What do drones, Facebook, and the 1936 US Olympics basketball team have in common? They were all topics of my fascinating interview with IoT Hero and data warehousing expert at IBM, Rich Hughes.
So, Rich, tell me a bit about yourself.
I've been working in IT and big data roles for years. I also authored a book on the original dream team - the 1936 US Olympics basketball team - that was comprised of oil refinery laborers and film industry stagehands.
How did you become interested in the Internet of Things?
I've been a data guy for quite some time, so IoT is in some respects, was just natural growth-- just another data source. Manufacturing has been instrumented for at least 30 years, and Telco wireless networks have been spewing out call detail records for two decades.
I know another area you are passionate about is drones. Public opinion varies widely on this topic. What’s the one thing you wished everyone understood?
Drones (or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) are playing a decidedly positive role in society. Drones big advantage is to operate in air space where there are no alternatives-- so drones do help improve safety by inspecting public infrastructure (like bridges) and oil refinery gas emissions.
What are some of the most interesting applications of connected drones today?
Reminiscent of the early automotive manufacturing days, people everywhere seem to be acting on their drone dreams. Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, is implementing his dream of bringing high-speed Internet connectivity to all of humanity—carried on UAV wings longer than the 767s. Zuckerberg’s implementation, entitled internet.org, will require 1,000 UAVs. Each drone is mostly all wing and weighs less than a car.
Flying high above weather and beyond the regulatory air space authority in most nations, these solar-powered drones will each maintain flight for at least three months at altitudes of 60,000 to 90,000 feet. Perched 13 miles above the earth, internet.org’s fleet is in its beta test phase, and although it faces many challenges, it is beaming connectivity to remote parts of the underdeveloped world.
So cool! What are some interesting industrial applications?
UAVs are being deployed in a variety of industry settings. One example is for reducing the complexity of managing large construction projects by using UAV-delivered site photos. Seeing the developing progress unfold through pictures taken in daily flyovers, Bechtel, among others, is better able to plan its supply chain construction schedule.
Also, by using the aerial perspective, many energy sector companies are advantageously monitoring their large installations. Petroleum refineries, for example, have always feared explosions from gas leakage, and have found drone-enabled imagery a useful ally. An accepted drone practice is to continuously stream data to the cloud platform, prompting quick response to newly discovered gas leaks. BP complies with environmental laws by using drone photos to document gravel extraction work. First Solar inspects its panels through the use of UAVs, thus enhancing its maintenance plans. In these examples, energy sector safety, regulatory compliance and operational efficiency are being improved by the early adoption of drone technology.
What role do hobbyists play in drones?
The casual hobbyist can now enjoy programmed flight under their direction. In general, drones are reshaping the personal electronics market. For example, GoPro camera–equipped drones are easy to operate and are easily within consumer reach at under 1,000 dollars. This disruptive technology is having an impact on government entities, as the consequences of drones flying for months in what amounts to low-earth orbit are being considered. Commercial flight safety and privacy concerns will certainly be tested by the introduction of flight from many thousands of hobbyists. Add up these impacts, and without a doubt UAVs are reshaping our world view.
It’s a big question, but in your opinion, what does the future of IoT look like?
By trade I am a non-fiction writer and the IoT reminds me of everything science fiction. Take your pick with everything, especially humans, being instrumented-- there is the chance for both great improvement and the sinister in the IoT era of the future.