Using the IoT to Track Your Things

The Internet of Things is truly all encompassing when it comes to scope. As more and more companies realize that there is a market for connected things, more and more come up with ways to capitalize on the growing trend and on the people’s growing demand for these devices.

Already we have seen some good examples of the Internet of Things. You have the smart home where everything in the house is automated, from lighting and television to air conditioning, heating, and security systems. Then there is Google Glass, which the search giant touts as a wearable computer. And there are also those fitness bands that help track your activities and your fitness progress, as well as smart watches that provide you with an additional screen for your smartphones so that you could make or receive a call without having to take your phone out of your pocket.

All of these are centered on two of the most often talked about benefits of the Internet of Things: comfort and convenience. Instead of manually counting how many steps you have walked and doing all those calculations, smart fitness bands automatically do these things for you. Instead of fumbling in your bag or pocket for your smartphone, you can simply use your smart watch to call. Instead of suffering through a very hot living room when you arrive home, you can program everything so that the air conditioning turns itself on while you are still on the way home and not a second before.

But there is this one benefit from the Internet of Things that is not often talked about: It can help keep track of things that matter to you most, such as your kids, your car, and your pets. You can keep track of just about anything with the Internet of Things.

Don’t worry, it is not an expensive device that you could only see in police procedural shows and spy movies. In fact, the Internet of Things makes it possible to track people and things even without having a commercial wireless Internet connection. That means that you could use these trackers even if you do not take out a subscription from your cellular service provider.

Iotera is one company currently developing technology that makes use of GPS-embedded tags to help consumers track lost kids, pets, cars, and other belongings.

Iotera was co-founded by Ben Wild, who has been working in the long-range wireless arena for several years before coming to Iotera. The technology that the company is working on relies on the unlicensed spectrum to get the location data of a person, thing, or animal. For example, if you have the sensor, which comes in a 3D-printed container, you can clip it to your pet dog’s collar. The sensor would be logging your dog’s location. It will then send the data to an access point or base station that the company has. After it reaches Iotera’s cloud service, these will be pushed to a web page or a mobile app so that you could locate your pet in case it gets lost.

The good news is that you only need to charge the sensor once and it can be used for the next few months. The not-so-thrilling news is that the location data you collect with the sensor would only be effective in an area not more than two miles (if you are in an urban area) and four miles if there is nothing much around to interfere with the sensor’s signals.

But this is actually enough for the whole system to work effectively. Each base station costs only a few hundred dollars and is pretty small, measuring less than a foot. These low-cost base stations can cover a range of several miles, so there is no need for a lot of them.

This low-cost, low-power tracking system is not just for kids and pets. You can put one on your car, tools, and maybe even your bag. Just in case you lose any one of these, you can easily track and find it. One charge would last for four months and could cover a wide area in its coverage. Hopefully, the company will expand on this functionality by using big data to help you become more proactive.

For example, after tracking your dog’s location, it would be able to establish a pattern of where your dog would be at certain times of the day. If he’s not at home or at the park at 4:00 p.m., you would be alerted that something might be wrong and you may have lost your dog.

So, despite its current limitations, we’d take the tracking technology as it currently is!

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