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Where The Wild Things Are, In The Internet Of Things

May 01, 2014 3:03 PM ETCSCO, GOOG, GOOGL, IBM, INTC, QCOM5 Comments
Bruce Krulwich profile picture
Bruce Krulwich


  • The Internet of Things is expected to include a large number of Internet-connected sensors, every-day objects and appliances.
  • One challenge not yet discussed is how connected "things" can track their own locations. Many uses for the Internet of Things requires knowing where the "things" are.
  • Several technologies are currently in development that will enable the Internet of Things to keep track of where the things are.

The upcoming Internet of Things, almost everyone agrees, will include a lot of Things. The Internet of Things refers to having real-world Things connected to the Internet. Different R&D projects are working on different types of Internet-connected Things, but all agree, there will be a lot of Things.

For some companies, such as Qualcomm (QCOM), Cisco (CSCO), and others, the Things include common appliances and objects around the home, such as coffee makers, teddy bears, light bulbs and wine coolers. For other companies, such as IBM (IBM), Intel (INTC), Google (GOOG, GOOGL), Cisco and others, the Things include huge numbers of sensors measuring cars on every road, pedestrians on sidewalks, and locations of buses and trains. Around the house, similar sensors can detect when doors are opened, when water leaks on the floor, when kids are walking around at night, and when appliances stop working.

These two visions of the Internet of Things, the first involving connected everyday objects and appliances, and the second involving connected networks of sensors, are the visions underlying R&D by dozens of companies researching the Internet of Things. Many predict that there will be over 50 Billion connected Things by 2020.

As the Internet of Things unfolds, one problem that arises is keeping track of locations of the Things. When 50 billion Things are out in the wild, how do we know where the Things are?

Consider a typical "smart city" project deploying thousands of sensors around a city to track the numbers of cars on the roads, the speeds at which they're moving, and so on. Projects of this sort often track traffic jams, parking space availability, traffic light effectiveness, situations of danger or crime, and more.

Part of deploying a project of this sort is keeping track of where all the sensors are, and

This article was written by

Bruce Krulwich profile picture
Founder of Grizzly Analytics. Now Director of Data Analysis at Seeking Alpha.

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Comments (5)

granger profile picture
GE and Quirky will also be players

ZBRA too
Bruce Krulwich profile picture
@Esekla tracking where things are outside is certainly a solved problem, inside is a lot more complex, and in small devices with no GPS or Wi-Fi or motion sensors it's even harder. I've profiled over a hundred companies in the indoor location space, all with different characteristics and all with different benefits & limitations. I've been tracking InvenSense's work in the area for years, and Broadcom and Qualcomm are doing well in the location chip space as well. But I would not write off the need for future work by saying that it's solved, it's definitely work in progress.
Income Clock profile picture
Indoor location is solved too, albeit not without some form of sensor or networking. If the networking is wireless then its power-hungry. If it's not then simple powerline communications does the trick.
Bruce Krulwich profile picture
@Esekla Can you give me an example of the solution to this "solved" problem? There are solutions in the process of rolling out, but as long as none of our smartphones can track location accurately indoors without apps that are not yet commonplace, I don't see how you can call it a solved problem. To be clear, there are MANY solutions being worked on. I profiled over 130 companies working on it here http://goo.gl/UvZnEU - but as long as the deployment and performance is still being worked on, I don't see how you can call it a solved problem. Can you comment on what you think the finished solution is?
Income Clock profile picture
Umm, tracking where things are is a solved problem, not one in development. Furthermore, it's mainly applicable to things that move regularly (not light bulbs). Things that move regularly are often battery powered, and wireless triangulation solutions are power hungry. Always on context processing is the far better approach.

If you're interested in growth in such areas, you should look at companies like InvenSense, and my articles on them. I hope to be publishing another tomorrow. They are dramatically reducing the cost, power consumption, and development overhead for such operations.
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