Smart Phones and the Internet of Things

November 18, 2014 | BY Michael Hausenblas

In this installment of the IoT blog post series we take a closer look at a sometimes underestimated IoT device: smart phones.

A modern smartphone is equipped with up to 10 sensors, able to capture anything from location to the device orientation to light conditions. Collectively, these sensors produce a huge amount of data, both in unstructured form (picture or videos) as well as structured, such as GPS or acceleration data. With the rise of the wearables, such as Android Wear or the Apple Watchyour smart phone increasingly plays and additional role. This new role can be considered as the 'brain' of your Body Area Network (BAN), given the storage and communication capabilities of the smart phone. Last but not least with technologies such as Near Field Communications (NFC)​, more and more smart phones can function not only as sensors but as actuators, that is, trigger actions (such as payments) or control other things, including TVs or cars.

Let's now see where smart phones are already or can be used in an IoT setup, along the four IoT application categories:

  1. In the Personal IoT we see an increasing number of offerings around fitness and health. Then, there are a number of gadgets aiming to address everyday's tasks and problems, like Tile allowing you to find things via your phone or NFC rings that can unlock your phone.
  2. Applications in the Group IoT area benefit from smart phones in a number of ways: for example, in the context of the connected car, to control or check the system status. The same is true for smart homes, an topic we will discuss in greater detail in an upcoming post.
  3. For the Community IoT, smart phones play a vital role as well: for example, citizens can contribute to a smart city via crowd-sourcing applications; see the previous blog post on smart cities for more details.
  4. In the context of Industrial IoT applications we find smart phones used for B2C purposes such as providing personalized and contextualized recommendations in real-time and vouchers. Further, in the retail business, solutions emerge for customer 360 views and also the insurance services industry can benefit using smart phones in IoT apps (think: adaptive policies that take place, time or type of travel into account).

If you like to explore what IoT applications exist or maybe want to prepare yourself concerning tooling, I suggest to review the following resources:

What applications can you imagine, where smart phones are used in an IoT setup? Which sensors or actuators would be needed to realize your app? What new business opportunities do you see emerging? I'd be interested to hear about your opinion, in the comment section below.

The next blog post in this series will dive into a Group IoT application area commonly referred to as _Smart Homes—_stay tuned!