NEW YORK — We're tracking a startup budding from San Francisco's Internet of Things gulch -- and it's tracking us. Iotera is banking on the long-range power of its geotracking system to change the way people, animals, and devices are located across cities.
Iotera's tracking system is designed to work throughout cities without use of commercial wireless networks or Bluetooth, focusing instead on 11mm x 3mm x 22 mm GPS-enabled tags dubbed iotas that send data over the unlicensed wireless spectrum between 102 MHz and 128 MHz. The tags are outfitted with a GPS chip, accelerometer, temperature sensor, speaker, and Bluetooth capability (which is not yet in use), boasting up to a three-month battery life and a four-mile range.
An iota tracking tag.
"Right now, we're at a turning point where there will be a lot of consumer IoT [products] launched. For us to be able to provide a free wireless network, we're leveraging the consumer's Wi-Fi connection... to connect those devices anywhere in the city," CEO Ben Wild told EE Times. "Our focus right now is mainly consumer and we're pretty excited about the possibilities here."
The company sells its iotas with a "home base" gateway and cloud service that will eventually be capable of collecting data to run analytics; the iota uses long range radio to talk to the home base. Iotera will provide users with an API interface to create alerts based on geographical boundaries and temperature, among other things, for tracking devices, pets, and children. Wild estimates that Iotera could cover all of San Francisco with 10 gateways.
"We've optimized all the layers -- the cloud software, base station software, the wireless protocols that communicate with the tracking device, to get a very low power consumption for battery powered tracking," Wild said. "The home base can also talk to other home bases... and any device in the city."
Beyond tracking belongings, Wild said users can create their own security systems by attaching a gateway to a home window, then placing iotas around the rest of the residence. An iota could also be placed inside a mailbox and configured to alert users when the box is opened.
"We believe you should have one gateway or home base that can do short range connectivity of sensors and also long range connectivity such as automobile tracking, pet tracking, and child tracking," he added. "Some of the markets we've been looking at are in the smart grid, like water meter reading for utilities... where you have to do meter readings every hour. In that case, the base station can connect with more than 10,000 water meters."
Iotera recently launched a Kickstarter campaign, hoping to raise $250,000 to take its home base concept into production. Wild expects to have the system available to customers by January 2015, but noted Iotera already has "one pretty large customer" that plans to use the system for construction-asset tracking.
— Jessica Lipsky, Associate Editor, EE Times