I talk a lot about emerging technology trends (hire me to do a workshop!). And sometimes I share that type of stuff here, too.
On that note, I’m starting a new series about emerging trends and libraries. For each post, I’ll cover a trend. I’ll introduce it and give an example or two of what it’s all about. Then I’ll share some thoughts about how that trend affects libraries.
It’ll also get me back on track posting a little more frequently (that’s a goal of mine).
So – for starters, let’s talk about … the Internet of Things, or IoT for short.
What is IoT?
I like this short definition from dictionary.com: “a network of everyday devices, appliances, and other objects equipped with computer chips and sensors that can collect and transmit data through the Internet.”
You can get slightly geekier definitions and descriptions of IoT pretty fast (yay, Google searches!). I like this breakdown of IoT functionality, from Deloitte. They give 5 general types of services that IoT “things” can do:
- Internal state: Heartbeat- and ping-like broadcasts of health, potentially including diagnostics and additional status reporting (for example, battery level, CPU/memory utilization, strength of network signal, up-time or software/platform version).
- Location: Communication of physical location via GPS, GSM, triangulation or proximity techniques
- Physical attributes: Monitoring the world surrounding the device, including altitude, orientation, temperature, humidity, radiation, air quality, noise and vibration
- Functional attributes: Higher-level intelligence rooted in the device’s purpose for describing business process or workload attributes
- Actuation services: Ability to remotely trigger, change or stop physical properties or actions on the device.
So – objects or “things” with sensors, computer chips, and a web-connected database. That’s what IoT is.
Examples of IoT in action
There are some pretty well-known IoT products that some of you already use, including:
- Nest Thermostat (and others). These allow you to control your AC from your phone, anywhere that you can connect to the Internet.
- Smart lights: Same concept, but for lights. You can turn lights on/off from your phone. Phillips Hue is an example of this
- Bluetooth Trackers – Tile (https://www.thetileapp.com/) is an example of a Bluetooth Tracker. Put one on that thing you always lose (i.e., car keys). The next time you lose those keys, you can find them again via an app on your phone.
- Smart Home appliances – things like Google Home, Amazon Echo, and Apple HomeKit.
- Smart power switches – Belkin’s Wemo Insight Wi-Fi Smart Plug is an example. They let you turn the plug (and therefore anything connected to it) on and off, set schedules for the plug, monitor energy consumption and use, etc. You can also connect it to Amazon Alexa and Google Home for hands-free voice control
- Health and exercise trackers – Fitbits “fit” into this category, too.
On a larger scale, you can think of concepts and products around smart buildings, smart cars, or even smart cities as a larger extension of IoT (I’ll cover Smart Cities in a future post). For example, some stores use Beacon technology to track people in their stores.
In more rural areas, farmers are starting to use products like MooMonitor or Moocall to track the health of their cattle.
How does IoT affect libraries?
Here are some ways libraries are already incorporating IoT technology into their libraries:
- Smart Building Technology: As libraries retrofit their buildings with newer technology (or build new buildings/branches), they are starting to see more IoT-based technology. For example, some libraries can can adjust heating, cooling and lights from a smartphone app. Some newer building monitoring and security systems can be monitored via mobile apps.
- RFID: RFID technology (sensors in books) is a type of IoT technology, and has been around for awhile.
- Beacon Technology: There are at least two library-focused companies experimenting with Beacon technology (Capira Technologies and Bluubeam).
- People counters: Check out Jason Griffey’s Measure the Future project. Here’s what he says about Measure the Future: “Imagine having a Google-Analytics-style dashboard for your library building: number of visits, what patrons browsed, what parts of the library were busy during which parts of the day, and more. Measure the Future is working to make that happen by using open-hardware based sensors that can collect data about building usage that is now invisible. Making these invisible occurrences explicit will allow librarians to make strategic decisions that create more efficient and effective experiences for their patrons.”
- Library classes! Libraries are also teaching classes about the Internet of Things. These include classes focused on introducing patrons to IoT technology, and classes that focus on an aspect of IoT, like a class on making things with Arduinos or how to use your new Fitbit.
Those are my thoughts on IoT. What is YOUR library doing with the Internet of Things? Please share!