The commoditization of computer components has revolutionized the world. From smartphones to virtual reality headsets, abundant computing modules have changed the way we interact with things. But it isn't just the production of CPUs and screens that has sharply increased — new sensors for things like temperature, movement and noise are also being shipped at a rapid clip.
The Internet of Things connects all those sensors to create powerful databases that can increase efficiency, accuracy and transparency. Boston has plenty of companies working on bringing IoT devices online, from hardware manufacturers building the sensors to software firms making sure that information is being used.
Owl Labs designed its “Meeting Owl” to make video conferencing more personable and engaging, especially for remote employees. The Owl is the first 360 degree video conferencing camera that automatically focuses on the speaker, while the camera’s eight microphones locate and capture audio, no matter where the speaker is in the room. Watch it in action here.
Cambridge-based Soofa creates smart (and functional) city benches that not only provide a place to charge your phone with some solar juice while you take a break, but also track all kinds of data for the city. Things like air quality and noise levels can be monitored from afar to help city planners and even private landowners make better choices about infrastructure and future plans for spaces.
TempAlert uses arrays of sensors to help businesses monitor all kinds of things. It's products are used in increasing efficiency and oversight at pharmacies, in food prep and on the supply chain. The company's software and hardware solutions work together to improve compliance and offer a more comprehensive view of an entire organization.
Operating out of Cambridge, Superpedestrian is the maker of the Copenhagen Wheel, a semi-autonomous wheel that uses an electric assist robot to make biking more efficient. The wheel learns from your movement, capturing energy when you brake and then using it later to give you a needed boost. The wheel retrofits to most models so there’s no need for a new bike — you can use your existing ride.
Home security systems were one of the first real instances of the Internet of Things. Early systems were a bunch of sensors strewn around your house, sensing movement, door openings and shattering glass installed by specialized providers. They would then charge a fee to monitor those sensors from a central office. SimpliSafe brings security systems into the modern era, ditching the long-term contracts needed to support those central offices in favor of a simple, self-installed system that alerts you directly when something is wrong at home.
A video of a break-in can be a big help in finding the perp. Blink offers a home security camera that automatically records motion, alerting you and even letting you sound an alarm to scare off burglers. But Blink's camera also ditch the ugly wires for two AA batteries, which last for 2 years of normal use.
There are a lot of “things” in the Internet of Things, and making sure they can all talk to each other is vital for IoT to really take off. PTC helps companies make sure IoT devices fit into existing workflows so that they can innovate without constantly troubleshooting all these sensors.
For many people, the Internet of Things seems to encompass your everyday items like toasters and light bulbs that connect to Wi-Fi. But some less obvious appliances may also benefit from being hooked up to the internet. Ecovent produces a line of IoT HVAC vents that can monitor temperature room by room and close off the air to rooms that don’t need it. They also have a series of sensors to give users a better understanding of their homes on a room-by-room basis.
The Internet of Things isn’t just for your house. Manufacturers are also implementing IoT devices to track production data, keep an eye on inventory and even sense when parts of the assembly line are going to fail. Tulip’s IoT gateways connect equipment and sensors, allowing them to work in unison for increased manufacturing efficiency.
An overflowing trashcan is a problem. Not only will it lead to more litter falling into the gutter, but it will also attract pests that can spread harmful disease. BigBelly Solar’s trash cans alert waste management officials to almost-full cans before they spill over. And because these workers know exactly where a full trash can is, they waste less gas and time checking less-used cans.
IoT devices might seem like a territory reserved for tech-savvy early adopters, but the elderly can also benefit from more connected sensors as well. Senter uses data from IoT devices to monitor patients, helping doctors provide better care and understand illness. Paired with artificial intelligence, Senter reduces medical spending and prevents hospitalization by predicting health problems.
All the data collected with the Internet of Things is useless if it can’t be processed. Corto normalizes data from many sources to make it easier to digest and read. Then, a range of applications can use that data to help make IoT devices more useful. The open-source software also includes powerful data storage tools and sharing features.
IoT may seem like adding a Wi-Fi connection to everyday appliances, but the digital security of those devices is a major concern as more things are hooked up to the internet. LogMeIn’s Xively is an IoT platform that allows companies to securely access and manage connected devices without opening them up to hackers and digital thieves. With that security, companies can also safely monetize, track and even enhance IoT products from afar on the fly.