Thursday, May 08, 2014

How can Internet of Everything improve safety?

Yesterday I attended Cisco Connect 2014 at Bella Center here in Copenhagen. This is an event, where Cisco gives details about their latest offerings and tells us why our networks need to move more and more data over the coming years.

After a welcome by Cisco Denmark CEO Niels Münster-Hansen we were treated to two keynotes. The first was by vice-president Maciej Kranz from Cisco Corporate Technology Group, and the title of his presentation was "Connect the Unconnected". According to him and Cisco by the end of the current decade 50 billion devices will be connected with the internet. That five devices for each human being on earth! Not until a breakout sesssion in the afternoon did I realize what he was talking about.

During a collaboration breakout session in the afternoon Stephen Quatrano from Cisco in USA produced a use case example, which started my thinking. The scenario was an older relative, who needed to get his / her medication regularly. When is was time to take the medicine the top of the container would light up. And simultaneously miles or continents away another light plugged into an outlet at a sons or daughters home would also light up - telling that is was time for mother or father to take her / his medicine. The older relative opens the medicine container, and the light in sons or daughters house change intensity or shape. Furthermore inside the lid was a button, which older relative could push if the container was empty - thus automatically ordering a refill through the designated doctor and the local pharmacy. Some would properly call this unnecessary surveillance. Not  taking once medicine can for some of us be life threatening - if I forget to take my blood thinner, then my risk of blood cloths increase significantly. However, I believe the use case shows, that through the internet we can assist even when we are not there in person. In this case it improve personal safety. However, I can easily come up with other cases.

Consider, a case where traces of impurities or foreign elements are found in vials from a particular laboratory. In such a situation the laboratory recalls all vials from a particular batch through letter, newspaper add, notices on websites and such thinks. This takes time, and the change that all relevant vials are discovered are not that great. I the packaging for the vials contained a gps locator, then the producer would be able to follow the package most likely all the way to the final consumer. The information could be kept encrypted until a situation such as described here arise, and authorities with proper credentials could use the information to quickly track down most affected vials. That would improve safety in case of a medical product recall.

Let us consider another situation. A company suddenly experience leakage problems with a particular type of valve. The manufacturer is alerted, and discovers problems with the seating seal composition in this valve from production run some years ago. Again sales records could properly be used to contact others with valves from the same production run in service, but if the valves were internet enable, then this feature could likely be used to locate the valves. Once the valves were located, then it properly would be easy to fix them before a serious leakage occurred.

Similarly internet enable equipment could report on operating range excursions and alert the owner about changing the equipment before a serious event. This would also improve safety.

You can properly find other scenarios from your own facility that could benefit from the Internet of Everything discussed at Cisco Connect in Copenhagen yesterday.

PS: Cisco also demonstrated their latest video-meeting offering with voice and face activated cameras and automatic zoom-out if some moves around in the meeting room. However, if find it quite impressive how close to that offering Google Hangouts actually are. And so far that is free - i.e. without cost to the user.