Read on for some takeaways from Europe’s largest Internet of Things conference!
The IoT Tech Day is a one day conference held each April in Utrecht. It is a relatively large event, with more than 1000 attendees. The programme is a combination of keynotes, presentations and hands on workshops, with the Internet of Things as a common thread. In addition to the sessions, the conference also boasts an Exposition Area. This was mainly populated by Dutch based companies, with lots of demonstrations of IoT applied to real world problems. Our main reason for attending this conference was to give the following two talks.
ToyFail: Is your child safe from the Internet of Things?
Martin Gravråk’s talk described his experiences of hacking IoT connected toys on behalf of the Norwegian Consumer Council. He discovered a whole range of security, privacy and consumer issues which resulted in worldwide media coverage and some of the toys being withdrawn from sale.
Building a Smart Security Camera with Raspberry Pi Zero, Node.js and The Cloud
Mark West’s talk focused on his experiences with smartening up a Motion Activated WebCam. He shared how he connected the camera to a range of Amazon Web Services (including Lambda Functions, Step Functions and Rekognition) to greatly reduce the amount of false alarms and therefore improve the trustworthiness of the solution. As speakers, we were also invited to attend the rest of the conference. We gained a lot of impressions from the conference, and have summed up our key takeaways below.
Our Takeaways from the IoT Tech Day
1. Serverless as a backend for the IoT
Serverless (also known as Function as a Service), describes the paradigm where one deploys snippets of code, or Functions, into a Cloud infrastructure. The Cloud infrastructure then takes care of making the code available on demand, without the code's owner needing to worry about failover, load balancing, provisioning or any other typical server concerns. Billing is normally based on the resources used by the running code (i.e. memory). At the IoT Tech Day, Serverless solutions such as those offered by Amazon (AWS) were frequently mentioned as backends for IoT solutions. Using The Cloud as an IoT backend makes sense due to its native scalability and high availability, and not least the ability to add extra processing power to constrained devices
2. Collaborative Air Pollution Monitoring
One of the exciting aspects of the IoT is collaborative monitoring of environmental conditions. Dag Wieers presented a very exciting project for real-time monitoring of city air quality using cheap optical sensors and ESP8266 micro-controllers. What made this project stand out was the decision to attach the air sensors to bicycles, making them mobile and allowing for geographical position of readings via GPS. This data could then be collated into a big picture of air quality across a geographical area. By choosing this approach the creators introduced extra complexity to the solution but the concept of a personal dosimeter for air pollution was very exciting. We predict that we will see a lot of similar projects popping up around the world as the interest in personal environmental monitoring increases.
3. The rise of Biohacking
Not a lot of people would willingly choose to have hardware implanted into their bodies, but what if an implant could lengthen your lifespan? Or improve your quality of life? Pär Sikö held a great talk about Bio-hacking and programming your body with implants. He gave a summary of current implant technology, what it was being used for and its shortcomings. He also made some exciting predictions about what implants that is likely to be developed in the near future. Another very interesting part of the presentation was his personal experiences after carrying an RFID implant for the last 18 months. We came away with the impression that Biohacking is going to be an area of much innovation (and legislation) in the coming years!
4. Telepresence using Kinect, OculusRift and a Humanoid Robot
Imagine a future where firefighters need not enter a burning building to rescue people, but can instead steer a robot avatar via VR and movement detection! Thomas Endres and Thomas Reifenberger demonstrated a proof of concept for this type of technology.They have mounted a stereo-camera headset on a NAO humanoid robot and then hooked it up to a Kinect and Oculus rift. The robot could be controlled by both head and gesture tracking and the latency was surprisingly good considering all the moving parts involved. Not convinced? Then check out the video below, with Martin controlling the robot!We welcome any suggestions for convincing the Bouvet management that we should invest a humanoid robot!
5. LoRa : Making our planet a smart planet
In the Exposition Area LoRaWAN was dominating several of the exhibits. LoRaWAN is an exciting alternative for connecting wireless battery operated devices either to the internet or a local network. It is low power and provides secure bi-directional communication in addition to mobility and localization services. At the IoT Tech Days providers demonstrated several different implementations, where some of them promised battery times of up to 15 years. Here in Norway, Telenor has just opened an experimental LoRaWAN and provides free access to it for students and start-ups. LoRaWAN is also the basis for The Things Network, a global community building an IoT Network.
6. A reduction in the focus on Hobby Projects
One of the downsides of previous IoT events we have attended has been the focus on hobby projects, with Raspberry Pi and Arduino based solutions in focus. These have been a fun and informative, but often lack relevance in the real world. At the IoT Tech Day we found the focus to be on real world IoT solutions, suggesting that more and more real world IoT solutions are now in place, making IoT a market opportunity rather than just a buzzword. Raspberry Pi and Arduino based projects are still relevant (and fun), but we predict a stronger focus on industrial IoT solutions as the market matures.
Our experience at the IoT Tech Day was extremely positive. Many of the talks were given in English and there were many international speakers in place. The Dutch have also come a long way with the Internet of Things and have a lot of real life experiences to share. As for the location - Utrecht is a charming city with a wide range of reasonably priced accommodation (including a lot of AirBnB options). It is located 30 minutes by train from Schipol Airport and is even closer to Amsterdam.