IoT and the Porcupine Device…

With the great explosion of USB capabilities a few years ago I was at a Microsoft event where one of the engineers was talking about new functionality that they had added to Windows where it could take full advantage of USB drives as if they were hard drives or memory.

With all the USB ports on laptops and desktops he said “if I see a porcupine machine I am going to go ballistic” that being a machine with a USB flash drive connected to every port.

Funny thing is, with the number of things now available to plug into your cellular phone we are getting close to porcupine phones. It is a very good thing to be able to input a variety of components into your phone to increase your local information. Harmful radiation isn’t something we want to be exposed to, but is it something you would have connected to your phone all the time?

I was once told that Swiss army gadgets aren’t always the best. The example being the Swiss army knife that in the end is a good tool to have but never the best at any one of its functions. There are better knives you can get. The same is true for phones. If you are an iOS person then you trade customization for reliability. If you are an android person you get customization but in the end you may not get reliability and you can’t always use the latest and greatest attachments right away.

The question of dedicated versus add-on presents an interesting IoT conversation. First off dedicated devices have more features within what it is they do. A dedicated GPS has more capability than does a phone drive GPS. Although that gap has closed considerably in the past couple of years. A dedicated Geiger counter is much more accurate than an attached one. The same is true for a dedicated IR camera versus an add-on IR camera. But the add-on is smaller, less expensive and in the end more portable. Good portable Geiger counters and IR cameras run about 3 grand each, and weigh about 10 pounds combined. The same functionality although less effective for an iOS or Android device runs you closer to 300 bucks and weighs less than a pound combined. Easily fitting into your pocket as you head out on your daily adventures involving radioactive materials or leaky freezers.

Portability and in the end effectiveness. If your fear is the unknown, than the smaller more portable instruments are perfect. You know, for those moments in life when you are ambling along and suddenly from the back of your mind leaps the thought “I feel like I am glowing.” Better safe (porcupine Geiger counter) than sorry at that point.

This by the way also goes for UV, temperature and BAC. That’s right your iOS or Android device can act as a breathalyzer. Better for your phone to make a sad face and say bad breath (PS you shouldn’t drive) than it is for a police officer to pull you over and inform you that not only shouldn’t you have driven but in fact now you can’t drive because your blood alcohol content was over the legal limit. Out with friends and planning on celebrating the bottom of a few beer mugs? Then take along the porcupine BAC reader. It isn’t as accurate as the one’s police officers have. But if you never have to find out how accurate those readers are you are in the end in better shape anyway. (I took a course many years ago to receive my certified drug educator certificate and we got to see just how accurate the breathalyzer’s used by law enforcement were. Way more than you would have expected.).

Mesh IoT sensors are huge, but for you portable phone, it’s had mesh sensors for years. You can connect virtually anything to the Bluetooth stack of your phone. It is in the end a mesh network. Although Bluetooth calls itself a PAN (personal area network). Now the problem becomes recording and we can argue that one for hours. If you have a Bluetooth activated recording device in your pocket, and you activate without notifying the people in the room or train etc. that recording isn’t legal. It is useful to have however for remembering what was said. It does present the other side of wearable as an extension of portable and that becomes the topic in the end of personal privacy. A topic for another day.


Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow.