Always On Home Security

google fiber home security

With the impending arrival of Google Fiber in my neighborhood, I can’t contain how happy I am to finally have an alternative to Xfinity. I am not sure why I am forced to have a landline when I do not even own a phone, but that is a separate blog within itself. One service that Xfinity offers is their Xfinity Home service for security and remote home management features. Since a comparable service is not available with Google I see this as an opportunity to put together a solution leveraging a few technologies that I have been wanting to dive into.

  • Machine Learning
  • Big Data
  • Digital Fingerprinting / Identification

As most of you are aware by now, if I can tinker around and create something myself, I am going to try. While working on a couple of retail based POC’s for client projects at BlueFletch I got the idea for creating a home security system. The source of my inspiration were these two proof of concepts:

  1. Tracking and identifying customers in a retail location from the devices and/or applications they would have.
  2. A device that could manage other smaller beacons in a retail location.

My ‘aha’ moment came when I realized I could use these same techniques, combined with machine learning, to detect when devices (and, therefore, people) are in and around my home. And if a creeper goes low tech and leaves their devices at home, I’ve got a plan for that scenario as well! With listening and video models I can track and record any unwanted presence.

How This Works

Step 1: By strategically placing devices and IP cameras around my home and property I can monitor and record activity. The information that I gather will be processed and stored in the cloud. Since I am a glutton for punishment and recently spent a lot of time with Microsoft products, I will be leveraging Microsoft’s Azure cloud services.

Initially the devices will listen for signals being broadcast by other devices. This continuous stream of information will flow to and be stored in the cloud for me to manually process and determine if there are any patterns.

Step 2: Once I have confidence in the data that I am receiving I will build my first model to process the stream of data.

My goal is to train my model with a simple set of binary (yes/no) questions. When a new ‘thing’ is detected the system will ask me via text messaging if this thing is known or unknown. From there I can start to dig deeper and categorize ‘things’ I detect.

Step 3: IP cameras will always be recording and can take requests for timestamped images or video. Only data from a requested period of time will be stored. E.g. When a thing is detected, send along the visuals for that moment in time. This will provide me additional context so that hopefully I can visually see what has been detected digitally. In later versions I could even leverage cognitive services to detect people or things in the visuals that are captured.

The goal is simple. Can I detect if someone is at my home that probably should not be and if so then let me know so that I can do something about it. Smart, simple, affordable home security.

BlueFletch featured on TAG Radio’s Tech Talk

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BlueFletch Managing Partner, Richard Makerson, is featured on TAG Radio’s Tech Talk.

Today, enterprise mobility is a strategic component of every business. Frank Baia and Richard Makerson discuss how BlueFletch consistently delivers innovative next gen mobile solutions that improve efficiency and provide productivity improvements and competitive advantage for our clients. Learn how BlueFletch leverages a decade of experience and innate creativity to design custom mobile solutions specifically tailored to our clients individual needs.

A love of learning, a determination to constantly evolve, and the ability to find comfort in the unknown make Richard and the team at BlueFletch leaders in enterprise mobility.

 

Listen here

Need a mobile solution? If so, will any solution do?

What do I wear? What’s for lunch? Should I buy a new car or a used car?

Making decisions is a normal process. We do it instinctively, day in and day out. And yet, some decisions are more important than others. For the enterprise, the build-versus-buy decision can be a challenging one. Determining whether to invest in long term efforts or chose a more conservative (i.e. less expensive and short term) approach is not to be taken lightly.

buildvbuyLONG

When deciding to implement a mobile strategy, will anything do?

First, you must pinpoint what is important to your organization:

  • Reducing overtime with efficiency gains?
  • Capturing additional information to provide the business with actionable data?
  • Access to data in the field?

No matter the strategy, at some point the decision will be made to pull a solution off-the-shelf or build something custom. Not all problems are created equal and neither are budgets for that matter.

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Read More…

Wearables and the Worker

Earlier this year I wrote about wearable devices and the various devices I have worn over the years, ending with my decision to purchase the Apple Watch. With this post I wanted to take the time to highlight how wearables could make the enterprise workplace better; more productive, safer and smarter. With computing devices getting ever smaller, faster and providing more data; wearable devices will provide a unique opportunity to make work easier for some.

Enterprises are already looking for appropriate use cases within their business that can take advantage of wearable devices.

Advances in consumer mobile devices, the availability of next-generation ruggedized enterprise devices and the possibility of wearables are providing an array of benefits from notifications/alerts, health tracking etc. Now that smart phones are here to stay, the gap between enterprise ruggedized devices and consumer devices is narrowing. So much so that the same next generation devices used in industries can run the same applications that millions of us enjoy on our personal phones. With such a parody of technology it should be an easy transition for wearables to become common in the workplace.

I wanted to explore a few areas where efficiencies could be gained:
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Labor

In the Warehouse workers could use wearables to track the steps and position in a facility while performing task. This could provide useful pattern data that could be analyzed for more efficiently planning and delegation of task. Think UPS no left turns for workers performing task.
 

Retail

Store associates could be notified of pending Buy Online Pick-up In-Store (BOPIS) orders, remove a task from the queue and mark it complete from a wearable watch device. Also, store associates could be notified of customers waiting to be helped in areas that require associate interaction to complete a purchase. Blinds, Carpet, Appliances, etc

Health

Accident Prevention and worker safety is a serious concern for some companies. Here are some statics from OSHA:

  • 4,585 workers were killed on the job in 2013
  • Out of 828 construction deaths:
    •  302 resulted from Falls
    • 84 – Stuck by Object
    • 71 Electrocutions
    • 21 – Caught-in/between

I do not have a practical analogy but what I think would be interesting is a wearable that provided a ‘spidey sense’ haptic feedback to warn of potential dangers. Kinetic is working on a cool wearable to reduce the injuries caused by workers lifting heavy objects.

How can wearables improve quality of life? The Microsoft Band already detects stress and there are rumors that the Apple Watch could detect glucose levels. A company with an aging workforce or a workforce tied to products known to lead to health problems could leverage wearables to provide feedback and education to make workforce health a priority. Being able to detect stress, anxiety, overwork, irregular breathing or heart problems could provide timely alerts and/or notifications that suggest a resolving action/behavior.

Rising healthcare costs are a real problem for large organizations and our nation as a whole. There are some of us that wake up every morning and live life like tomorrow is not promised. But there are some that care about what they eat, how active they are and overall longevity of life. For those people tracking their fitness and body composition, providing additional data points allows for healthcare premium rates. For those that need improvement, the same data can be used to provide a plan and show potential savings. Think Progressive Snapshot for healthcare insurance.
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Contextual Awareness

With a combination of natural disasters and violent episodes happening in schools, responding to random tragedies is a job requirement. Office safety is sometimes over looked and not taken seriously even when training or information is being disseminated. Having a discrete way to notify administrators of a possible dangerous situation or knowing how to account for (and potentially communicate with) victims after a disaster could be improved upon with the use of wearable devices.

In retail, possibilities include a contextual based watch face that knows where I am in the store and provides only the data that I need (current sales information, recalls, what items are out of stock). Even clienteling applications that provide store associates with customer data could provide valuable insight when making purchases.

Another interesting development is exoskeletons. Although, they are not what you typically think of when discussing wearables. I find them extremely interesting and I am excited to see what the future holds.

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TV Subscription Services

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For many, the term “cutting the cord” has become synonymous with “sticking it” to the Cable TV overlords. For some, cutting the cord is the fulfillment of a new year’s resolution to watch less TV. For these rare people in the world, cutting the cord helps them feel more intelligent. For others, by reminding everyone that, “I have not seen that television show,” you are implying that cable TV is beneath you.

Cutting the cord during the last few years did not leave you with great options if you still wanted to be entertained with new content on a nightly basis.

cord2The previous options for cord cutters revolved around physical devices and streaming services. You needed a physical device such as a Smart TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, etc. In addition to the device, you needed access to a service to watch content such as Netflix, Hulu, Plex, Youtube, etc.

A digital antennae is also a must for local news and live broadcast television. Without a set of digital rabbit ears, how could you watch the local news in the event of a snow day or witness the zombie apocalypse as it unfolds?

After watching Iron Man 3 for the 42nd time you start to realize that these streaming services are not “really” designed to replace regular television.

I have been asked the following questions about the practical usability of streaming services:

  • What if I want to flip through channels and mindlessly surf TV until I catch a cramp in my thumb?
  • What if Netflix had an automatic shuffle feature so that I could just watch 6 hours of sitcoms based on my viewing habits?
  • What happens if there is a power outage and I lose internet? I lose the ability to stream, right?

All of these are valid concerns and some apps have tried to address the inherit challenges of using services like Netflix as a primary source of entertainment, e.g. Netflix Roulette.
streamtvThat being said—this is the year (or at least should be) consumers will have TV subscription services that are true cable tv replacements. If you follow tech news, then you know that Apple has been negotiating for years with cable companies to bring a better TV experience to the masses (with little to no luck). There have been small apps like HBOGO and FoxNOW, but not an offering that could be a true replacement.

Apple is currently working on releasing new Apple TV hardware, but they are also preparing a service that will be available later this year. If you are a fan of HBO, they recently rolled out a standalone service called HBO NOW. I am really excited about what the folks at Dish Network have released—their Sling TV service.

slinggSling TV, a $20-a-month service for cord-cutters has made a welcomed debut earlier this year. There are a number of additional packages that you can add, ranging from $5—$15 per month. In Sling TV’s basic package there are familiar channels such as ESPN, HGTV, CNN, TBS, A&E, TNT, Food Network, History Channel and others.

Although, I am excited for subscription services to finally be available, I suspect there will be a race to the bottom—all of the big names in cable TV, i.e. Comcast, Time Warner, etc. will probably offer similar services at a slightly lower price point. Companies will continue to offer lower prices to gain or retain market share as prices continue to “race to the bottom.”
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