IoT – Connecting the Next Trillion Devices

Today, we live in an Internet of Things universe where billions of devices interact with people, the cloud and each other. In our own daily lives, household appliances, personal wearables and the cars we drive have mostly graduated to the realm of IoT.

Distilled to its basics, the premise is simple: embed a tiny computer and a radio into a device so it can send and receive data between people and things. This drives automation, intelligence and interactivity that was previously impossible. And with near ubiquitous and inexpensive internet coverage, there is great incentive to invest in transforming disconnected devices into IoT-ready things.

Where are we Today?

Forecasts predict that by next year, we will have over 29 billion connected IOT devices on our planet. That’s a lot of cameras, sensors, handhelds and industrial machines. Within the four walls of your home alone, that likely includes every appliance, fixture, and screen. But let’s face it, 29 billion is a fraction of the physical inventory of the things on our planet today. To exploit the full potential of IOT, we’re actually talking about connecting trillions of things, aren’t we? There are so many items that could benefit from being connected to the cloud, items that can’t bear the added expense of a chip and a communications radio.

Branded consumer goods could leverage cloud connectivity to validate authenticity. Sensitive shipments like vaccines and legal documents could be tracked for chain of custody and transfer. Even simple print media could leverage internet connections to provide audiences with more information and interactivity. The applications are endless. So, how do we get it done?

Connecting the Unconnected:  QR and NFC

Contactless technologies like QR Codes and NFC chips provide an elegant and powerful solution for the 99% of things that can’t shoulder the added expense of a radio for connectivity. By embedding these virtually free ‘tokens’ into everyday items and using devices (like our cell phones) to act as their radios, we can create a bridge to IoT for just about anything.

While the subsiding pandemic showed us the utility of contactless technologies like QR Codes, it only gave us a tiny glimpse into how they can be used to digitize and automate the physical world. Today, most QR Codes scan to static endpoints like websites and documents. In reality, QR Codes and NFC tags can be instrumented to do far more. They can be configured to collect and store all sorts of contextual data, capture scanner demographics, and trigger dynamic workflows that change based on parameters. But to bring these features to everyday use cases, better developer tools and platforms are needed.

Openscreen and the Contactless Era of IOT

Openscreen’s vision of connecting the next trillion things in an IOT universe is based on being the broadest and most developer-friendly platform for contactless technologies like QR Codes and NFC tags. By empowering developers to generate dynamic QR Codes at scale, with robust data and scan capture utilities, we’re lowering the barriers to embed contactless tech into enterprise applications. We enable developers to securely store the things we want to connect to the cloud, and easily create the QR tokens that will get them there.   Openscreen’s developer API and SDK make it easy to get started right away, and our reference documentations showcase powerful applications across diverse industries. After all, a trillion is a big number. Let’s get going!

QR Codes for Counterfeit Detection

It’s been said that there are a whole lot of things that are fake in this world. And it’s true. The rise of unique luxury items in an increasingly homogenous world has made counterfeit products an immense problem. In fact, the Federal Bureau of Investigations recently estimated the cost of counterfeit in the US to be $600 billion annually.

Counterfeit and Fraud Detection

One of the problems in combatting counterfeits is that anything can be copied.  So, if you put a special ‘authenticity’ tag on an expensive pair of shoes, there’s nothing to prevent that tag itself from being copied.  It’s analogous to when your bank card is ‘duplicated’ (virtually or digitally): Banks can’t tell which card is real versus which card is fake. However, what they can detect is if the same card’s credentials are being used in two different places at the same time. They can also detect abnormal usage patterns, which in turn allow them to detect that counterfeiting and fraud have taken place.

Using QR Codes:  An Illustration

QR Codes are not foolproof. They can be duplicated in the same ways as the products they can protect against counterfeit. But QR Codes can be used in unique and creative ways to detect and deter fraud. Take, for example, the famous Rubik’s Cube, the world’s best-selling toy, and likely the most copied one as well. An interesting idea would be to embed a QR Code that scans to tutorials, or a solver’s club. For extreme security, they could create a unique code for every cube sold. Or, to simplify matters, they could create a unique code for every market they sell in, or for every retailer they sell through.   By watching scan patterns of these codes, they could readily detect if a specific code was being over-scanned or scanned in anomalous locations.    This could greatly diminish copy-cats.

Openscreen for Counterfeit Detection

Openscreen’s easy-to-use and powerful SDK allows retailers in any market to generate and embed the creation of unique QR Codes, at scale, via their product and package manufacturing machines. With minimal cost, companies could drive savings that would help magnify their return on investment. They could also go further and leverage QR Codes to allow customers to register product ownership, which would help to create lasting post-sale relationships with them.

Enhancing Agriculture with QR Codes

Some experts suggest that if we don’t figure out a way to improve agricultural output by 2050, this planet will have more people than it can feed. That’s a scary, but not completely unrealistic thought. In response to that, almost every aspect of farming and agriculture undergoing some level of transformation using technology. After all, our current and future generations may depend on it.

The Importance of Good Soil

I recently came across the Netflix documentary “Kiss the Ground”. It takes a multifaceted view of the importance of soil management to promote better food outcomes, optimize our use of resources, and decrease our carbon footprint.  Many of us know that soil can trap carbon dioxide emissions, but I was surprised to learn that healthier soil is must more effective at the task.  Technology has become an important tool in measuring and improving the quality of soil around the world.

Agronomists and Soil Collection

Agronomists, the professionals who practice in the science and management of agriculture, collect soil for quality testing. This practice is becoming more important as farmers aim to get more out of their land. Soil is collected, sent to a lab, and analyzed on a regular basis.  Resulting data can drive better seed prescriptions, fertilizer recommendations, and even generate valuable carbon credits for farmers. Yet, surprisingly, soil collection is a very manual process. Agronomists often use clipboards and paper to capture data when they head out to fields, leaving actual data entry to technicians who receive samples at the lab.

Openscreen, QR Codes, and Agriculture Technology

We see QR Codes as an effective way to automate the agronomist’s soil-collection lifecycle. From field to lab, serialized QR Codes can allow soil collectors to scan a bag at the point of collection. From there, important data like time and location can automatically be captured, while the QR Code can be programmed to bring the agronomist to a data collection app. Then, workflows in the app can track the bag every time it is scanned, as seed prescriptions are generated, and carbon credits are accumulated.

Openscreen’s powerful SDK provides an easy way to generate unique, trackable QR Codes at scale, which can be used to digitize agriculture technology. As manual tasks like soil collection become important elements of our food supply chain, leveraging contactless technology like QR Codes throughout the lifecycle can provide quality, assurance, speed, and advanced reporting for all stakeholders involved.

Securing QR Codes with Multi-Factor Authentication

Multifactor Authentication (MFA) has become a common shield against hacking and password theft. Nowadays, if you are using a digital service that needs to be secure (banking, e-commerce, health care, etc.), MFA has almost become standard.  After you submit a username and password, you receive a text message with a 6-digit code that’s used to prove that it’s really you who’s trying to access the service.   

Why Multifactor Works

Multifactor authentication is based on the principle of proving someone’s identity by getting two things they have from them: “something they know” and “something they have.”  Bank debit cards are a perfect example of MFA. To draw money from a machine, you need to know the PIN number and you need to have the card. That same principle applies when you get a 6-digit SMS code after you try and log in to a website.  The site is expecting you to know your username and password, and that you have your phone with you. It would be very unlikely that someone other than you could get access to both. 

Why QRs Can Benefit from MFA.

QR Codes are going to become more and more common as their penetration into the mainstream, everyday use continues.  Today, we can use QR Codes to see restaurant menus, book appointments at the bank, and get product information on things we buy. Tomorrow, we’ll likely use QR Codes to access medical records, prove product authenticity, and pay bills. In these sensitive applications, having QR Codes trigger SMS notifications to stakeholder parties for approval will be of great benefit. 

Openscreen and two-factor Authentication

The Openscreen platform includes an easy to invoke scan-to-SMS function that’s exposed via our API and Node SDK. We leverage functionality from Twilio, the leading cloud communications platform, ensuring the highest level in reliability when sending messages. To ensure that contactless technologies like QR Codes can continue to drive value for enterprises globally, every aspect must be considered, and security should always be at the top of the list. 

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