The Internet of Everyday Things

September 15, 2015 Ken Mihalyov & Lawrence Lee

Printed electronics are driving the future with endless possibilities. By using printing as a manufacturing process, we can create simple electronic devices at much lower cost and in a variety of form factors. This will drive new innovations such as smart labels, printed sensor technology and printed addressable memory that can revolutionize the grocery and pharmaceutical industries. Smart labels on medicine, packaged goods or produce can track information about temperature, movement and moisture to prevent spoilage and validate quality. These smart labels can also ensure product authenticity and secure tax stamps to help states improve the accuracy of sales tax collection.

These objects or “things” with sensors connected to the Internet comprise what is commonly known as the Internet of Things (IoT). Historically, Xerox contributed to the development of the IoT since before the term was even coined. At the cutting edge of the IoT evolution is the type of research and development that Xerox is undertaking today to build the Internet of Everyday Things – a digital nervous system with pervasive sensing and intelligence to make decisions based on real-time data streams in order to make life easier.

Beyond connecting these devices to the Internet, the real value comes from the overlay of applications on top of the data generated in order to solve problems. Today there are approximately 1 billion devices connected to the Internet and by 2020 there will be a staggering 50 billion.

Our early IoT applications include fleet management where we enabled printers to share internal sensor and performance data remotely so that service needs could be predicted and scheduled when convenient. Xerox also was an early pioneer in using the IoT in photo enforcement and toll collection systems. The red light, speed and school bus cameras capture information from streets and school buses and send it to transportation offices to help keep cities and citizens safe. And our toll collection systems connect toll transponders, or tags, in cars to a credit card or other designated account, allowing drivers to pass through tollbooths without stopping.

Going forward, we are using cameras to identify vehicles using License Plate Recognition, and the combination of LPR systems and toll transponders enables eliminating toll booths as a source of traffic congestion.  Toll transponders will likely evolve to more capable IoT devices based upon Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC), which can support a richer array of services, advising the driver of localized road weather conditions, dynamic speed limit changes, incidents ahead, road work zones, and other information relevant to the specific vehicle and its current location.

As the IoT grows, so does its potential to revolutionize the way agencies and governments work. Increasingly, government organizations are looking to the IoT to enable real-time information to support citizens and agency missions.

GOVERNING Magazine recently covered some of the benefits the IoT can bring to governments, stressing the importance of embracing these emerging technologies to optimize operations and bring value to organizations and communities.

  • Safety: Intelligent sensors can remotely locate methane gas leaks or ensure infrastructure integrity by alerting officials to safety threats that need to be addressed. Fiber optic sensors can be built into structures and instantly notify government officials when a building, bridge or road starts to weaken so it can be monitored or repaired.
  • Environment: Federal agencies are currently using IoT-linked sensors to track the bacterial levels of rivers and lakes and to monitor the energy efficiency of buildings deemed “green.”
  • Transportation: “Smart” cities are using IoT technologies to help direct drivers to open parking spaces and offer dynamic pricing to reduce traffic congestion and vehicle emissions from people driving around to find a parking space. With vehicle-to-infrastructure connectivity, traffic optimization is possible as well. Cities can prioritize emergency vehicles, facilitate ridesharing, and adjust traffic lights in real-time to keep traffic moving according to the number of cars on the road. Going forward, cities will leverage the IoT to enable mobility as a service, bringing together diverse public and private providers in a coordinated system.
  • Public Service: Sensors can be used to remotely monitor the level of waste in trashcans and optimize pickup routes. Waste management employees could be more efficient and productive because their routes would be designed based on which trashcans need to be emptied versus emptying every trashcan, even if it isn’t full.

But let’s not lose sight of a critical issue regarding the IoT: While citizens will appreciate greater efficiency and more intelligent public service, they will want to be assured that the contents of their proverbial trash cans are not being picked through.

Stay tuned for a future blog post in which we will discuss new analytical techniques that can deliver the intelligent services that we all want while maintaining our privacy and security in a connected world.

About the Author

Ken Mihalyov is the CIO of Xerox Public Sector Solutions, and Lawrence Lee is the Senior Director of Strategy at PARC, a Xerox Company

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