A connected world could improve industry, solve bigger societal problems

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 352 views 

The world has never been more connected. Millions of devices such as drones and sensors boosting data, and connectivity is only going to increase, according to Michael Troiano, vice president of the internet of things (IoT) for AT&T.

Troiano was one of three keynote speakers at the Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit held in Rogers on Monday (Oct. 16) and Tuesday.

The theme for this year’s event was “Connected devices in a connected world,” and more than 1,500 tech and business professionals attended the main summit on Tuesday. Over the two-day period, including the Women in Technology and Makers Summit held on Monday, roughly 2,000 people attended the event which was expanded to multiple days this year, said co-chairwoman Meredith Lowry.

Some of the biggest names in technology presented at 38 breakout sessions on Tuesday, including IBM, Wal-Mart, Cisco and Oracle, as well local tech shops such as Shiloh, RevUnit and New Creature. Technologies from Avatar assistants for health monitoring and prescription dispensing to sensors in street lamps that notify police if there is a shooting will be the way many industries solve some of their biggest problems.

Troiano said the internet of things has been around for decades with connected machines, but machines and devices are now connected with people and data that can drive insights in near real time. By 2020, he said there is expected to be 35 billion connected devices, four times the world’s population. When asked, he said 80% of consumers said they would put off buying a car until it had connectivity.

“Today, 61% of organizations today are pursuing IoT initiatives which are looking to transform some industries such as automobile manufacturing, fleet management and healthcare,” he said.

The automotive industry is already under transformation with 75% of cars and trucks rolling off the line by 2020 are expected to be connected. Troiano said Tesla is one of 25 car brands using AT&T for its connectivity. Ahead of the recent Hurricane Irma that hit Florida, Tesla was able to send an update to its customers in that region. The update sends a phone update to enable the cars to have additional range so the owners could drive further to get out of the evacuation zone. He said connected cars and trucks are going to be norm as 80% of consumers said they would put off buying their next car until it was connected.

“There are 14.6 million connected cars on the AT&T network today, “ he said.

Vehicle to vehicle communication and vehicle to infrastructure communication that will greatly change the way we live are coming next, he said. Troiano said it won’t be long until smart cars will be able to detect potholes and icy roads and dispatch that information to city road departments. Drones also hold potential for solving problems and he doesn’t mean delivering packages the final mile. Troiano said drones can be used to support first responders in disasters like the ongoing forest fires in California.

“Drones are being used to inspect cellular towers and other tall structures. The Federal Aviation Authority expects there will be 7 million drones by 2020, a market estimated at $4 billion,” he said.

He adds that smart cities also are emerging and connected cities use sensors in street lamps to detect crime. They can also detect water leaks in old pipes. Tralono said small sensors are being sown into police vests and once penetrated with a bullet the sensor can notify needed emergency assistance and backup.

Troiano said AT&T has two consumer innovation labs open to its customers in Plano and Houston, Texas. The Houston site is dedicated to healthcare innovations. Last year a health provider customer visited center and wanted to help blind people see. Innovation that came out of that center allowed a patient who was losing his sight to run the Boston Marathon wearing special glasses that broadened range of sight. The solution was a camera mounted on glasses paired with a sight phone. This allowed the patient to run the marathon with the help of a guide.

Rhonda Childress, an IBM Fellow, demonstrated a solar school in a box. It’s an innovation from IBM to help educate children in areas like Syrian refugee camps, India and places where there is no power and no network to provide connectivity to school children who also have no teachers. Childress said a colleague of hers from India wanted to solve this problem using technology.

“We had to solve for how do we get these folks connected to the internet with no power or network. The components are a solar cell which powers connected devices to the cloud where students can download lessons and complete them on rugged laptops also made available,” Childress said. “It truly fits in a box and makes it quite portable to anywhere in the world.”

Childress also illustrated IBM’s newest voice assistance for cybersecurity known as Havyn. She said Havyn has cognitive computing power and was developed by Mike Spisak, an inventor at IBM with the help of his young son Evan. Spisak figured out to make Havyn activate on voice recognition when his son asked him why he had to chat with Haven via texts instead of just talking to the device. Childress said IBM uses it to fend of cybersecurity threats.

She demonstrated Havyn during her noon keynote speech to assess the number of cyber threats at hand and also find out about the local weather outdoors. The average organization has roughly 200,000 security threats a day, she said. Havyn can detect quickly and holds interesting potential in the coming days, especially when leveraging the strengths of IBM Watson.

“I think the best Havyn and Watson are yet to be discovered,” Childress added.

Francie Hwang, founder of startup Bucket, was chosen as this year’s innovator of the year by the Northwest Arkansas Tech Council, a division of the Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce.

Hwang’s company seeks to eliminate coin currency which he said is expensive to produce. He moved his company to Northwest Arkansas earlier this year and plans to grow his business by signing on more retailers and consumers who want to lessen their carbon footprint and eliminate the need for change jars.

Hwang said 100 pennies worth $1 creates three tons of environmental waste to make. He also said about $62 million in change end up in landfills search year as consumers don’t value the coin currency. His program allows consumers to bucket their change from retailers and that money ends is dispensed in a paper voucher than can be scanned to the bank account by a smart phone.

“In 2018 I hope you will all bucket the change,” Hwang told the crowd as he accepted his award.

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