IoT roundup: Robot boats, AT&T makes IoT partner deals

IoT roundup: Robot boats, AT&T makes IoT partner deals

AT&T is allying with HPE, AVSystem, Passtime to provide IoT options; MIT collaborates on autonomous 'roboats' to ply the waters of Amsterdam’s canals.

There’s plenty of IoT technology coming into the automotive sector – sophisticated fleet management systems, in-car entertainment and connectivity - but the real pot of gold is fully autonomous transport, which is inching closer all the time.

One piece of news on that front comes out of MIT, where researchers announced earlier this month that they are collaborating with the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions to create a “roboat,” which leverages GPS, cameras and other sensors, alongside on-board connectivity and compute, to create autonomous boats for travel along the Dutch capital’s 165 canals.

The team has a few use cases in mind for the roboats over and above basic transportation of passengers. Several of them could be used to form ad hoc structures like footbridges, many could be used to make bigger structures like performance stages, and the data they collect could be used to monitor air and water quality in the city.

Smart roads

Somewhat more modestly, the Utah Department of Transportation said this week that it’s working on two smart road projects. Instrumented sections of road are designed to provide real-time information about crashes, bad weather, stalled cars and the like, and to alert drivers of connected vehicles to delay info and alternate routes.

With Panasonic as a partner, the UDOT system will stream data from sensors in the smart roadways to a central cloud, and – thanks to an open software architecture called CIRRUS – the possibilities for third-party collaboration with other government departments and even private companies are there. (OK, it’s only going to work with a set of 30 state-owned vehicles at the outset, but baby steps.)

Meanwhile, satellite communications company Kymeta argued in a whitepaper this month that heavily connected first-responder vehicles are the prototypes for future autonomous vehicles. Advanced command/control vehicles like the ones made by Microsoft, Nomad and others contain enough technology to serve as moving IoT hubs, with their own edge instances and multiple types of network connectivity.

That basic architecture, according to Kymeta – which, unsurprisingly, is a partner with Microsoft in its Tactical Command Vehicle – is similar to what you’d need to create fully autonomous cars, though the bandwidth-intensive nature of any driverless vehicle remains a hurdle.

AT&T teams up to support IoT

It’s well-known that implementing IoT means that businesses with disparate areas of expertise need to team up in order to make the more impressive benefits of the technology a reality.  AT&T has apparently taken that advice to heart, announcing new partnerships with HPE, device management company AVSystem and GPS provider Passtime this month.

The deal with HPE centers on edge computing, with future customers gaining the ability to use AT&T’s multi-access edge compute services – essentially, the carrier’s framework for letting edge devices access its networks – natively from HPE’s edge computing devices. Undeniably handy for that particular cross-section of customers.

The AVSystem agreement is focused on interoperability, with both companies becoming members of a “lightweight M2M interoperability program,” per a statement. The partnership should make it easier for end-users to test that all the disparate components of their IoT setup will play nicely with each other, and for AT&T to deploy IoT services to customers more swiftly.

PassTime’s news is essentially that AT&T’s LTE-M network is compatible with the company’s location and tracking gear, which they sell as an asset-management solution. Good for them, but the upshot is mostly just another data point that shows low-power WAN technology of various kinds seeing uptake.

Predictive maintenance

Predictive maintenance is far-and-away the most talked-about use case for industrial IoT tech, and new research from IoT Analytics said that customers saved about $17 billion in 2018 thanks to the technique. Giant estimates like this always need to be taken with a sizeable grain of salt, but it’s hard to argue that predictive maintenance isn’t making a splash in the industrial sector.

Similar saline considerations apply to a survey commissioned by Metova, an IoT vendor, which says that a broad, popular understanding of the concept of IoT is taking shape. The number of people who say they have gotten to grips with the idea of IoT is still less than 25 percent, but Metova said that there’s been a 25 percent increase in that figure since the previous year. Progress is progress.

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