive Industry

This article is part of the ‘Think Further’ series sponsored by Fred Alger Management. For more ‘Think Further’ content, please visit www.thinkfurtheralger.com.

The idea behind the Internet of Things is providing connectivity to everyday items. Many of these items are things that we interact with repeatedly throughout the day. While it’s becoming common to see new items come to market ready to be connected to the Internet, collect data and be controlled remotely we are still moving through the integration process for existing items to be brought online.

One such item is the vehicles that we use to move around our environment. The vast majority of us don’t upgrade our cars every year, and the average age of cars on the road is trending upward, which means most of us will be waiting a bit longer before we slide in behind the wheel of a brand new connected car.

Connecting our vehicles to the Internet of Things can offer a fair amount of benefit if the right technology and platforms are put in place; which is why finding ways to integrate connectivity into legacy cars is a challenge worth confronting.

While auto manufacturers can outfit new cars with connectivity, computers and sensors that provide valuable, actionable data for the driver, the owners of legacy vehicles have to find ways to augment their current rides. They need devices capable of tapping into the current on board computers to capture data, they need platforms that can analyze the raw data and convert it into actionable information and they need ways to move it to the cloud so they can access it remotely.

Connectivity and capacity 

The medium to connect vehicles to the Internet making them part of the Internet of Things is a fairly obvious choice. The almost ubiquitous nature of mobile networks around the world makes them ideally suited for the task. Of course mobile coverage, as wide reaching as it has become, it’s not 100%, which is why an opportunistic approach would have to be taken. Using mobile networks when coverage is available; which for most of us would be the majority of the time. Jumping on known and trusted Wi-Fi networks when possible. The last option would be buffering data when there is no network available, sending the data later when a connection can be established.

Providing connectivity to legacy vehicles in this way could be established in a few different ways. The primary option would be to embed a SIM card in the device being used to capture the raw data from the vehicle so it could connect directly to mobile networks when they are available. This would require a mobile data service plan of some sort, but since the amount of data would be relatively small the cost would be low and the capacity for use cases such as this could be moved to a legacy 2G or 3G mobile network as to not impact capacity on more advanced networks used for handsets and other devices requiring more bandwidth.

The second option would be to embed Bluetooth technology into such devices and pair them to the drivers’ smartphone to take advantage of the existing data plan. This solution would likely provide a cheaper alternative and would make it easier to identify different drivers depending on which phone was used. But, it would not have the benefit of offloading capacity from the handset network. This model would also be dependent on the driver having his or her own smartphone, having Bluetooth activated and having to ensure it is paired with the device.

Where Mobile Comes into Play 

Though the drivers smartphone might not be the ideal choice to provide connectivity for a connected vehicle they do have a role to play, and an important one at that. Like many devices that fall under the Internet of Things umbrella there is not always a way to directly interact with them. The devices being used to make a legacy car a connected car fall into the same category. The device likely won’t have any physical output or input method; this is where the smartphone comes into play.

In much the same way the smartphone enables us to interact with other smart devices it will likely take on the form of the user interface for a car that has been augmented with connected technology.

In many ways the smartphone is the perfect choice to act as the user interface for the Internet of Things. It’s a device that is common and one that the user is familiar with. In most cases the interactions with the smartphone are intuitive and become second nature to the user.

Familiarity and pervasiveness are not the only reasons that a smartphone is the perfect fit to drive the user experience for a connected vehicle. Having the user interface based on a smartphone makes it easy and convenient to communicate with the user.

Wearables Are a Nice Fit

One of the great aspects about the Internet of Things is that interactions are not limited to a single device and a human. A key feature being that multiple devices can work in concert to improve the user experience. To this end wearable technology seems to be the best fit to further augment the connected car experience.

It is easy enough to start simple, an RFID or power harvesting NFC chip embedded in a ring or smart watch to unlock or start a car. That technology is already well developed, easy enough to implement in a vehicle and serves to accomplish a well-defined function. Replacing a traditional key for something smaller and more functional would be a welcome benefit for most, and if paired with a second factor authentication like some biometric marker could add another layer of security.

But there is no reason to stop at simple wearables when talking about interactions with the connected vehicle. Wearables that offer augmented reality could improve the drivers experience but also their ability to operate the vehicle safely. By displaying dash information directly in front of the driver preventing them from having to take their eyes off the road. There is no need to stop at displaying dash info though. Augmented reality could also take up the role of providing additional safety information about things like road conditions and weather to help the driver make better decisions in real time.

The Smart City

Our cars are just part of the equation, and connecting them another. Much in the same way we can count on interactions with other tech like smartphones and wearables to enhance the experience we can also look forward to our vehicles interacting with the very environments we use them to traverse.

The visions of smart cities are far and wide, everything from how buildings are powered to the way trash is collected and streets are cleaned falls under this umbrella. But lets think how our cars interact with the smart city of the future.

In a truly smart city our cars will talk to each other as well as the roads, crosswalks, tollways and parking structures. Vehicles will communicate with each other, knowing how far they are and keeping a safe distance while staying informed of communicating traffic patterns, as they are experienced in real time. Sensors in the road will feed back information about their current state so the car can calculate how the surface temperature will impact tire performance. Crosswalks will send out signals informing cars of pedestrians in the walkway so they slow their approach.

One of the biggest benefits our connected cars will bring us in the smart city of the future will likely be in how we store them, also known as parking. Our cars, once connected will be able to communicate with the smart cities parking meters and parking structures so we know where the nearest available parking spot is. There won’t be any more guesswork, no more slowing driving around the block with the hopes of maybe, just maybe finding a spot. Just by preventing people from that action of slowly driving around looking for a parking spot a great deal of traffic could be mitigated, making the smart city a much nicer place to drive your connected car.

More Than Just an Alarm

Like with anything connected to the Internet, security has to be more than just considered, it has to be implemented from the ground level. Connectivity opens up vulnerabilities, as the cars we drive become more computer and less steam engine security means a lot more than keeping a thief out of the drivers seat. The data generated by the vehicle has to be kept just as protected, if not more.

The cars systems need to be isolated to help prevent attacks on the data and the drivers themselves. As exciting as any new technology is, it is not without its weaknesses. If these weaknesses are allowed to be exploited it could cause significant risk. This is why security for any connected device needs to be paramount.

Tying it all Together

As the Internet of Things continues to bring connectivity to more devices the picture becomes clearer. The connected car will reach far beyond the dashboard and the inner workings of your ride. Sure, the connected car of the future will be able to help us improve driver behavior to be safer and friendlier to the environment, but it will also work with other tech as part of process. It will work with our wearables to make the driving experience easier and safer, it will communicate to us through our mobile devices giving us updates on how our car is doing when we are away from it and it will talk to the city it is in to help us stay safe and save us time.

Connected car technology has a long way to go, and it will come in waves. New cars will have it integrated right from the sales floor, while older cars will be augmented with a number of devices. Since cars are staying on the road longer, a trend that is likely for the foreseeable future it’s a good idea to put standards in place sooner rather than later so cars from different eras of connectivity can still talk to each other and their surroundings.

The benefits that the Internet of Things will bring to the car are clear, getting there will be the challenge. There are a lot of moving parts to the puzzle for the connected car; but as they begin to fall into place the possibilities will be infinite.

Pizza Box IoT

The other night I ordered a pizza for dinner, big surprise, right. But, it got me thinking; how could a little bit of IoT technology improve my pizza experience. We have all seen the lame Pizza Tracker that Dominos uses in the US that basically gives you an estimation regarding where your pizza is in the process. Dominos can do this because their shops are very standardized, but it’s still just an estimation, at best.

Retail and food service are really a good fit for customer facing Internet of Things solutions; it’s just a matter of finding the right mix to put in place. I think here I will lay out a proposal and even though I am framing this around pizza delivery there is no need to think of it in such a narrow view, if done right it could really apply to any food delivery, but who doesn’t love pizza.

My Pizza

Preparation

Any pizza lover knows that crafting the perfect pizza starts with preparation. Since we don’t have edible sensors just yet we need to think of a different way to track a pizza as it’s made and how to offer feedback to the customer.

Lets imagine a system that links the order to the pan that your pizza will be cooked in. From the moment you place your order that pan will be tracked in the shop. Now just tracking the pan through the shop isn’t enough, we need other sensors in place so that when the pan is in proximity to them we can see how the data relates to each other.

Now that the dough is in the pan the next step is to bring it to the prep station, it goes from sauce, to cheese, to toppings all before entering the oven. Each of the containers holding the individual toppings could be fitted with weight sensors. When the pan linked to your order comes to rest in front of each section the information showing the weight of each ingredient used could be displayed. Your pizza gets 100g of sauce, 200g of cheese, 55g of black olives and 43g of mushrooms before it’s placed into the oven.

The next step in the process is where the magic happens; your pizza is cast into the oven. At this phase you may want to know how long it is cooking for and at what temperature it’s at. However; it is conceivable that some shops may not want to divulge such information, trade secrets and all. In those cases I guess just time in the oven would have to do.

How it Holds Up

After the pie is taken from the oven and boxed we are going to want to keep track of how it’s doing. Of course we are going to want the pizza delivered hot. To that end having the pizza box report back the temperature inside so we can gauge how hot the pizza is and how much it has cooled while it was out for delivery would be fantastic.

Most food delivery gets sent out in some type of thermal packaging to keep the food from losing too much heat in the process. I would say in most cases this is going to be enough. If active heating is used to keep the food warm then it could dry out during the delivery, just like if your food is left under the heating lamps at a restaurant before your waiter brings it out to the table. If this were the case then perhaps a humidity sensor would be a nice touch as well, though to be honest I have never ben delivered a dry pizza, this might come more into play with other foods though, fish perhaps?

Location, Location, Location

Now we get down to the delivery, this is where that sweet, sweet pizza is transported from the shop to your door. Back in the US they come via car; here in Thailand normally the pie arrives via scooter with a hot box on the back. Either way the solution is pretty much straightforward. One option is that the vehicle can be outfitted with a telematics device that provides GPS location, but considering most delivery people use their personal vehicles to deliver your pie that is an unlikely solution.

The second option, which is far more feasible and more likely, would be to have a smartphone app for the driver that knows which orders they have been assigned and reports the location of the pie as the driver traverses his route. The shop could even make use of geo-fencing to notify the customer once the driver has left the shop with their order and ping the customer again once the pizza is within a specific range of their home.

Payment

So, now we have ordered the pizza, it has been made and out for delivery, it gets to our door and now we have to pay for it. But damn, you forgot to go to the ATM to get cash. This is the last step before we can enjoy that pizza, before we can sink our teeth into that hot, doughy, cheesy goodness. The Internet of Things offers us one last solution to make this payment painless. Of course there are a number of devices on the market like Strip and Square that can be plugged into a smartphone to swipe a credit card. But why should we have to actually handle the card.

The best option for the payment of our piping hot pizza would be to use Near Field Communications (NFC), it’s fast, secure and simple. It used to be that only Android devices could play with NFC, but since Apple has begun to include the technology in the iPhone and paired it with Apple Pay its ubiquity makes it a great choice. The delivery person could hold either a phone equipped with an app that accepts payment or have a completely separate device for accepting payment, then email the receipt directly to the customer. Fast, easy, and now we are ready to eat.

Sinking Our Teeth In

A system like the one described here might be a ways off for your average pizza shop, and even still unlikely for big chains but the idea is novel. I think some aspects of this system could be implemented in the food service industry for a variety of uses. The bigger idea here is that the way we use IoT is limited only by our imaginations. Connectivity vastly enhances what “things” can do for us and how we can use them. Tracking a pizza from pan to mouth might seem like a small thing, but I hope this is the connected future I have to look forward to. If we can do this with pizza, just imagine what else we can accomplish with larger issues.

Why Wearable Tech Didn’t Work For Me

About a year ago I started to use a piece of wearable tech to track my activity levels. I picked up a Jawbone up from a shop in Bangkok and with that my wearable journey began. Like any new relationship things started off great, I unboxed and charged my Jawbone and would wear it every day. And I stuck with the everyday use for about 3 months, until it stopped working.

Jawbone Up

My Up Jawbone is on the shelf…

Once the Jawbone stopped working I reached out to the company via twitter and they were all over my request for a replacement. They shipped one too me here in Thailand, no questions asked. Once it arrived in the mail I started to wear the Up again, and things were going well, until it started to irritate my skin while jogging. I tried a few lotions and some other possible solutions, but the more I wore the device the worst it got.

So, just before the six-month mark I fell into the category that most wearable tech users do, and that is I stopped using, and at right around the same time. Even though I was committed to using it continuously when I got it, and I did find real value in the way it allowed me to track my activity and the gamification of my data against my friends who have the device that wasn’t enough to motivate me to keep using it. A few small issues lead to me shelving the device once and for all.

I still wanted to track my activity levels as I spend most of my time at a desk, or table, or some other place where I can work on my laptop or tablet; either coding, writing or reading. Since I was no longer hot on the idea of an activity tracker as a wearable I had to figure out how to approach it.

Pacer app

Pacer allows me to keep track of my activity without an extra device!

The one item I always have on me is my smartphone, which was the gateway device for the Jawbone anyway. In reality, my iPhone has all the sensors it needed to do the job of the Up, I just needed to find an app that would fit the need and that provided me a good user experience. After much researching and some trial and error I ended up going with an app called Pacer. I just let it run in the background on my phone and it takes advantage of all the sensors in my phone to keep track of my activity level for me and allows me to look at trends and analyze my activity. It also allows me to create groups of friends and we can track our progress against each other and having fun with it.

Ultimately this experience reinforced the idea that single use wearables will have a very short market life. The pervasiveness of smartphones that are packed with sensors and have a massive library of apps available will be their demise. Now my wrist is no longer irritated and I still have all the benefits of the wearable without the hassle of having to put something on every day.

My CompTIA SME Workshop Experience

I recently made the trip from Bangkok to Chicago to take part in a CompTIA Network+ Subject Mater Expert (SME) exam development workshop. The Network+ was one of the first industry certifications I had earned and it played a part in getting my career on the track it is today, so I was excited to have been invited to participate in the workshop and be part of that process from the other end.

The focus of the workshop was developing and reviewing questions for a new version of the Network+ exam and making sure they were appropriate for the level of the exam and that they mapped to specific knowledge and skills which CompTIA is looking to test the candidates on.

I was always impressed with CompTIA exams and the value they bring to the industry, but after having taken part in the exam development process I am even more confident in the quality and value of the CompTIA exams.

A lot of things impressed me about the weeklong workshop, and I wont list them all, but I will touch on the key points that really highlight why the experience was so outstanding and why it reinforces to me the quality and value of the exams.

Though this workshop brings together industry experts to tap into their knowledge and develop the exam the workshop itself would not be possible if it were not for the outstanding and professional staff at CompTIA, which organize and run the workshop. They run the workshop efficiently and effectively from start to finish all while maintaining a vibrant and relaxed work environment; which from what I can tell is a direct reflection of the overall culture at CompTIA.

I cannot say enough good things about the staff at CompTIA. Without exception, every single individual that I interacted with impressed me in so many ways and on so many levels.

The second factor that really enhanced the whole experience for me was the quality and diversity of the SMEs that were brought into help with exam development. It was clear that a great deal of effort had been made to find highly qualified individuals from varying backgrounds, all with expertise in a different subset of Network+ objectives.

Each SME at the workshop wielded some impressive knowledge and had the experience to back it up. Some might think that there would be a lot of ego floating around in a group like that, but nothing could be further from the truth. Each of the SMEs knew what they were experts at and knew what they didn’t know, that lead to a working environment were people were openly helping one another and contributing to the groups goal.

If you read this far you already know I thought this was an enjoyable and rewarding experience. For me the enjoyment came from working with knowledgeable and professional individuals for a week. While the reward came from being able to utilize the knowledge and skills I have gained over the course of my career and be able to contribute something that will be part of someone’s journey in the IT field, I have been able to contribute back to something that was one of my first steps in the industry and now the work I have done will be reflected in the same step for the next generation of networkers and IT professionals, and just thinking of that makes me pretty happy!

What is The Future of Wearable Tech?

A while back I had a brief exchange with @TereSense on Twitter about the direction that wearable tech has to take in order to offer true value to the consumer, which really got me thinking about the topic.

Wearable tech is at a great stage in its development the popularity of smartphones and the utilization of technologies like Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) have allowed us to utilize our smartphones as the gateway for countless wearable tech devices.

I have already written about the need for design in the wearable space for CMS Wire so here I will talk about the functionality that will need to develop in order for wearable tech to be a real game changer.

There is no doubt that the large number of wearable devices we see in the market today will be integrated into more sophisticated devices as the footprint of chips are reduced and their power consumption can be constrained.

Right now the vast majority of the devices we use require another device, most commonly our smartphone to act as the gateway and provide Internet connectivity. While this in itself is not an issue for the most part, it limits the overall functionality to require that it constantly be tethered to a host device of some sort.

Double Smart Watch

One of the more popular types of devices right now are fitness and health trackers, It doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to imagine that these functions will be intergraded into a far more functional smart watch. Though such a device would offer far greater functionality and usability it will stiff suffer from the same major deficiency, that it must be tethered to a gateway device to offer its full range of functions.

As wearable devices develop greater functionality it will really make sense that they are able to live without being tethered to another device. Once that is the case wearable devices may very well begin to outpace and even replace mobile devices.

Another one of the factors that is currently holding back a wider range of wearable functionality is the limitations on the user interface. For the most part now we are constrained to interact with our wearables through our smartphone or in a manner similar to our smart phone where we have to make physical contact with the device in some manner.

Though Siri has been a feature on the iPhone for some time now, it still lingers around as more of a novelty than as a serious UI consideration. Though I think Siri is a move in the right direction, and it does seem to have improved since it was first integrated with iOS in 2011 there is still a long way it needs to go before it is considered viable as a UI replacement.

When a UI like Siri can offer the same type of control and experience as physically interacting with a device can then it is time to think about applying it to wearable devices and allowing them to take over much of the functions that our smart phones do today.

Of course talking to your device is not always going to be an option, so other non-verbal forms of interfacing with the device will need to be developed to go along with a verbal UI. The real key will be creating a UI or combination of UIs that allow the user to interact with the device without seeming awkward in any way. Until then, if you see me out someplace seemingly talking to myself please just assume I am trying to interface with a device and not just crazy!