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In an age of flashy IoT, hidden devices may be the real game changers

Most conversations about the internet of things take place under the pretext that it will change our day-to-day lives via an array of flashy devices. However, many of the most impactful IoT advancements in the years to come will likely be unnoticeable to the naked eye.

At its core, IoT represents the peak of connectivity. People and their devices can now share all kinds of data with each other wirelessly, overcoming the physical barriers that previously kept us apart.

Driving this connectivity at a foundational level are sensors and beacons that are able to constantly collect and exchange a wealth of data. Used correctly, this connectivity is potentially life-saving and its importance cannot be overstated. In the case of medical devices, for instance, wearables can gather heart rate or blood pressure measurements and transmit them to medical professionals to analyze the data in real time. Connected cars are able to sense other cars on the road and obstacles to avoid, preventing accidents. Smart cities will be able to improve the safety of citizens and reduce energy consumption.

But there are thousands of other ways IoT will embed itself into the fabric of our lives.

Locating everything

Tile, the leading smart location company, has a range of Bluetooth trackers that make it easier to find lost or misplaced items. Tile’s thinnest tracker, the Tile Slim, uses the DA14580 SmartBond system-on-chip (SoC) to enable its Bluetooth connectivity and add intelligence powered by the chipset’s embedded ARM Cortex M0 processor.

While the purpose of Tile Slim and similar devices is to help consumers keep track of everyday belongings, Tile also opened up its Smart Location Platform to allow manufacturers the ability to easily add location tracking functionality to any physical product. The underlying platform and SoC it’s built on make tracking look simple, when in fact it’s one of the more advanced platforms on the market.

Keeping track of belongings or assets may not seem like the flashiest use case for IoT, but this functionality has the potential to make a bigger impact on our everyday lives than a great deal of IoT products already on the market.

Using trackers to resolve travel nightmares

Take luggage, for instance. Whether traveling internationally by plane or taking a train out to the suburbs, using transit can be a frenzied experience that requires you to juggle multiple belongings, all while trying to make your boarding times.

If your luggage had a built in tracker that synced up with your mobile device, there are a number of potentially harrowing travel scenarios that can be either avoided or quickly resolved. For starters, that moment of sheer panic we all feel when we don’t remember where we put our bag down can, in many situations, be alleviated if the luggage is within close proximity by activating the tracking alarm. This is also true if you’re trying to track down a carry-on that was placed in an overhead compartment away from your seat — activating your tracker’s alert once the plane has begun de-boarding will take the guess work out of identifying the correct overhead bin.

These use cases pale in comparison to what happens when our worst luggage nightmares come true. According to SITA, the world’s leading specialist in air transport communications and information technology, nearly 1.4 million pieces of luggage were lost or stolen by airlines in 2015, resulting in a cost to the industry of $2.3 billion. While Bluetooth LE trackers have a limited proximity, items affixed with a Tile device can be reported stolen on the Tile app, which links up all Tile users and alerts the owner to the location of a missing Tile-affixed item once a fellow app user has come into range.

This way, if an airline has lost track of your luggage, you can be empowered to take some of the recon into your own hands by receiving an alert anytime one of the many Tile users is within proximity of your luggage.

Trackers on bicycles can help keep you moving

This same functionality for missing items is useful when it comes to bicycles. As the primary mode of transportation for many people — and hardly a cheap item to replace — it comes as no surprise that more than 1.5 million bikes are stolen annually.

The same app functionality that can help connect lost luggage to a community of Tile users can also help track bicycles once they are in range of an active Tile application. In some real-life use cases, it’s been the bike thieves themselves that tipped off the tracking beacon, unknowingly alerting the stolen item’s owner and in turn the authorities to their crime.

Trackers can prevent common headaches at home

The stakes don’t need to be high for trackers like Tile to have a noticeable impact on how we live day to day. Remote controls, for example, are arguably the items that get misplaced most in households, sparking familial spats since the dawn of TV. By making it easy to track remotes, the headache of digging between cushions and lifting up furniture only to find the remote in a more obvious location can quickly be erased from our daily routines. That same approach can be used to make finding your keys a snap, so you can go about your day without wasting time. Or it could help to find a parked car in a garage, reducing the stress induced by not finding your vehicle where you thought you left it.

In many aspects of our lives, this technology will help us improve upon many of the base-level flaws that tend to complicate our every interaction. Cutting time out of searching for a remote, let alone locating an expensive piece of equipment or valuable work file, will give us more freedom to find other ways to enrich our lives. Although showier IoT technology will certainly rise to prominence in the years to come, tracking platforms are already making a big impact even in the nascent days of the IoT era.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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When the cost of tracking is significantly I can see teachers using this technology in labs. Not only will college staff be able to track low value items but there is some potential for tracking to assist learning.
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