Smart Technology, The Internet of Things, and the Future

By John Putters, President/CEO, Visionstate Corp.

Since Visionstate’s inception in 2005, when our company launched the first truly “smart” touch directory at Southgate Shopping Centre, we have been a part of an explosion in smart technologies. Recent acquisitions couldn’t have been better illustrated this trend than the multibillion dollar take over of Nest Technologies by Google earlier this year. Nest, which is now aggressively marketing its product in retail locations, is a thermostat device for the home that learns patterns and sets room temperatures according past user behavior.           

What is driving this move toward smart technologies? First and foremost, it is driven by another fast-growing sector of the IT industry, namely, analytics. For devices to be smart and learn patterns it needs to collect historical data that can be analyzed and packaged in a way that is meaningful and productive. Historically, data has been collected and stored by all sorts of different devices, but in most cases that data was not leveraged into making it useful. Analytics changes that by taking that data and identifying patterns and consistencies, ultimately helping to make organizations more productive and competitive, improving the bottom line. Connecting these devices to the web is now making this analyzed information more relevant, convenient, and useful for businesses and consumers, which has been coined “The Internet of Things (or #IoT)”

Visionstate’s WANDA device for public restrooms is another example of a product in the IoT or smart space. Despite the importance of clean restrooms to improve public image, the cleaning and maintenance of these facilities has relied on the age-old process of filling out a sheet of paper. We have all seen this paper hanging precariously on the wall of public restrooms, adorned with scribbles that make as little sense to the public as they do for building managers. WANDA has changed all that by simply replacing the paper-based method with a touchscreen device mounted at the entrance of restrooms, requiring maintenance staff to enter information about their cleaning activities and resources.

By taking this simply step forward managers can now derive a host of information from WANDA that will result in better efficiencies in cleaning and resource use. For example, who cleaned the restroom and when, what resources were used and what issues were addressed. This information is all now just a click away. And as that database of information grows, analytics will enable the device to begin predicting service level requirements before they even happen. The benefits to both building operators and the public are obvious; cleaner restrooms, better time management by maintenance staff, improved resource allocation, and of course an audit trail on the cleaning and maintenance history.

This is only the beginning in the evolution of smart devices. Look for smarter everything – refrigerators that alert you on low resources, and collect information about food use, cars that communicate with your cell phone, restrooms that email you when resources are low. There is only so much out sourcing and downsizing companies can do; eventually new efficiencies will be achieved through the proliferation of smart devices.