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Indirectly connected to The Internet of Things

Mark Gibbs | April 22, 2013
Not everything needs to, or can, connect to the Internet of Things by IP

If "cloud" is the biggest topic out there, then the Internet of Things (IoT) is probably a close second.

There are two types of connections that things - that is, stuff other than computers -- use to connect to the Internet: Direct, where the thing can either talk as a client in more-or-less real time to whatever remote online application it interfaces with or where it can be seen online as a server; and indirect, where communication to the IoT is mediated by some method other than IP.

A great example of the latter is SquareTag, a product from a company named Kynetx.

SquareTag sells tags; simply a QR code printed on various labels such as luggage tags, key ring tags, and adhesive aluminum plates. You attach these tags to something and then, and this is where it gets interesting, configure an "app" on the SquareTag server to be the online proxy for that thing.

The simplest use of a proxy app is to identify something you own ... your stuff. For example, you might put a SquareTag on your suitcase or an aluminum tag on your bicycle frame.

If that thing should get lost and someone finding it is smart enough to scan the QR code it will bring up a Web page displaying your contact information and, if the lost thing (or more likely, stolen thing) is your £25,000 Factor Aston Martin One-77 Cycle (they're only making 77 of these), you'll most likely be offering a reward. A large one.

Where this concept gets really interesting and novel is when the apps become more sophisticated. For example the bicycle app could record the geolocation of the device accessing the URL associated with the tag and or generate a text message to you.

Imagine if this technology was a standard on bicycles! It could act not only as way of identifying your property but also be part of the buying and selling of bikes. The seller would simply go into the proxy app for the bike and assign it to the buyer. Or maybe manufacturers could use the technique for registration purposes and provide the infrastructure for managing the transactions.

What's so important about this concept of a proxy for things is that it allows for the inclusion of things that can't easily or cost-effectively be connected by "smart" devices.

For example, adding instrumentation to your 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 so you can track your fuel consumption is not something most people would attempt, but using the SquareTag system you'd simply stick a SquareTag tag on your fuel cap and scan it whenever you put fuel in your car.


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