Mobile Data for the Internet of Things

Editor’s note: This article is by Dipanjan Chakraborty, a computer scientist at IBM Research – India’s Telecom and Mobile Research Center.

With the rapid adoption of smartphones and improved sensing capabilities on these devices, businesses want to take advantage of this “swarm of smartphone sensors” and answer the question: how can our smartphones effectively utilize its sensors for our personal benefit, as well as benefit the businesses we seek services from?

I’m part of the team at IBM Research – India that built a mobile solution to do just that. The technology integrates with existing apps on smartphones to cut across everything from function (such as GPS or coupons) to business (such as retail or healthcare), to help individuals and organizations work together, and learn from one another.

In a nutshell, it allows businesses to perform surgically precise mobile data collection from devices, offering the ability to control the sensors on the smartphone in a “smart” way. It performs real-time analytics to convert mobile data into meaningful events for the owner of the smartphone, and for the businesses he or she wants to interact with.

On the backend, the collected data takes into account users’ contextual preferences: which services do they want to share their data with, at what times of the day, and where, for example. Now, businesses have the data you want them to have, and they know how you want to interact with them.

Helping navigate the world around you

The solution utilizes smartphone sensing to improve insights about individuals, while also improving the processes of the businesses they interact with. It has been built so that users can provide fine-grained access rights of when their smartphone can “sense” and when it can’t. This is different, more powerful and flexible from the model used by most of today’s apps, which ask for blanket approval to use the device’s resources. For example, we’re piloting it with DLF, a large retailer in India that will allow their shops to push sales deals to shoppers (via their store’s app), based on footfall heat maps – all on an opt-in basis for the shopper.  

Sensors are everywhere, and can do so much more than provide shopping deals. In the near future, our team hopes to connect businesses in a variety of industries to these sensors, via this mobile technology. Doctors could remotely monitor their recently discharged heart surgery patients. A city government could monitor noise pollution, traffic, or hotspots of citizens’ activities using mobile data from their smartphones.

In the case of a city working with its citizens to develop this interaction between the enterprise and the community, the technology also allows authorities to adjust data collection rates at different times of the day, at different parts of city to have high quality coverage and understanding of the phenomenon – for example traffic and noise. All this is done while being cognizant of the preferences and context of the users.

Read more about this and other mobile projects on our telecom and mobile research site.

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