As another year draws to a close, and as the grand vision that is the Internet of Things gradually becomes a reality, we get ever closer to Cisco's notorious prediction of having at least 50 billion connected devices, globally, by 2020, Sure enough, 2015 and the following five years will find us with not only more connected devices but also a greater variety of connected devices with a yet broader spectrum of real-world applications: smart appliances. Connected cars. Wearables. Ingestibles. Even murderables. (See Eating the Internet of Things and A Killer App.)
To ring in 2015, then, here's a look at a relatively nascent but increasingly popular application of the hyperconnectivity revolution: Findables.
During this holiday season, churches and other religious groups everywhere have set up their own nativity scene. Inevitably, do-badders steal figurines from many of these nativities – in particular, the baby Jesus. Theft and larceny of baby Jesuses from nativities is so common that the practice has its own Wikipedia page. Hence, nativity security is becoming big business – and one of the solutions is a GPS Jesus.
The demand among churches is so high for securing the baby Jesus that Brickhouse Security – a high-tech security company noted for marketing a system of smart locks and other security applications specific to Airbnb hosts and other landlords – has taken it upon itself for the past several years to lend out, for free, GPS devices and other advanced security equipment for the baby Jesus.
The trackers themselves are motion-sensitive. If the attached item – in this case, a plastic or ceramic Christ child – is moved in any way, the customer (in this case, a member of the clergy) receives a text alert. If the attached item or icon beyond a designated "geofence," another alert is sent to indicate a possible theft. Hence, the devices are more than simple GPS trackers; they are fully-fledged IoT applications.
Brickhouse provides its GPS devices and other security equipment to houses of other faiths as well; synagogues, for instance, have used Brickhouse's equipment to secure their menorahs.
Of course, these findables are not limited to religious icons. Brickhouse rents its smart GPS trackers to out to organizations and events as major as the Olympics (to track shuttles, for example).
Municipalities too are leveraging the Findable tech to ease its residents' burdens – specifically, the burdens of finding a good parking space. (See Verizon Connects IoT Dots to Dollars and Verizon: IoT Power Is in the Partner.)
San Francisco in particular, tech capital that it is, has led the way when it comes to smart parking, being among the first American cities to introduce smart parking meters. Through the city's SFpark, SFpark program, IoT-enabled sensors on parking meters collect parking availability and other information – and then automatically push that data out to residents' smartphones and the Bay Area's 511 phone system. The program also uses availability and demand information to automatically adjust parking meter pricing, Uber-like.
San Francisco is not the only smart-parking city. Both Los Angeles and San Francisco use smart meter information to dispatch law enforcement to issue tickets. Boston, too, has slowly been rolling out smart parking sensors since last year – partly as a response to now-banned in Boston parking apps that allowed Bostonians to advertise and privately sell access to public parking spaces. The demand for smarter parking tech is especially high in Boston – a city notorious for its shortage of public parking spaces.
Finding Your Keys
Findables are readily accessible to the consumer through a myriad of mobile apps. Users attach small GPS tracking beacons to things they don't want to lose – such as car keys, luggage, electronic equipment, and other valuables – and then keep track of their belongings through their smartphones.
Reveal Labs has attracted a great deal of attention to its findable app, Tile; the company has reportedly sold more than half a million Tiles – app-connected, Bluetooth-enabled GPS trackers. Tile debuted for iOS earlier this year and was released for Android just last week.
Setting Tile apart from its competitors is the fact that – at least in its iOS incarnation, so far – the app crowdsources the finding of users' lost items. Through Tile's "Mark as Lost" feature, when a user designates one of his items missing, the attached GPS beacon will alert other Tile users within range of the item's location. The result: Crowdfinding.
— Joe Stanganelli, Freelance Contributor, special to The New IP