Five Real Internet of Things (IoT) Scenarios

Technology is evolving so rapidly that the possibilities in front of us are limitless. Cloud, big data, analytics, IPv6, micro-computing, quantum computing, robotics, AI. It’s all coming together to create a perfect storm for perhaps the most exciting trend of all – the Internet of Things (aka, IoT).

What is the Internet of Things? Well, like a lot of big ideas, it can be defined in any number of ways. Let’s start with it’s the idea that you can leverage technology and the networks you create with it that when applied to various scenarios improves how things get done.

Like most ground-breaking ideas with the potential to revolutionize nearly everything we do, it will take some time for IoT standards to be established, for people to realize its potential, and for real-world scenarios to occur and drive adoption.

A real-world IoT scenario playing out in the market today is with wearables, which are being used to facilitate people being more productive, healthy, and safe.

Some other IoT devices are in use now, like the Amazon Echo (or “Alexis”, as “she” is referred to when taking voice direction) for home use and Electric Imp’s and Liberty Pump’s NightEye for use in business in the intelligent building sector.

All the tech players that you’d expect to be in the IoT game indeed are, including Amazon, Apple, IBM, Cisco, Intel, Microsoft, and many smaller players that are taking advantage of the opportunity.

Most cool new technologies begin with a vision, then follow a somewhat predictable hype cycle, followed by a slow, steady adoption curve.

For the adoption to occur, real-world scenarios have to reveal themselves. I’ve been paying special attention to situations in my own daily life where technology could have made my life easier, where implementing an IoT  solution could save me significant time, effort, and pain. The difference now is that all things are possible with IoT and associated advancements in tech.

Here are five scenarios where an IoT implementation will make a situation better:

  1. Swim competitions: Professional swimming competitions are already largely automated. Touch pads in the pool record swimmers’ times, which are immediately displayed when a heat is finished. However, local club swim meets require a significant amount of volunteer coordination. In fact, for every meet, 3 volunteer swim timers are required for every lane. For an eight-lane pool, that’s 24 volunteers for the first half of a meet and 48 timers for the second half of a meet (a typical meet is 60+ events and close to 100 heats). Most of these volunteers are parents of swimmers and would rather be helping to prepare their children for their races. With IoT there would be little need for volunteer timers. Pools would be enabled with timing devices, including failover/backup in case anything goes wrong with the automated timing systems.
  2. Sporting events: Referees could still make the initial call, but if the call is potentially controversial or game-changing, a crowd-sourced group of refereeing experts could confirm or reverse the call in real-time after quick review of the video. While in theory this could take more time and slow down games – a common complaint from “play review” naysayers – the new world of IoT will enable so many things in real-time that slowdowns won’t be a problem. And imagine how referees would appreciate the shift in shouldering the blame to the crowd-source panel of referees.
  3. Stolen bicycles. Bicycles are easy to steal. When I was in grade school, my bike was stolen from the front of my friend’s house. We were playing in the backyard and my bike was parked in the friend’s driveway on a quiet street. I never saw that bike again. With IoT, stolen bikes could become a thing of the past, as new bikes would become equipped with small IoT devices that would be hidden in a tire or inside the body and ping every few seconds to a geo-location service as soon as a bike begins moving.
  4. Dog “deposits”: Perhaps only dog lovers can appreciate this scenario, as it’s definitely not the most elegant use case for IoT. In my neighborhood, well-behaved dogs are allowed to roam off-leash. While owners are fairly diligent about picking up after their dogs, in order to pick up after a dog, the owner really have to be with the dog at all times to know where they leave their deposit. At some point, dog owners will have a very small IoT transponder/geolocation device to put in the dog’s food that will communicate when it leaves the dog’s body to a smart phone app so the dog owner can go find it and pick up the deposit from the off-leash dog.
  5. Personal safety. IoT also has the potential to also address life and death scenarios. Wearables have been available for those situations where an elderly or disabled person has fallen (and can’t get up) or similar.
    1. Imagine a wearable (and associated IoT infrastructure components) that knows when a disabled person is horizontal, not in their bed, and can automatically test or call a list of emergency contacts to ensure the person is safe.
    2. If we take this first safety use case a little bit further and apply it to the most vulnerable in our society – young children – and the all-too-common scenario of getting locked inside of a hot car. Again, imagine a “system” that monitors young children in a car. I use the term system here because it might be a combination of wearable and car IoT components that combine to protect against hot car death scenarios. Perhaps the child has a wearable that includes a heat sensor and location transponder. And maybe the car is equipped with redundant geolocation transponder, motion and sound sensor, and the ability to initiate an emergency call. As soon as the child’s wearable reaches a heat threshold, a call would be made to the mother’s cell phone, the father’s cell phone, and 911.
  6. Bonus scenario. Rechargeable batteries. I can’t believe the number of electronic devices that now come with a rechargeable battery: Smartphone, tablet, laptop, razor, video camera, digital SLR camera, electric drill, et al! All of these use various types of rechargeable batteries and several come with multiple batteries. Batteries that are not charged become discharged and no longer do their job. If we apply #IoT to this scenario, a battery could include the ability to communicate with a smartphone app to alert the user where it is and that it needs to be charged.

These are just a few examples of real-world scenarios where IoT will completely transform  how things get done. The number of scenarios where IoT can be applied to increase an efficiency and make people’s lives better is infinite. Naturally, it will take some time for people to recognize scenarios where applying IoT would make sense.

In addition, a lot of market changes still need to happen before we see a lot of these scenarios addressed by IoT solutions. In the meantime, I’m going to continue to keep my radar up for those real-life situations that are ripe for an IoT solution.

Long live (well, fast adoption) the Internet of Things!

Check out my tweets on Twitter @krisoccer.

 

How To Activate Dell Fingerprint Reader

Change continues at a feverish pace in the smart device market, with fast connections, long battery life, and biometric security. Many have experienced the benefits of all day battery life and Touch ID biometric logons with their Apple iPhones.

Meanwhile, my newish Dell laptop is limited to less than 1.5 hours of battery life without attaching a cord and hardware interfaces that don’t come from the factory fully activated.

Take the fingerprint reader, for example. It comes standard on various Dell laptop models, but Windows (10, in this case) doesn’t even ship with drivers to enable the user to leverage this fingerprint reader to authenticate via a finger swipe. C’mon man! In other words, in its default state, the fingerprint reader doesn’t do anything till you “activate” it.

The good news is that Dell has easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions on how to enable the fingerprint reader to make the process of logging into Windows, desktop, and web applications a breeze. Sorry, just kidding. Dell has some cryptic instructions that a person with average technical know-how would have a difficult time navigating. 

Dell does have some decent online sources, but you need to be willing to invest the time trying to figure out what might work. Hence, our goal is to provide step-by-step instructions for how to get your Dell fingerprint reader working.

First, my configuration: Dell Latitude E6440 64-bit laptop with Windows 10 (also 64-bit), 1TB hard disk, 16GB RAM. Nothing too out of the ordinary.

And here’s what you get when you leverage the fingerprint swipe capability that comes with your laptop – an extremely convenient logon experience. When all is said and done (what we’re going to cover in this blog post), all you have to do is swipe your finger across the reader and you will automatically be logged onto your computer.

If you compare the time it takes to perform a manual login by typing that increasingly complicated and lengthy password to the time it takes to swipe a finger, you’ll be more than willing to spend a little time upfront configuring your computer to leverage this feature.

Another benefit is the added layer of protection with biometric (fingerprint, retina, etc.) security, enabling you to have a complicated password that you rarely need to use because you’ve modernized the way you login with a finger swipe. Good on ya, mate!

Dell provides a reasonable quantity of online resources for customers to help themselves. So the first step in the process is to go to Dell.com and click on the Support link. You’ll be asked to identify your product via a search, Service Tag number, or by downloading and installing an app onto your local machine that can identify your exact laptop model.

I went ahead and downloaded, installed, and ran the Dell discovery app. It automatically found the relevant information, which then populated the Dell web application.

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Knowing laptop model# and Service Tag# is necessary before continuing the process.

The tricky part about enabling almost any technology is that steps have to be processed in a particular chronological order for it to work properly. The fingerprint reader is no exception. In fact, Dell’s lists necessary components in an order that’s inconsistent with the required install order.

Once you have the model# and service tag information, it’s really just a 3-step process to enable the reader: Install Dell Data Protection (DDP) Security Tools, install Dell Data Protection Encryption, and finally install the ControlVault driver.

First, download and install DDP Security Tools. Restart. Next, download and install DDP Encryption. Restart.

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Install these two components opposite of the order in which they’re listed.

The final install component is the Dell ControlVault driver for the fingerprint reader. It’s available from the same general location as the Dell Data Protection files previously downloaded and installed.

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Clicking on the “View details” link confirms this applies to the fingerprint reader.

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You’ll need to set up an administrative password for accessing the Dell Security Tools  utility. Be sure to save this in a safe place, like a post-it note stuck to your monitor… No, please don’t do this! That’s the old-school method. Many new and improved ways exist to manage credentials.

The whole purpose here is to increase our security, not create another breach point. Use a free or paid password manager like 1Password, LastPass, or KeePass to store the growing number of credentials for the plethora of mobile and web apps you leverage on a daily basis.

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To start using the fingerprint reader, you need to “enroll” fingerprints

When all is said and done (all components installed and working), you should have five separate entries populating the Windows Programs & Features utility.

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Windows utility Programs & Features looks like this when all component have been installed

Use the utility to “enroll” fingerprints so that you can login to your device with just a finger swipe. You should be completely set up and ready to go now. Time to test how it works.

Although visual artifacts seem to indicate that you need to be at a specific point on the logon screen before you can use a fingerprint to login, you can login from the home screen with a swipe without first clicking on the fingerprint swipe option.

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It’s unnecessary to click on the fingerprint login icon before swiping a finger to authenticate

Fingerprint reading and biometric authentication technology in general are still only moderately reliable. That is, the reader may not always recognize your fingerprint swipe and you’ll want to have access to your userid/password login credentials.

Similar to many programs, Dell Data Protection adds a desktop shortcut for quick access during the install process. I also like to pin important applications to my Windows task bar.

Like the computer keyboard and mouse, someday biometric authentication will be built into all pertinent devices we use and the necessary drivers and software will run and work without manual intervention. Until then, let’s continue to document the steps necessary to get features like the fingerprint reader to work so that we can save time and also improve security of our devices and data.