Bernhard Albler
Bernhard Albler is a Cisco Voice CCIE working in Austria. In 2015, he co-founded Vienna-based Frink Advanced Services, a boutique...
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Bernhard Albler | August 03, 2016 |


IoT: Time to Shine!

IoT: Time to Shine! Your creativity has no limits when it comes to integrating Internet of Things into business processes, including collaboration.

Your creativity has no limits when it comes to integrating Internet of Things into business processes, including collaboration.

Thanks to recent API developments and premier hardware prototypes on the market today, the Internet of Things is officially in the spotlight. While we can build our own IoT products for the first time, big business is thinking beyond just individual needs. Here's what the IoT is all about -- now and in the future.

Since 2013, the IoT has been one of the most discussed topics within IT. For those of you who are into history, it all started back in 1982, when we first started discussing the concept of a network comprising smart devices. At that time, a modified Coke machine at Carnegie Mellon University became the first Internet-connected appliance, able to report inventory and whether newly loaded drinks were cold.

Pretty impressive for back then, but also for quite some time afterwards. Embedding software within physical devices required a great deal of specificity and high expertise on the one hand, and a lot of time on the other.

Things Are Changing
Today's IoT products are affordable and easy to use -- not to mention a breeze to work with for anyone who has some affinity for IT. For this we owe our thanks to two recent developments that helped IoT arrive in the present, giving us the chance to finally start discovering after simply discussing for the past three years.

So let's have a quick look at these two developments:

  1. Rise of the API - For the first time, almost every provider can offer APIs -- the time-saving building blocks programmers need to put things together
  2. Availability of IoT Prototypes, or "Development Kits" - This IoT hardware contains a selected microcontroller, as well as connectivity modules. Best of all, prototype vendors also offer cloud-based backend services to which these devices connect easily. Therefore these kits are not only easy but also ready to use!

Funky IoT Cat Button
So far so good, but what can you do with it? Well, we can tell you what we did.

We decided to program an "IoT cat button" for someone who could be described as a very dedicated cat person (and, as it happens, one of our cofounders). The goal of our experiment was to create a button that she could press when she wanted a new cat image from the Internet to appear in a specially curated cat room on Cisco Spark.

For our IoT cat project, we used the prototype-to-production platform from Particle. It features two crucial components: a hardware platform for easy proofs of concept (breadboard, sensors, Wi-Fi), and a cloud message brokering platform, which can receive events from devices.

As Cisco Spark sits in the cloud as well, data exchange between Cisco Spark and Particle is easy. The flow is as follows:

  • Press cat button
  • Particle receives the event from the physical device and triggers an API call
  • Via another API call, to the platform retrieves a cat picture from The Cat API (we mentioned the rise of the API, after all)
  • This picture posts directly into a Spark room

The experiment was a huge success on a personal level (and is still in frequent use!). Professionally, of course, serving up cat content is of unlimited value. But this IoT project does exhibit how to connect hardware to a cloud-based collaboration platform like Cisco Spark -- and the possibilities of how enterprises might use this capability are endless.

IoT – Infrastructure of the Future
Just like with mobile, IoT will be all about devices and apps. Soon, we will see things like smart parking meters, remotely controllable kitchen appliances, temperature sensors, light controls, and more. We don't need a crystal ball to say that IoT platforms and IoT-based business models will become crucial factors in many industries.

In health care, for example, IoT will provide a way to supplement patient treatment through remote monitoring and communication. And IoT will help keep track of patients as they move throughout a healthcare facility. We are not there yet, but we can bet that it won't take much longer.

Until then, experiment with the first prototypes and program whatever comes to mind! Because that's the beauty of it: Your creativity has no limits.


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