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Sunday, 27 July 2014





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Internet of Things

In the contemporary socio-economic background the Internet has a vital role to play. It has become a part and parcel of human life these days. The internet enables the concept of a global village where the geographical distance is no barrier to be connected.

Even small children taste the essence of the Internet these days. Even if we talk and know about the Internet, I doubt whether everyone knows about the concept "Internet of Things" well. This article focuses on the particular concept where knowingly or unknowingly you have become a stakeholder of it.

What is Internet of Things?

If I elaborate this concept in a lucid palatable way, it is the network of uniquely identified objects (devices) where each of those objects is able to communicate over the internet. Most of those devices have sensors embedded into them and those sensors can communicate with applications (via different protocols) which are linked to internet like structures. In the early days, RFID is the main medium of communication between the device and the internet.

History and some important information from WIKI:

Kevin Ashton proposed the term "Internet of Things" in 1999. Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) was a prerequisite for the Internet of Things in its early inception. These days, apart from RFID, the tagging of things (object identification) is achieved through technologies as Near Field Communication (NFR), BARCODES, QR CODES and DIGITAL WATERMARKING.

If you ponder "How these things are connected?" then the answer is, the technologies such as RFID, NFR, Barcodes etc do connect them; to communicate, the objects (devices or things) should have some electronic gadgets inside them which enable them to talk in the relevant medium. I will let you know about these technologies in a way that you can digest.

So, another simplest way of expressing the idea of "Internet of Things":

"It describes how a device (a "thing") communicates with an application over the Internet".

The above reference site has a good image to depict the concept:

When we talk about the concept of Internet of Things, the three words themselves speak on behalf of the concept: The devices talk with each other without a human involvement, over the internet. In the modern world this is not a new phenomenon but as I feel this is THE driving force that leads the enhancement of technological development and human computer interaction. It is mainly because the advancement of wireless communication. So, now let us get into those technologies I mentioned earlier.

RFID tags are intelligent bar codes that can talk to a networked system to track every product that you put in your shopping cart.

I assume that you have seen barcodes as these days almost all items in a supermarket has a barcode in its packaging; According to WIKI a barcode is an optical machine-readable representation of data (special type of font) to represent data related to the object to which it is attached. There are devices called bar code readers to read the barcode which is pointed to the reader.

Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) technique uses wireless non-contact radio-frequency electromagnetic fields to transfer data. This helps to identify the tags attached to objects automatically. The tags contain electronically stored information. RFID tags are used in many industries.

In super markets, warehouses, supply chains, manufacturing firms, transportation industry and many other places where inventory handling and product tracking are being done. What do we have inside these tags? Mainly there are two parts.

1. An Integrated Circuit (IC) for storing and processing information

2. An Antenna for receiving and transmitting the signal.

The tag information is stored in a non-volatile memory (ROM). An RFID tag comprises either a chip-wired logic or a programmed/programmable data processor for processing the transmission and sensor data, respectively.

How can we read these RFID tags?

To read RFID tags (to extract data stored in a tag) there are RFID readers which sends an encoded radio signal to the tag to start a dialogue. The RFID tag senses the signal and then responds with its identification and other relevant information. The information may be a batch number, stock number, production date, sales price other specific information.

NFC: (Near Field Communication)

This is a technology emerged after RFID enabling smart devices to communicate with each other and share (send/receive) data. NFC is a set of standards for smartphones and similar devices to establish radio communication with each other and the notable speciality is that the communication is done by touching those devices together or bringing them into a closer proximity, no more than a few inches.

Most of the smartphones have NFC enabled. If you have a Samsung smartphone with the latest Android version you might have already noticed that there is NFC (Settings Wireless and networks File/data transfer NFC) Samsung S II plus has this feature.

Using NFC you can send data files, contacts to another phone which has enabled NFC.

How does NFC work?

It is a short-range, low power wireless link technology that can transfer small amounts of data between two devices held very closer to each other as I have mentioned earlier. Unlike Blue-tooth, in NFC no pairing code is needed.

Not only to transfer data such as phone contacts, media files, images, but also by tapping your phone on a contact-less payment terminal in a supermarket, airport, train station or cafeteria, is able to identify your account and takes payment through an application on your phone.

Google Wallet

Is the most famous android application around, to do contact-less payments using NFC technology. You can read more on Google Wallet and its features in the Internet to get more details. On NFC phones, the SIM is being extended to act as the Secure Element that can hold other apps such as payment cards.

NFC tags

NFC tags are passive devices that can be used to communicate with active NFC devices (an active NFC reader/writer) on posters, in groceries and in public transportation, could contain a web address, a discount voucher, a map or a train timetable that passers-by could touch their phones on to receive - or to instantly pay for absolutely anything.

The writer is a software engineer.


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