Internet of Things (IoT) Tech Digest - May 2017

Satellite and LoRaWAN IoT test bed for Kigali

Inmarsat, a mobile satellite service provider, Actility, an IoT technologies company, and Jersey Telecom plan to turn Kigali, Rwanda, into an IoT-enabled smart city. The companies have deployed multiple proof of concept trials around the city. These include sensors inside buildings to monitor air quality, smart buses equipped with satellite Internet and collecting real-time data from the neighbourhoods they serve, and an agricultural IoT network to help improve crop yield and manage water resources. The city-wide network uses LoRaWAN and is planned to be active for a year.   

Walmart patent for monitoring consumer consumption

A Walmart patent application has shown the supermarket’s concept of connected sensors that monitor a consumers’ product choice, product consumption, and connects it to an automated reordering system. Each product would have a sensor attached although the patent doesn’t outline a particular communication technology rather it suggests radio frequencies, Bluetooth, barcodes, and RFID tags. Quite how it hopes to get a patent, when this sort of system and process for using smart technology to track consumption has been talked about in industry for some years now, is not clear.

Verizon tests 5G with VR feed

Verizon, a US telecoms operator, and Ericsson, a network solutions provider, have demonstrated 5G cellular network technology in a moving car. The demonstration took place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The live demo involved streaming a 4K video over a 5G connection. The driver driving the vehicle used only the live video stream from a camera placed on the bonnet of the moving car in order to see where the car was going. The trial achieved downlink speeds of 6Gbit/s.

Omniscient sensor

Carnegie Mellon researchers have developed a plug-in device capable of ubiquitous monitoring of a room’s environment. The plug-in device (it can literally be plugged into a wall socket) can monitor multiple phenomena such as sounds, vibrations, light, heat, electromagnetic noise and temperature within the same room. The data from the sensors are run through a machine learning system that can identify any issues in the room such as a running tap. The team behind it says that the system can monitor when for example a towel dispenser has been emptied or how many towels have been used and then order more. The system can be trained to learn many other things such as heating cycles etc. There are no mentioned plans of developments of the system. 

Disney powering IoT 

Disney Research has been researching ambient backscatter communication (a method of converting existing radio waves into both a communication medium and the energy source to power it), in the hope that it will reduce the energy consumption required by sensors and low power devices to communicate. The idea being floated is a UWB Backscatter device that that collects and redirects commercial broadcast signals – in the 80 MHz to 900 MHz range from FM radios, digital TVs and cellular networks – to a universal backscatter receiver. The researchers demonstrated the simultaneous use of 17 ambient signal sources to send data from node to reader over a distance of 50 metres, with data rates of up to 1 kbps.  

Proactive insurance from Neos

Insurance technology startup Neos has developed a smartphone application that allows a user to monitor their home from a distance and alert them if anything is amiss such as a water leak detected by connected sensors and hardware. The company offers customers nine IoT enabled smart home devices such as window/door sensors, motion sensors, leak detectors, round the clock support, and unlimited building and contents cover underwritten by Hiscox, all of which can be managed from the app.  

Indoor mobile positioning system

ZTE, a network solutions provider, and China Mobile, a telecommunications operator, have demonstrated an indoor positioning system that uses Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) and ZTE’s QCell small-cell base stations. The demonstration took place in the Wanda Shopping Plaza in Beijing, China. The demonstration used a 4G cellular network and MEC to offer precise indoor navigation that helped customers find destinations, have an enhanced shopping experience and increased shopping efficiency. The claimed accuracy of the positioning system – it can detect a person’s position to within five metres – also enabled the drawing up of a user-related heat map for retailers to analyse – sending push notifications of offers, new goods, vouchers etc to those who might be receptive. 

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