|By Esmeralda Swartz||
|September 23, 2013 08:30 AM EDT||
There is a burst of creative ideas emerging in the Machine-to-Machine (M2M) space or what has become more affectionately known as the Internet-of-things world. With so many opportunities around the globe to connect devices and assets, many companies are starting to stake out claims in the M2M space. However, while much of the attention has been focused on the machine part of the equation, people are the ultimate stakeholders. After all, it is the individual who will benefit and have the power to act on the information through smart apps. Some of the most promising opportunities are in the automobile, smart metering, eHealth, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) and home security industries, but many more examples are emerging.
In many of these cases actual deployment is still minimal, but the potential is there for creative and exciting large-scale implementations, some of which may even start locally and grow into global solutions.
The ideas that have caught my attention fall within a range of ways in which humans can monitor themselves, as well as interact with their environments and with others. For example:
- Health monitoring and quantified self. Monitor your biological functions and performance, not just in the doctor's office or at home, but everywhere and all the time.
- Smart security. Instead of a security system dealing with just break-ins, have a security system that can inform parents when their kids are home or not.
- Smart meters. Smart meters that identify energy consumption in more detail than a conventional meter. Benefits include energy budgeting and tracking, personalized energy reports, smart energy pricing and peak event notifications. They make it easy for people to select peak and off-peak hours for energy consumption.
- Smart insurance. An automobile can provide information to an insurance company about how a driver acts on the road. This could certainly help parents with young drivers who would benefit from lower-priced premiums based on behavior instead of age. (Of course, the opposite could also be true.)
- Emotions monitoring or affective computing. Systems and devices that can recognize, interpret, process, and simulate human affects have many applications. Emotions can be a good indicator of physical health. For example, giving insight into an autistic child's emotional state, or anticipating heart attacks and seizures. There are also commercial applications, such as being able to measure smiles, heart rates, frowns and other emotions, which can impact delivery and feedback for digital signage or even live demonstrations.
- Smart dust. Or as I like to call it, the Star Trek application. Tiny machines that sense their environment and relay that information to other machines, as well to people. These machines could warn of hazards in the area such as pollutants, weather conditions and noise. A more plausible application is in the area of patient diagnosis. Imagine if you could inject a patient with small computers (made to break down slowly in the blood) that could flush down blood vessels to detect a blockage or circulate freely until they bind to some programmed target. At present "dust" is an ambitious description as these devices are currently not quite so tiny.
- Wearable user interfaces: Devices can smoothly enable the control of other local and remote devices with minimal effort.
This can get quite exciting, but only time will tell which of the many devices being hyped will become useful and commercially valuable versus which will languish as neat ideas that didn't quite make it. In the next blog, we'll focus on providing suggestions for entrepreneurial businesses to take advantage of the M2M opportunity.