What the Family Hub Refrigerator and the Internet of Things mean for business

The conversation and evaluation about the Internet of Things (IoT) has been nonstop since the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show. The Internet of Things is a term describing the exchange of data between physical things over the Internet. Examples include wireless printing and remote access of IP cameras at your business.

Three weeks ago, the 2016 CES suggested that the future would include artificial intelligence, hoverboards, and self-driving cars. One big buzz? Samsung revealed their new Family Hub Refrigerator.

Samsung Family Hub

The refrigerator allows complete control from a smartphone. It has three internal cameras so you can view the inside while at the grocery store and a touchscreen that streams entertainment and syncs with your calendar, photos, memos, apps, and more.

What does Family Hub have to do with your business? It demonstrates how the interactions between humans and technology are quickly evolving and will become a bigger part of “normal life” – including your business life.

A new history of progress

The Family Hub is the first appliance to break ground in the kitchen. Read this sentence out loud: “My computer can talk to my refrigerator.” Strange, exciting, terrifying, unnecessary, cool…no person will feel indifferent to that statement.

Throughout history, advancements in computers and telecommunications were utilized by government agencies and institutions of higher education and research, but unattainable to average businesses. In the early 1970s, universities started a private Internet and computing hardware was large, expensive, and complex. Then, with the development of local area networks (LANs) and the Internet Protocol standard, workstations and personal computers became alternatives that businesses could afford in the 1980s.

Computers were at our workplace, then our homes. The Internet was at our workplace, then our homes.

In the mid-2000s, Internet connectivity became available with other electronics and introduced downloadable applications. Smartphones combined the functions of a mobile phone and personal computer, extremely popular for wireless access. Using the Internet, media players and TVs can stream, game consoles provide interactive gameplay, and cameras can send photos to printers and e-mails.

Like automobiles and cellular phones, computers were exclusive. Now, heart monitors can save and send data, smartwatches allow convenient communication, and automobiles are starting to include mobile hotspots.

Our way of living means we’re always within reach of being connected, in someway or another, and it will transfer into business practices.

Internet for your Business: A new way to work

The devices in our homes are already communicating via the Internet and businesses are next. If you aren’t taking advantage of the Internet at your business, you really should be and TriTech can help.

Traditional analog audio and video networks are fading away in favor of IP communication. The quality of digital audio and video is superior, yet the issue remains: Many data networks aren’t configured optimally from the start. Audio and video causes additional stress to the network traffic because the content is time sensitive and high bandwidth. When voice and video aren’t given priority in the network, below standard results occur including static and inconsistencies. Because of these flaws due to poor configuration, people remain skeptical. TriTech prides itself in designing successful networks and delivering the best method for your business.

If your business has multiple locations or traveling is involved, creating a VPN as a common destination for remote employee communication and access to servers and files is a great option. With TriTech, you won’t have to worry about security because our computer engineers are certified to encrypt, authorize, and secure a VPN for your business.

Internet of Things

The inevitable future will be the Internet of Things; anything and everything that’s able will always be connected, communicating, online. Samsung hopes Family Hub will be the next norm. When running late, we used to make a telephone call, then we sent a text message, now we might post a digital note on our refrigerator.

Forbes Contributor Jacob Morgan, co-founder of the Future of Work Community, wrote about IoT in 2014: “Say for example you are on your way to a meeting, your car could have access to your calendar and already know the best route to take, if the traffic is heavy your car might send a text to the other party notifying them that you will be late. … What if your office equipment knew when it was running low on supplies and automatically re-ordered more?”

Internet doesn’t provide security, but TriTech does

All of these interactions are taking place by way of the Internet, a public wide area network (WAN). Public. A computer server at your work is connected to the office LAN, so your home LAN cannot access it. To resolve this, the Internet is used.

However, everyone and anyone can use the Internet. If security and preventative measures aren’t taken, then connections are vulnerable and at risk. Sometimes measures such as passwords still aren’t enough to protect from threats. With your business, securing traffic sent across the Internet and LAN is vital. That’s where the certified professionals of TriTech step in.

TriTech Corporation of America has been helping businesses with networking and computing solutions ever since Internet service providers multiplied in the early 1990s. Unmatched, TriTech has a track record of results and proven reliability.

Secure and future-proof your business with TriTech today, (262) 717-0037, toll-free (800) 891-3388, or email service (at) tritechcoa (dot) com.

What Is the Internet of Things?

With our partners at Microsoft announcing today the new Azure suite of Internet of Things services, we thought it’d be worthwhile to look at what precisely they mean by the Internet of Things.

You’ve probably heard the term being bandied about. It’s one of the latest in the long string of technological buzzwords that seem to exist only to confuse. Over the course of the last year, the term has become almost inescapable.

It’s particularly confusing because it’s a rather vague term that doesn’t refer to a specific technology. Rather, it refers to a concept.

This concept, the Internet of Things, is here to stay. Let’s investigate what it is.

The Internet of Things

A working couple wants to save on their energy bills, so they’ve installed wirelessly connected thermostats in their house. Rather than having to program a schedule for keeping the house cool when they’re gone—an excellent way to save money on their energy bills—they use an app on their smartphones that connects to the thermostats. Whenever they leave, they punch in a low temperature. A half-hour before they get back, whenever that may be, they raise it back up.

This is a classic example of the Internet of Things, using the internet to connect people with objects remotely.

Because of the incredible innovation in technology in recent years, what’s connected to the internet has expanded vastly. It’s not just computers that are connected: it’s thermostats, smartphones, coffee makers, basketball shoes, forklifts, particle accelerators, elevators… in other words: everything.

Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers made this point clearly a year ago: “When I came to Cisco there were about a thousand things connected to the internet, now there are 10 billion; by the end of the decade there will be 500 billion.”

This is what makes the idea difficult to understand, because when the stakes are connecting pretty much everything, how do you narrow down the topic? You can see this problem of definition in Microsoft’s announcement today:

Microsoft’s vision is to help companies thrive in this era of IoT, delivering open, scalable platforms and services that any company, whether startup or the most established global enterprises, can use to create new value.

Basically, that translates to Microsoft saying: we want to help any size of company integrate anything they want.



Integration

The primary idea behind the Internet of Things is integration.

Even more than the first two waves of the internet—with personal computers and with mobile technology—the Internet of Things is diverse and unfathomably huge. There may be more smartphones than people on the Earth, but think about how many smartthings there could be.

With that in mind, there are two things to pay particular attention to when reading about the Internet of Things:

1. What is being integrated?
2. How is it being connected?

When you read articles that talk about the Internet of Things, look to see what the companies want to integrate. There is a great deal of innovation happening right now, and it seems like every day a new item that you never thought would become part of the internet is now connected. This is a rather obvious point.

What’s not so obvious is to see how the thing is being integrated. Developers are scrambling to carve out their niches. At the same time, because everything needs to be developed without fragmenting the marketplace completely, companies are also working toward open standards. Open standards will allow the whole technological community to maintain quality even in the grip of rapid change. For an example of this, Cade Metz, recently wrote in Wired about the importance of Facebook’s “open source” hardware designs.

However, because it’s all changing so rapidly, no one really knows what going to happen with the Internet of Things even in a few years’ time.

Convenience

The great hope for the Internet of Things is that it will make our lives more convenient. Think of that family with their thermostat. If they forget one morning or if their routine is interrupted, it’s no big deal. They’ll be connected. They have much more flexibility.

Whether or not you think of these innovations as increasing convenience or as being one more thing you need to worry about will depend on your personality and personal philosophy. It’s a major debate out there. For example, for all the ballyhoo about fitness technology, according to Nir Eyal, it’s not clear whether such technology actually helps someone stay fit.

For businesses, however, the argument for increased convenience is stronger.

Employees will be connected and sharing data on everything. Performance monitoring will be more fine-grained. Remote workers will be able to stay integrated while living in their preferred place and manner, making for much happier workers. And on and on. You can think of the possibilities.

With more of the basics being done by technology, it might free employees to focus on the creative aspects of business, where technology is no competition. It will, the advocates say, allow companies to increase their flexibility, productivity, and efficiency all at once.

But are there any serious drawbacks?

Security

The biggest problem with the Internet of Things is the increased risk of security breaches. It already feels like these breaches make up most of the news you watch in the evening. Is this only going to increase? Well, all the data provided by people using trackable products—and everything connected to the internet is in some way trackable—can help companies innovate.

That data also has the potential to be hacked.

Actually, hacking is almost inevitable in some sense right now. We wrote in September about the huge increase in data hackers. Because the Internet of Things means an almost infinite number of connections will be made between devices, how do you protect against bad connections?

Unfortunately, no one really knows what’s going to happen in the struggle between users and hackers.

Secure network construction and standardized initial set-up of infrastructure will be even more important than it is now. For even though the Internet of Things as a buzzword points to the cloud where everything is connected, this all ultimately relies on physical engineering. Thankfully, companies like TriTech who integrate not only the latest technological innovations, but also know how to do solid, well-planned construction are still around! With our back-to-front information technology services, TriTech can make your company as secure as it can be while granting you the incredible advantages of the Internet of Things.