The Future is Here

IoT Lab Keeps Indiana Ahead of the Tech Curve

By Ann Craig-Cinnamon

If your memory stretches back 25 or so years you can probably recall the very beginning of the internet; that distinctive dial-up sound, the long wait to get online, the sketchy service.  But none of that mattered, because it was a marvel.  Back then you might have wondered how this new technology would impact your life.  Fast forward to 2020 and it is likely an essential part of your life.  Not only is it a vital source of information, news, communication and commerce, but during the pandemic it has helped us work from home and stay in touch with family and friends. 

Something else we are increasingly depending on the internet to do, is connect all the gadgets and technologies in our lives.  That aspect is still evolving and that’s where the Indiana Internet of Things (IoT) Lab comes in. 

The brainchild of Launch Fishers founder John Wechsler, the IoT Lab opened its doors two years ago with the purpose of providing a collaborative space for emerging IoT based projects.  The lab employs the Launch Fishers model, but is messier and louder with the likes of a complete wood shop, soldering irons, 3D printers and other equipment available for members, of which there are already 125 in varying stages of development.

Wechsler says the non-profit lab, which is supported by the city of Fishers, is the first in the country that is municipally supported.  “There aren’t any other communities that we know of in the nation that are investing in the innovation economy quite like Fishers is and that makes us truly unique.”

What is IoT and Why is it Important?

For those of us wondering what exactly this “internet of things” is, Wechsler describes it as internet connected things such as remote controls and thermostats, cameras, and drones and everything in-between.  “So all of the things in our life that utilize the internet for a communication platform to another machine or to humans is broadly referred to as internet of things,” explains Wechsler. 

Not everything is high tech either.  He cites as an example the universally simple mousetrap.  “How do you know when a mouse is stuck in a mousetrap?  One way to do that is to just go check all the traps that you’ve set at your home.  Another way is to have the mousetrap send a signal when it goes off,” says Wechsler.

The inspiration for the Indiana IoT Lab came from examining the three main industries in Indiana:  manufacturing, distribution and agriculture.  Wechsler says all three are disrupted by internet of things technologies and will radically convert them into more tech-enabled industries.  The idea is to get ahead of this radical change. 

A relevant real world example would be the supply chain, according to IoT Lab Executive Director Jason Pennington.  The chain starts with an order and, historically, you expect to get it in three to four weeks.  He says that is changing.  “Today I think for not only the visibility to save quality or freshness or managing cash flow better, a lot of the cycles are getting smaller and as such they are very ripe for disruption.  So imagine what supply chains look like in the height of quarantine and all these impacts that were in some cases out of our control,” he says, explaining that IoT increases visibility along the way and reports back on where the goods are just like you would expect for an Amazon order to your house.  It also provides other info.  “Was my packaged damaged?  Was it exposed to light?  Did my seafood transport at a specified temperature, or was my medicine in the right cold chain throughout the process so that when I get it, the value that I expect is there,” says Pennington.

Modern agriculture benefits from IoT too.  “It’s a lot more integration and visibility to things like weather but also sensing in the grounds.  That’s everything from soil quality to temperature and moisture and getting that optimal planting time,” he says, adding it can be a big aid in field management.

Here are a few examples of the activity currently underway at the IoT Lab.

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