Can new Internet of Things lab in Fishers improve the world?

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A 24,000 square foot hub is being opened in March that will give entrepreneurs a spot to work on internet-based projects, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. Robert Scheer/IndyStar

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Circuit boards that are from a project being developed at the new Indiana IoT Lab, Fishers, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. The tech incubator is a large complex for entrepeneurs who want to develop new products. (Photo: Robert Scheer/IndyStar)Buy Photo

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When the lab opens in Fishers this March it promises to change fuzzy concepts into navigable products.

From factories to semi-trucks to farms and kitchens, entrepreneurs and inventors are expected to use rapid advancements in technology to increase efficiency and accuracy in everyday life.

And it’s not just gadgety, Jetsons-style stuff, such as refrigerator sensors that can assess how old your eggs are and order you another dozen from Kroger — though that’s definitely in the mix. The Internet of Things technology, often referred to as IoT, can have larger, even life-saving, applications as well.

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For example, a new type of wifi system called Lorawan is being outfitted on fire engines, said John Wechsler, a co-founder of the IoT lab and the founder of the collaborative sharing space, . “It can then track where in a three-story building each firefighter is, how long they’ve been inside, what’s their oxygen level.”

Possibilities like this are what has  Wechsler and other founders of the non-profit IoT Lab — including — excited. The operation is scheduled to open March 21. The city pays the building lease, and the lab pays for its operation through fees and sponsorships.

Already 50 members have paid an annual $1,000 fee to set up in the lab, the first of its kind in Indiana. Members include small companies to large corporations to solo-flying upstarts, so-called “backpack entrepreneurs.” Eventually, Wechsler expects about 200 members to be working from the 24,000-square-foot building at 9059 Technology Drive, across the street from Launch Fishers in the city‘s tech corridor near City Hall.

Indiana University is a co-founder of the lab and will send students there to develop their own ideas or to assist corporate members with larger projects, said president and CEO Indiana University Research & Technology Corporation. Fishers‘ IT firm  will run a technology and service center in the lab.

“I expect companies will bring some real problems to the students and have them work on it, what is sometimes called skunk work,” Armstrong said.

High-tech sensors and all their practical applications for Indiana businesses will likely be a focus of the innovations in transportation, agriculture and manufacturing, sectors that “make it, move it and grow it,” said Weschler.

For instance, in farming, self-driving tractors are being developed, and sensors can be embedded in crops to measure acidity, moisture, fertilizer levels and the efficacy of soil. Drones can collate the data to sniff out variances across a 1,000-acre farm, Armstrong said. Such technology, conceivably, can help increase the world‘s food supply and combat hunger, he said

The same type of tech-centric proficiency can be used for city services to measure where snowfall is heaviest or garbage needs to be picked up, saving fuel for a city‘s motor fleet. Some innovations at Launch Fishers, whose users concentrate heavily on creating apps for smartphones, are already being used by the city.

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Work being done at the new Indiana IoT Lab, Fishers, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018.  (Photo: Robert Scheer/IndyStar)

For example,is an app that was suggested by a police officer and built by a developer at Launch Fishers. It lets residents report suspicious activity directly to police officers responsible for patrolling their neighborhoods. The app is being used across Hamilton County

Voice-activated technology is also expected to be of interest to the entrepreneurs, as will interconnected devices in the home.

“What can Alexa and Siri do?” Armstrong said. “That is very big right now.”

Weschler said he recently saw a voice-activated stove for the blind under development in Kentucky, and Armstrong envisions monitors on household appliances, such as a washer and dryer, that know when they need repair and automatically notifies a repairman.

Fadness said the technology could help the city monitor sewer systems, parking meters and traffic patterns.

“As cities try to get more advanced, become ‘smart‘ cities in the digital age, this is the type of technology we will be looking to,” Fadness said.

He said there was an additional benefit to having the lab in Fishers.

“If the city is about to procure a piece of software or technology we can run it by the folks at the IoT lab to see if it‘s worth it or what we can do to improve it,” Fadness said. “It‘s nice to have that type of expertise close to home.”

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