SAN FRANCISCO -- MIT Technology Review Digital Summit -- The Internet of Things will require telecom operators to turn their networks upside-down, believes Google Developer Advocate Don Dodge.
The Internet is currently designed for expensive, high-bandwidth connections such as video. The Internet of Things doesn't need much bandwidth but needs to be inexpensive, Dodge said.
Existing networks will work well with the Internet of Things in an office environment, where sensors can beam information back to servers over WiFi, said Dodge, who serves as a liaison between Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and developers. But the networks fail the Internet of Things outdoors, in remote pipelines, agricultural fields measuring precipitation and other conditions, and dumpsters. "How does that [information] get back to the Internet? There's no WiFi. What do you do?" Dodge said.
He picked on a TV commercial from Verizon Wireless showing a pole in the middle of an agricultural field. "It's got a cell phone -- not duct taped to it, but it's attached. And they use a cell phone to transmit the data from the sensor to the server at $40 a month. So how do you do that when you have a sensor on the dumpster that's only sending kilobytes of information maybe once a day, or maybe once a week? You can't spend $40 a month for that," he noted.
"What we're going to have to do is build a brand new network, because up to now Cisco and all the networking guys have focused on very high bandwidth, very high throughput, very high quality, but that's the opposite of what you need for the Internet of Things," Dodge said.
Most of Dodge's presentation focused on indoor location services, which promise to do for the indoors what mapping technology and GPS do for the outdoors. Indoor location services use all four radios in the phone -- the GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth, and cell radio, as well as the gyroscope, accelerometer, barometer, magnetometer, microphone, and camera to attempt to pinpoint location. (See Location Intelligence Is the New Black, HP Beefs Up Its SDN Portfolio
Example applications include locating family members in a shopping mall, finding the dozen people you know among tens of thousands at a professional conference, sorting a grocery shopping list by supermarket aisle, and allowing a firefighter to locate victims, other firefighters, and exits in a burning building.
Indoor location services will also enable entertainment apps, such as first-person shooter games based on the player's actual building location, Dodge said. (This application will likely scare the pants off people in this era of senseless gun-related tragedies).
Mobile devices find location using WiFi triangulation, Bluetooth, and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) over short distance. Apple's iBeacon uses BLE. Other location techniques use LED lights that flash faster than the human eye can detect, but which can be detected by a smartphone, or by matching images from a phone camera to views from closed-circuit cameras.
LTE small cells will improve location accuracy by allowing phones to pinpoint location to within 1-2 meters without activating other radios, Dodge said.
The more interesting applications of indoor location technology will be stuff we're not anticipating today. Me -- I need it now, to remember where I parked at the mall.