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Internet of Things Enthusiasts Unite and RIoT - 1
Matthew Davis spends his working day at StepLeader, where he works on product and marketing.

I'm incredibly lucky to work at a company that isn't afraid to try new things. Ever since StepLeader started building apps for the old school clamshell phones back in 2004, we experimented with new mobile tech.

The drive behind this experimentation is a belief that mobile should be easy, relevant and incredibly personal. Isn't that the promised-land of mobile? The computer in your pocket, on your wrist, or stuck on your face gives you exactly what you need, when you need it most. Right?

We're not there yet. Nobody is.

The easy + relevant + personal equation is ridiculously hard to solve. Here are a few paths one might take to begin solving it:

*Serve personalized content based upon past behavior and location by collecting, storing and analyzing a shit-ton of data.

*Wear your mobile device to gather information about you and your physical surroundings.

*Make the offline world more digitally connected to the online and mobile world.

This last bullet is where our latest round of experimentation begins—using beacon technology (StepLeader's test gadget pictured above). Apple branded its approach to this as iBeacon. iKid you not.

The concept is simple. Stick a little bluetooth low energy [BLE] device, or beacon, on something. It broadcasts a signal. Your phone receives that signal, and through an app, tells your phone to do something.

Here are a few examples to illustrate the concept:

Walk into a grocery store and the store's app loads your pre-built list. It tells you the fastest route to grab your milk, bread, Tostitos and Dale's Pale Ale.

Visit a new home for sale and receive expanded information beyond the single-page, printed brochure.

Stroll through an MLB park and receive additional information about the team, special offers and stadium history.

One way to think about it: beacons assign physical locations their own URL, thus bridging the offline and the online.

Immediately after we began researching this topic, we noticed a growing community of like-minded individuals exploring the 'Internet of Things.'  

Wikipedia does a nice job of explaining that term's past, present and future. My simple description is that IoT gives physical objects an Internet connection. Large companies, small ones, startups, ourselves and academia are all getting their hands dirty here. Bringing everyone together can only be good.

To accomplish that, we'll be hosting the first Raleigh Internet of Things Meetup, which shrinks down nicely to RIoT. We'll look to share with and learn from others in this space, to build a community of people who are cozy sitting on the bleeding edge of technology, and to continue establishing this area as a thought-leader in the tech world.

The first Meetup takes place at StepLeader's downtown Raleigh office Wednesday, June 4th at 6pm. Official details are here.

Aside from being the best buzzword since 'Big Data', the 'Internet of Things' represents a new wave of innovation, opportunity and entrepreneurship. There's no better time than right now to start exploring.

Join us.