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IoT as Fitness Partner? Why Not?

fitness_exercise

Sweating off the carbs doesn’t come easy. It takes a lot of motivation and maybe a not so slight nudge from another person, like someone who’s an expert in exercise and fitness. For those taking gym sessions, there’s usually the fitness coach assigned to you to check on your progress. But that’s for the more serious lot. If you’re just trying to shed some weight and would like to keep doing it long-term, you can have IoT by your side. Yes, as your fitness partner, IoT should be able to motivate you to keep your healthy lifestyle, with less hassle, less intrusion. Oh, and yes, without blowing a hole in your wallet.

gym, fitness, exercise, iot

Tracking progress

Always, the greatest motivator for someone who works hard to lose weight is the amount of success you have achieved. Wouldn’t it be great to be constantly reminded of your progress? That’s what the IoT-based fitness tracker gives you. Long after you’ve made your extra lap during your morning run, while at work, you can check how far you’ve gone using your fitness tracker app which can be synced with your office or home computer. It shows you graphs, statistics, even comparisons and tells you the milestones you need to reach to keep your ideal weight.

Many health and fitness centers have taken IoT-based fitness trackers to a new level. A new chatbot app has been designed to communicate with gym members via smart phones to tell them when they need to hit the gym. It sends messages on the milestones you’ve achieved and gives tips on how to keep going. It sends not just simple reminders but encouraging words for you to reach your fitness goals. While members can choose not to avail of the chatbot app, many gym owners swear that it’s effective in pushing their members to not put off their schedule to exercise.

Sensors in the Gym

IoT’s reliability as a health partner can probably be tested in having it analyze your bio-stat and recommend a personalized fitness regimen for you. And then while you’re at the gym, sensors will be able to analyze your progress and keep you on track, just like what a regular fitness coach does. Sensors also help gym managers to know your preferences and allow them to customize their facilities according to your liking.

gym, wearable, fitness, sensor
Credits: Sports Wearable

To allow easier access to facilities, sensors are also being used by some fitness centers for face recognition. This means you can slide in and out of the gym without having to worry about bringing your membership card. All data (number of hours consumed, number of hours or days remaining in your membership, and other fitness-related information) will be sent to your phone.

While some gym enthusiasts think having chatbots and sensors to nag you about exercising and eating healthy can be too nerve-racking, many agree that IoT can be your best ticket to being fit for life.

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With Leverage of Big Data and IoT, We Can Feed the World

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Today, there are over seven billion people on Earth. And in 2050, the world population is expected to hit nine billion. The big question is: How do you feed that many people when the global food supply is practically not increasing, and in fact, is dwindling at an alarming rate?

Food security is on everyone’s mind today, with climate change, global warming, war, political and economic crises, and gross inequality of wealth all contributing to the deprivation of food in many parts of the world. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has reported that, as early as 2009, people who are chronically hungry had hit the one billion mark. Just imagine, a billion people mostly from Asia and Africa, tethering on scraps of food, barely surviving.

Ironically, at the other side of the world, in the west, food waste and food loss is an everyday occurrence. In 2007, wasted food globally was equivalent to 1.4 billion hectares of agricultural production. FAO’s statement on this inequity hits the mark. It says “Up to one third of all food is spoiled or squandered before it is consumed by people. It is an excess in an age where almost a billion people go hungry, and represents a waste of the labor, water, energy, land and other inputs that went into producing that food.”

Saving Food Using Technology

According to FAO, we need to produce and equitably distribute 70% more food in the next three decades if we are to save billions from going hungry. This has brought scientists, researchers and agricultural experts in a race to come up with solutions to arrest food waste and food loss and make agricultural production more efficient.

Food loss can happen throughout the food supply chain, from initial production to household consumption. Inefficient ways in harvesting, storage, packing, and transport, as well as problematic infrastructure or market/price mechanisms and institutional frameworks lead to food spoilage or food loss.

Thankfully, technology has reached that level of advancement where, if used humanely, can lead to the planet’s deliverance. For example, technology today allows for the management of end-of-life products, such as what the French start-up company Phenix has been doing. Using a web-based application, they connect supermarkets who want to dispose of their near-expiry products to Non Government Organizations (NGOs) and consumers who still want these products. This and many other heroic and high-tech initiatives are being done to support efforts to lessen food waste. Behind all these is the use of big data.

Experts believe that using big data and advanced analytics in the value chain — from production to post-harvest to marketing and consumption – will not only lead to higher agricultural yield and more food for more people, it will lead to sustainable value creation. The ultimate goal of advancing a circular economy can now be applied in the global food chain using big data.

Credits: AgShowcase Blog

Use of Big Data in Agriculture and Post-Harvest

In the Digital Age, data has become a precious, indispensable component in every aspect of life, but most specially, perhaps, in agricultural production. Advancements in technology has made it possible to implement precision agriculture.

Precision agriculture is today’s high-tech approach to agricultural production. Farms can be observed, measured and analyzed to determine what necessary intervention can be done to accelerate growth and increase harvest potential. We have mentioned use cases of technology-enabled farms in previous blogs (Smart Farms To Keep the World Food Secure) where we explained how big data and advanced analytics are helping farmers increase productivity.

Robotics is also part of precision agriculture as it comes in handy for gathering data, from aerial images to weather. Tech companies have come to great lengths to offer farmers with better performing sensors that can be installed in farms. The sensors generate a range of data, from irrigation and soil condition, to needs of every plant. Tech giant IBM is has released its latest precision weather-forecasting solution, Deep Thunder.

Down the line of the value chain, big data and advanced analytics is used as well for efficient post-harvest packaging, delivery, and marketing. The major concern in this part of the food chain is waste management which is tied to efficient packaging, transport and delivery. Another critical concern is food safety.

Automation is often the solution to prevent spoilage and make reliable deliveries along the value chain. By using automated systems, transporting products takes lesser time and thus lessens risk of food spoilage. As in the case of Tahona Goyesca, efficient transport and delivery of products is possible using an IoT platform. They use Wireless Sensor Network (WSN) system to monitor the exact longitude and latitude position for each delivery van, and acquire real-time reports on the status, including temperature, network signal and battery.

One laudable innovation being done using IoT and big data is on improving food safety. Scientists are now developing consumer food scanners called spectroscopy which analyzes a dish to generate information about its ingredients, microbial composition, if any, and other organic matters present in the food.

Credits: Food Table TV

Better Financial Services for Farmers

Apart from setting up climate-resilient farm planning and practices, another problem area that is being addressed by technology is the set-up of more efficient financial services. Big growers often use insurance contracts to protect them from risks such as harvest failure, crop damage due to weather and pests. By using big data, insurers are able to calculate the level of risk for every geographic area and thus generate analysis and recommendations. Advanced planning and mitigation efforts can also be done by the growers to minimize risks.

To make payment systems for food trade more efficient, experts devised digital platforms that can be used by ordinary farmers. For example, in Kenya, a trading platform for newly harvested crops by small growers allows transaction exchange using mobile phone. Updated market prices are also sent via SMS to farmers to help them make better marketing decisions.

All around the world, digital tools, big data and IoT are taken to the level in which these become indispensable to producing food and ensuring that every table in every home anywhere have food that is sufficient and safe.

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A Robot That’s Sensitive to Your Feelings? It’s possible with IoT

robot-emotion

In the movie Big Hero 6, Baymax seem to be more intelligent (and more loveable) than other robots as he could easily empathize with his friend Hiro. Could he really? Yes, it is possible. In fact, it is happening now judging by the leaps and bounds robotic technology has achieved. Maximizing the potential of Internet of Things technology, robotics designers had been able to develop an emotion sensor technology to allow robots to be sensitive to human emotion.

credits: Disney

At Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, psychologists work hand in hand with engineers to find ways to make robots sensitive to moods, temperament and feelings of humans. Several breakthrough technology have been developed as a result of this research which is also being done across the world in Japan. At Tokyo Metropolitan University, researchers are helping develop a machine learning device that can detect the emotion of its listener and then produces a new type of song or rhythm based on the feelings it detected.

Human-Machine Interface

The robotics designers at Vanderbilt University wanted to determine if a robot can be intelligent enough to sense what a person is feeling, and thus change the way a robot interacts with human beings.

Assistant professor Nilanjan Sarkar says they want to make robots that can communicate with humans naturally by making them sensitive to human emotion. To achieve this, they had to carefully study the unique patterns of behavior that indicate various types of human emotion. These patterns are then fed into the robot’s system by converting the information into actuator-style commands. Founded on the technology used for voice recognition and handwriting recognition that connects machines into IoT, the robotics designers then installed sensors on robots so that it can monitor heart rate, anxiety level, sweating and other expression of feelings. Experiments were conducted which had human subjects repeatedly put under anxiety-producing situations. The researchers then acquired electrocardiogram profiles to

credits: CNN

determine the specific mental states of the subjects. This information was enough to allow scientists to find patterns in the variations and make it possible for robots respond according to the mental state of the person.

To take IoT even farther, Sarkar is using biosensors to analyze changes in stress and moods and feed this into the robot. He mentions some of the biosensors such as skin conductance that indicates if a person sweats and is thus under stress, and facial muscles, like jaw clenching and furrowing of the brow.

Researchers at Tokyo Metropolitan University has been able to develop remarkable technology to detect the emotional state of a person. Working alongside scientists at  Osaka University, the research institute in Belgium and Crimson Technology, the machine they developed basically involves monitoring the brain waves of a person.

Using wireless headphones that capture brain waves, a machine was able to tailor music to the feelings of the listener

What the researchers wanted to achieve is not to make robots emotional or something that is too sensitive, but to enhance the interactive experience between the machine and the person. This is done through music, the universal language.

Says Masayuki Numao of the Osaka University “We programmed the robots with songs, but added the brain waves of listener to make new music,” says Masayuki Numao.

credits: Live Science

How does this work? Sensors installed on a headset that plays the music are able to detected electroencephalogram (EEG) readings which are fed into the robot. The robot was preprogrammed with songs and the designers then added the brain waves of the person listening to the songs so that robot are able to make new music.

The results of these experiments could remarkably change human-robot relationship as we know it. Scientists also believe that it can have several social benefits, such as for health care.  In the future, emotional applications for human-machine interaction will be as normal and natural as human to human interaction.

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