A Real-World IoT Solution for Real-World IoT Problems

A Real-World IoT Solution for Real-World IoT Problems

What is the most important Internet of Things (IoT) problem to solve? Getting devices connected to the internet? Securing their respective cloud infrastructures? Analytics? They’re all important, but enabling people to seamlessly talk to their devices, and enabling their devices to talk to them, is an aspect which is often overlooked. The convenience of having a natural conversation with your devices truly fulfils the vision of IoT’s interconnectivity. But we’re not there yet.


How does your IoT device talk to you?

We now have, and use daily, dozens of different communications platforms. We use email and SMS, social media and chat, and a new messaging app seemingly pops up every week. Add to that the user bugaboo of preference. Your preferred communications channel for a given use case is almost guaranteed to be different from mine. This obviously results in a significant problem for IoT device manufacturers. “Which platform should I use for our notifications and alerts, and which channel should my new device use to talk to its users?”

One answer to this question is for manufacturers to add connectivity support to their products for all of the most popular communications platforms. They will have to hire (or contract with) software developers to connect each and every one of their IoT devices to each and every one of the

[ever changing] platforms, a substantial investment for any hardware-focused company. Beyond cost, some of the most used platforms offer limited support to developers through their APIs, while others offer none at all.

This “eat everything” approach also hinders innovation. There is the strong likelihood of limited partnerships between communications platforms and device manufacturers, resulting in manufacturers’ devices being “handcuffed” to work with only a single platform.This results in less choice – and therefore less usability – for users whose hardware notifications get restricted to platforms they may not even use. If I am a diehard Facebooker for example, having a product which only talks with Twitter is not going to motivate me to create an account on Twitter. It’s going to motivate me to buy a different device.

Device manufacturers have embraced Amazon Echo as their voice platform (500+ devices connected and counting), but currently lack an open messaging platform which enables their devices to talk back and forth with their users on their preferred communications platforms via text. For smart homes (Consumer IoT) to take off, and for people to benefit from IoT’s full  potential, devices must be compatible with and able to talk in all types of communication styles on all types of communications platforms.


How do you control access to your IoT device?

Communications is two-way – Machine to Human (M2H) and Human to Machine (H2M). A person should be able to communicate with his/her IoT device directly from his/her smartphone, making it the remote control for all of the devices they use.

Controlling your device from your smartphone creates unlimited opportunities to innovate. For example, a user can switch off their air conditioner when they’re not at home to save electricity, or close their garage door after they turn off their car’s ignition. When all your electronic devices are connected, you can control everything from wherever you happen to be.

Some devices may even be used by multiple users, as companies virtualize their IoT devices and start offering them as a service, (e.g., 3D printers, bicycles, homes, automobiles, etc.). Even in your home, just giving weekend guests temporary access to all (or some) of your smart appliances is a very valid use case, however – at present – a nightmare, both from a security, as well as from a convenience point of view.

When this happens, service providers will need to securely control access. Preventing malicious use also requires secure channels between users and their devices. The current IoT infrastructure is incapable of providing these necessary guarantees. In fact, the current situation regarding the security of IoT devices is questionable at best. In mid-September 2016, French hosting provider OVH was the victim to a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks that reached over one terabit per second (1 Tbps), carried out via a network of over 152,000 IoT devices, including compromised CCTV cameras and personal video recorders. The FBI itself has issued statements to citizens to either be careful when using IoT devices such as video cameras, smart lightbulbs, connected cars, and baby monitors or to keep them off of the internet. And this wasn’t even the worst attack of 2016. The Mirai botnet attack on DNS provider Dyn caused the world’s largest distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) on record to date.


UnificationEngine™ – securely matching people’s and devices’ identities without compromising convenience

UnificationEngine supports the most popular global communications channels, social media networks, chat, and messaging apps. Users aren’t forced to join a new channel – or download a new app – they can simply receive notifications and alerts from their devices or control them typing in normal sentences using natural language from any messaging app that they already love and know how to use.

Suppose your favorite channel is a chat app such as Viber or Telegram. Your refrigerator “notices” you’re running out of milk, and that you won’t have enough for your morning coffee if you don’t pick it up tonight. Your smart fridge sends you a Viber message, “Hey! Remember the milk! -Your Pal the Frigo.” The message is delivered from your refrigerator to your Viber app through UnificationEngine. Across town, your dad, whose preferred channel is text (SMS), is also facing his own cow juice crisis, so his refrigerator sends him a remember the milk message via SMS. Delivered again through UnificationEngine, UE increases the overall usability of IoT devices by supporting multiple communications platforms simultaneously.

UnificationEngine connects devices’ features and capabilities with users via a single integration, so hardware manufacturers don’t have to worry about supporting all different communication channels and messaging apps. This allows them to focus on their hardware, and leave the management of communications channels to UnificationEngine.

Enabling communications between smart, connected devices and their users, UnificationEngine guarantees security and access control. For example, a hallway security camera has its access restricted to authorized personnel.

UnificationEngine will play a great role in enabling hassle-free communication between users and IoT devices. With UnificationEngine, we are looking at people tweeting their connected cars to start up, pull out of the garage, and turn on the air conditioning or heat. We are looking at safety equipment like safety vests messaging their owners/crew members about how or why they might be in danger. We are looking at effective, expeditious two-way communication between IoT devices and users in whatever way they choose.

UnificationEngine solves real-world problems by enabling seamless communications between people and their devices, at home, at work, and on the go on the communications channels they use most, without having to download an additional app.


About the Author

Toby Ruckert is the CEO of Unified Inbox. The company’s UnificationEngine enables apps, devices, and appliances to simply communicate with people and things on the communications channels they already use. It solves IoT developers, makers, and manufacturers’ burning problem of easier, faster, and cheaper integration of all incoming and outgoing communications. You can follow Toby on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/tobyruckert and on twitter at https://twitter.com/tobyruckert



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Questions / Contact:

Gulraiz Khalid, Director PR/Marcom’s: gulraiz.khalid@unifiedinbox.com

Ken Herron, CMO: ken.herron@unifiedinbox.com

Toby Ruckert, CEO: ceo@unifiedinbox.com



About the Author:

Toby Ruckert
UIB CEO and Founder Toby writes about the IoT and AI industry's biggest challenges and opportunities for enterprises, governments, and individuals.