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Telefónica research arm shows off latest M2M innovations

'Thinking Things' connects almost any device wirelessly to the internet

Researchers at Telefónica Digital have unveiled some of the innovations they have been working on in the field of machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, with the aim of establishing an Internet of physical things.

The company's latest concept under development, Thinking Things, connects almost any device wirelessly to the internet, enabling physical objects to be controlled remotely via a web page.

Thinking Things consists of three elements: a physical module (or "plastic brick") containing core communications and logic, energy via a battery or AC module, and a variety of sensors and actuators.

According to Telefnica I+D, the research arm of Telefónica, modules are connected together and then connected to the device they will control. For instance, modules can be plugged into a lamp to enable remote control of home lighting.

Once connected, a web page is created for the new device. This provides online access to control the functions of the physical modules and configure triggers - such as controlling home temperature online or via SMS.

All the web functions are offered through an API, so developers can build their own applications on top of the platform.

"We think the time has come to democratise the Internet of Things - to open its capabilities to every kind of company and individual, with small investments," said Francisco Javier Zorzano of Telefónica I+D.

"This opening should mean an explosion of new developments and services, as happened in the 90s with cheap Internet access."

The Thinking Things portfolio currently includes a battery, wireless connection, humidity/temperature, presence detection, RGB indicator, accelerometer+compass, pressure detector, servomotor control and some generic modules with standard electronical interfaces.

Additional capabilities such as GPS and radio frequency identification (RFID) are in development.

The final element of Thinking Things will be a data services ecosystem. This will offer access to metadata from Telefónica's network, leading to the development of personalised and localised services. It will also provide the ability to monetise new products and services.

The Thinking Things initiative follows the launch of Drive to Improve, an in-car telematics device that tracks vehicle journeys. The device monitors the driver's speed, acceleration, braking, route and distance travelled, and feeds this information into a smartphone app.

The Drive to Improve app then uploads this data to a server and generates easily understandable scores and tips. Drivers can see how they rank on community leaderboards and monitor their improvements over time.


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