By GREGORY ZELLER // Hauppauge-based Intelligent Product Solutions is launching a new practice group aimed at staying ahead of the pack on the next big thing: the Internet of Things.
The IoT covers physical objects embedded with sensors and software – the kind of electronic connectivity that allows “things” to interoperate with computers and cloud-based data systems via the Internet. It’s a trend that’s not only redesigning how things work, but reprogramming how people think they should work.
And it’s happening fast: Some experts believe the bulk of household and consumer products will be fully connected in as little as five years.
To capitalize on that rush to connectivity, IPS hopes to leverage its existing electrical and mechanical design expertise and not-inconsiderable IoT experience.
The plan, according to IPS President Mitchell Maiman, is to provide IoT software and hardware design services that lead clients from concept to prototyping, through feasibility studies and into the design and manufacturing phases.
The general idea behind IoT technology is to achieve greater value via connectivity, and Maiman suggested there are no limits on what can be plugged in.
“There’s no reason a coffee mug can’t determine how much coffee is left and communicate to the coffeemaker to brew you up another cup,” Maiman told Innovate LI. “There are all kinds of things these days that are ‘dumb’ no-tech devices that can become connected and gain value from that connectivity.”
Maiman’s company already has a healthy IoT résumé. IPS helped New York City healthcare firm AdhereTech create its first product, a “smart” pill bottle that helps patients and providers track pharmaceutical patterns.
“Here was a thing that was purely a plastic container for pills,” Maiman noted. “You make it a ‘smart,’ connected device, and now it knows how many pills are in the bottle, whether you’ve taken your medication today, what time you took it … and it doesn’t only know it, it communicates it to a cloud-based system, so the data can become a useful part of your world.”
Consider the senior citizen who’s living alone and has lots of pills to take.
“Now we can determine that they have or haven’t taken their medication without requiring a home-health aide. We can send a message to their doctor or their son or daughter, alerting them to go check on Mom and see why she isn’t taking her pills.”
In addition to its IoT-related work with AdhereTech, IPS has teamed up with NYC-based home-security enterprise Canary on home monitors that track security, temperature and other factors and report them in real time to mobile devices. IPS has also designed remote-connectivity interfaces between WiFi devices and existing HVAC controls.
Such experiences position IPS to master the IoT curve, according to Maiman, and now the company is looking to go a step further with its practice group. The new group probably wouldn’t require additional hires at first, although IoT is a decided growth area for the firm, he said. IPS currently boasts about 100 employees between its Hauppauge and Seattle offices, including 60 full-timers and a battalion of contractors and part-timers, with most of the action on Long Island.
And Maiman is not the only one predicting IoT growth. A Forbes article suggested IoT’s healthcare market alone will exceed $117 billion by 2020, and notes that the mobile payment industry – one of the most basic and widespread applications of IoT – is already hitting its stride, with both Apple and Google making strong plays.
That’s the kind of thinking that encouraged IPS to super-size its existing IoT efforts: the idea that IoT technology will spread, interconnecting the world with products and services as varied as healthcare, wearables and, yes, even coffee mugs.
“Part of what we’re doing is working with clients to try to figure out where those value propositions are,” Maiman said. “That’s the key. If you’re going to make something ‘smart,’ it’s just not going to be as cheap as something that’s ‘dumb,’ so it’s got to provide incremental value to somebody in the buying process.
“That’s the forefront of IoT technology,” he added. “We’ve got connected TVs and connected services for downloading music, but this drives much deeper into your world than people might expect.
“What data can we gather, and how can it be combined to produce new information that didn’t exist by itself, and how can that ultimately be beneficial? That’s where all this is going.”