Andrew Prokop
Andrew Prokop has been heavily involved in the world of communications since the early 1980s. He holds five United States...
Read Full Bio >>

Andrew Prokop | August 22, 2016 |


Giving a Voice to IoT

Giving a Voice to IoT The process of developing communications applications is changing, and changing fast.

The process of developing communications applications is changing, and changing fast.

"Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass."
-Anton Chekhov

The world of technology has changed immeasurably since I began writing software way back in the late 1970s. Devices are smaller, storage is nearly infinite, processors are orders of magnitude faster, programming languages are far more graceful, and systems have gone from proprietary and closed to standards-based and open.

Having recently returned to writing software after a hiatus of many years, I am especially struck by the changes in how one service speaks to another. While I've kept up with the technology from an academic standpoint, it is one thing to write about RESTful Web services and a completely different experience when you roll up your sleeves and write code that sends POST commands and processes GET requests. That is where the rubber hits the road and you begin to truly understand how things work in real life.

If you've been following my Avaya Breeze videos, you've seen how a drag and drop interface can now create applications as powerful as those that once took hundreds, if not thousands of lines of Java, C#, or C++ code. More importantly, these interfaces shield the developer from having to understand the more technical aspects of programming. For example, it becomes possible to make RESTful Web services without having to understand HTTP, response codes, or message bodies. Those things are still happening, but they are completely hidden.

Of course, even the best interface cannot anticipate every need. Case in point is my work with IoT technology and endeavors to connect communications workflows to temperature sensors, light gauges, and similar telemetry devices. Despite my best and somewhat heroic efforts to shield myself from the nitty gritty details, I found myself immersed in BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy), customized HTTP headers, and APIs far more complicated than what is available through the most comprehensive drag and drop toolkit. While knowledge isn't a bad thing, you reach a point when your brain can only handle so much new information. It's then that I am reminded of that line from the 1970s movie, Caddyshack, "Well, the world needs ditch diggers, too."

Silicon Labs Sensor Puck
I'm Picking up Good Vibrations

All of this brings me to what I really want to write about today -- the Silicon Labs Sensor Puck. This IoT device is probably one of the most exciting toys I've played with in a long time. In a nutshell, it's a 1.5 inch diameter circuit board that can measure temperature, relative humidity, ambient light, UV index, and heartrate. Powered by a standard 3 volt CR2032 battery, the Sensor Puck can be used as a standalone telemetry device, or be integrated into larger solutions that use telemetry, but are not necessarily focused on it.

The Puck uses BLE to broadcast real-time data to any interested party. Silicon Labs provides their own mobile apps for Android or iPhone (shown below). Additionally, third parties can develop middleware components that collect data from the sensor while providing a Web services API for systems integrators. This middleware approach is how I am using the product. While I have managed to learn how to spell BLE, programming to it is beyond what I am willing to undertake for fun or profit.


From Sensor to SMS

For me, the excitement over the Sensor Puck is not in a visual dashboard of climate data. The real power is feeding that data into a rules engine that allows me to set thresholds and actions. For instance, it's extremely important that the air temperature within a data center be kept between 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything colder is a waste of energy and might actually lead to moisture problems. Anything warmer can lead to overheating and catastrophic equipment failure. This temperature range allows servers and adjunct equipment to operate efficiently and reliably.

Combining the sensor puck with a rules engine and communications API allows for the creation of an alarming system when particular environmental conditions indicate a problem. For example, text messages can be sent to "first responders" whenever the temperature goes above or below a prescribed range.

Even better, a rules engine can report on trends, and actions can be taken before it might be too late to save valuable equipment and uptime. For instance, a two degree temperature change in two minutes may indicate that something is terribly wrong. In this case, a technician can be alerted before the temperature rises above the threshold maximum.

Looking beyond temperature, the Sensor Puck can be used to create alerts when a patient's heart rate is too high or too low. I envision an application that launches a video call when the rules engine determines that something is amiss. This would provide home-bound patients with better care without a 24-hour-a-day on-premises nurse. And at less than $30 a piece, the Sensor Puck can become part of a cost effective solution for overall health of people and things.

Next Things Next

While Silicon Lab's Sensor is a really cool, inexpensive IoT device, it's only the tip of the iceberg. I have yet to do my homework, but there may be a similar device that reports more, is smaller, possibly cheaper, and supports a Wi-Fi interface. BLE is fine for prototyping and small scale solutions, but the devices that support it are clearly distance limited.

The marriage of IoT and communications is only in its infancy and I expect to see some very clever products as functionality increases on both sides of the house. Next-generation devices will deliver more features, and communications APIs will allow for extremely sophisticated ways to contact people and machines. The building blocks are there and it's only a matter of time before solutions are plentiful.

Andrew Prokop writes about all things unified communications on his popular blog, SIP Adventures.

Follow Andrew Prokop on Twitter and LinkedIn!
Andrew Prokop on LinkedIn


October 24, 2018

With disparate workplaces and ever-expanding volumes of information to manage, the challenges for collaborating effectively are only intensifying. Many critical applications are not integrated, and

October 10, 2018

Businesses are growing across international borders quicker than ever, but scaling operations to follow suit can be a harder, longer process.

This webinar focuses on scaling your next-generat

September 26, 2018

Join Kevin Kieller, Microsoft UC&C expert, along with Ribbon Communications and Polycom, for an update on Microsoft Ignite, and a focus on critical things you need to know about your voice deployme

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.