Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Internet of Critters

We hear a lot these days about the Internet of Things.  Cisco, SAP, and Microsoft are big in development and the applications are endless.  In the home market we are adding sensors all over our houses to make our energy use, home entertainment, and creature comforts smarter.  Manufacturers are adding sensors to their products and facilities so that they can talk to each other without human intervention. 

One of my favorites here is the GE jet engine that can wirelessly report a maintenance need, have an email sent to GE for a replacement part, and have the replacement part shipped automatically.  Imagine the surprise of the maintenance worker who gets the part in the next delivery shipment with a notice from the engine asking him to install it !!

But I might like this example even better.  Apparently, the GPS trackers that we see on TV all the time that scientists use to track animals in the wild are kind of big and heavy.  That is OK to track a wolf or a shark.  But what about a butterfly?  Imagine the poor thing trying to fly away with a big GPS emitter strapped to her back.  So some clever techie figured out that instead of needing enough power to get to the GPS satellite, they could create an emitter that signals only a few miles.  These can be picked up by United Airlines planes flying overhead.  There are enough flights every day that is a virtually permanent matrix of sensors to pick up the signals.  Without any extra work.  The signals are picked up by the planes and beamed to the scientists pretty much automatically – the Internet of Critters.