Ford’s New Plan for the Internet of Things
Larry Alton
JAN 07, 2016 14:04 PM
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Ford’s New Plan for the Internet of Things

by Larry Alton

When you think about the forerunners of advancement in the Internet of Things (IoT), a digitally connected network of different devices and everyday objects, you might think of technological geniuses like the folks at Apple or Google, who have consistently pushed the boundaries of technological sophistication in the past. You might not think of Ford, an auto manufacturer, as being a mover in the industry, but the company recently announced plans to advance IoT networks with car-home communication.

Sync and Other Systems

Currently, Ford has more than 15 million vehicles on the road equipped with Sync, a “smart” technology that grants drivers and owners certain types of access to vehicular components, such as remotely unlocking doors or establishing automated programs in the car’s interface. Ford’s new plan is to connect this Sync system with other, similar “smart” technologies, such as Amazon’s Alexa cloud software or Wink’s smart home technology.

Under these connections, a “smart home” network could theoretically be able to unlock car doors, turn on headlights, check fuel levels, or start the vehicle from anywhere. GPS tracking could also locate the vehicle, making it especially handy in the event of theft.

Where IoT Stands

Ford isn’t the only one pushing the limits of IoT smart technology. Wink, one of the systems planned to connect with Sync, has two separate physical devices designed as a foundation for device communication. There’s the Wink Hub, which serves as a gateway for devices to cross-communicate, and Wink Relay, which serves as a wall-mounted touchscreen for remote controls of different home functions like blinds, lights, and heat.

Amazon, on the other hand, offers Amazon Echo, a device with multiple microphones that can relay commands to the Alexa software. The software can then send commands to devices for similar purposes (turning on the lights, raising the temperature, etc.). There are plenty of smart devices in the hands of consumers already, and promising hubs for the future of communication, but the IoT hasn’t invaded every home yet, nor has a successful interconnected network been established.

What’s Needed to Advance the IoT

There are a handful of technological problems holding back the IoT from further development. One of the most crucial is the power and reach of Wi-Fi networks. The Wi-Fi Alliance, an organization that sets Wi-Fi standards throughout the country, recently announced plans to greatly increase the potential for home (and business) Wi-Fi networks, in terms of raw power and flexibility. This increase could theoretically allow for thousands of devices to be independently connected to one access point, enabling the progression of a “smart” network of devices.

Bluetooth technology already allows sophisticated “tethered” connections between devices, even over long distances or across obstacles, in ways that modern Wi-Fi connections can’t. Unfortunately, Bluetooth connectivity is not a long-term solution to the problem. To be effective, smart networks will need all devices connected directly to the Internet—not just each other. Once that happens, the possibilities are virtually endless; cars and homes communicating to each other is just the start.

Eventually, the IoT will allow us to have sophisticatedly interconnected appliances, devices, and even basic objects tethered to one network, but to be successful, technology companies and professionals in other various industries will need to form more partnerships to allow that communication to exist. Ford’s recent progression in linking Sync with Alexa and Wink is a step in the right direction. These baby steps may not seem significant as they slowly unfold, but they’re leading us toward a new era where almost every object can communicate data with every other object.

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