IoT roundup: Robot boats; AT&T makes IoT partner deals

AT&T is allying with HPE, AVSystem, Passtime to provide IoT options; MIT collaborates on autonomous 'roboats' to ply the waters of Amsterdam’s canals.

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There’s plenty of IoT technology coming into the automotive sector – sophisticated fleet management systems, in-car entertainment and connectivity - but the real pot of gold is fully autonomous transport, which is inching closer all the time.

One piece of news on that front comes out of MIT, where researchers announced earlier this month that they are collaborating with the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions to create a “roboat,” which leverages GPS, cameras and other sensors, alongside on-board connectivity and compute, to create autonomous boats for travel along the Dutch capital’s 165 canals.

The team has a few use cases in mind for the roboats over and above basic transportation of passengers. Several of them could be used to form ad hoc structures like footbridges, many could be used to make bigger structures like performance stages, and the data they collect could be used to monitor air and water quality in the city.

Smart roads

Somewhat more modestly, the Utah Department of Transportation said this week that it’s working on two smart road projects. Instrumented sections of road are designed to provide real-time information about crashes, bad weather, stalled cars and the like, and to alert drivers of connected vehicles to delay info and alternate routes.

With Panasonic as a partner, the UDOT system will stream data from sensors in the smart roadways to a central cloud, and – thanks to an open software architecture called CIRRUS – the possibilities for third-party collaboration with other government departments and even private companies are there. (OK, it’s only going to work with a set of 30 state-owned vehicles at the outset, but baby steps.)

Meanwhile, satellite communications company Kymeta argued in a whitepaper this month that heavily connected first-responder vehicles are the prototypes for future autonomous vehicles. Advanced command/control vehicles like the ones made by Microsoft, Nomad and others contain enough technology to serve as moving IoT hubs, with their own edge instances and multiple types of network connectivity.

That basic architecture, according to Kymeta – which, unsurprisingly, is a partner with Microsoft in its Tactical Command Vehicle – is similar to what you’d need to create fully autonomous cars, though the bandwidth-intensive nature of any driverless vehicle remains a hurdle.

AT&T teams up to support IoT

It’s well-known that implementing IoT means that businesses with disparate areas of expertise need to team up in order to make the more impressive benefits of the technology a reality.  AT&T has apparently taken that advice to heart, announcing new partnerships with HPE, device management company AVSystem and GPS provider Passtime this month.

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