How Traditional Companies Can Tap Into the Power of Connected Devices

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If you wanted to get beyond the hype around the Internet of things to see the technologies in action, New Bedford, Mass., isn’t a bad place to start.

In that old but very active port city, a group of local businesses, poked and prodded by Chris Rezendes, founder of INEX Advisors’ IoT Impact Labs, are deploying sensors, solar panels, and low-power connectivity to wire up vineyards, nurseries, even Island Creek Oysters, a legend among fans of the bivalve.

“We want everything we do to be both profitable and sustainable,” Rezendes said during a press-and-analyst tour of several local businesses, including Quansett Nurseries, Salt Creek Vineyards, both in South Dartmouth, Mass., and the Port of New Bedford itself. Also on hand was Jason Shepherd, director of IoT strategy and partnerships for Dell, an IoT Labs’ sponsor, and actor/environmental activist Adrian Grenier, who is Dell’s social good advocate.

One of the lab’s goals is to give growers, for example, a better idea of the quality and quantity of available water, the temperature, humidity, and air quality of nurseries, etc.

Quansett Nurseries founder Fred Dabney said by putting sensors in his wells, he is now able to get a precise read on his water supply, a key consideration now in drought-stricken Massachusetts. He’s hoping other area businesses will do likewise and contribute their data back so everyone can get a better idea on the health of the area’s aquifer.

Rezendes and Dell, with some other tech partners, are helping people who are used to delivering key physical products—food, drink, plants—by deploying technologies that might be foreign to them. The idea is to prove that these technologies are affordable to deploy and help small and medium-sized businesses in small and medium-sized towns make money.

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The last things the businesses need to hear is a bunch of tech jargon, he added. They have to hear how this will help their businesses, he said.

Much has been made about how remote sensing—really remote sensing in the form of satellite imagery—can help governments and businesses see what’s going on in the ocean or large tracts of lands, but Rezendes noted that such long-distance viewing is of limited utility. “You really need boots on the ground. You have to go out into the physical world to get data,” he noted.

That’s what equipment like the Dell V-5 Gateway, Dattus sensor technology, and Littoral Power Systems gear for generating power from wave and water movement are meant to do. The ability to deploy monitors/buoys equipped with sensors to gather information on tides, water temperature and quality, and boat traffic that can also generate their own power is clearly an attractive proposition.

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In one example, the lab hopes to help the area’s fishing fleet owners comply with catch regulations more easily by automating away a lot of the paperwork. Rezendes said, for example, that instead of paying for a person to monitor catches, which costs $850 a day, the deployment of the right imaging sensors could help them track what they’re catching by species in a more affordable way.

The port is also deploying sensing gear to detect chemical, biological, radiation, and nuclear (CBRN) threats.

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