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IoT driving computing power back out to the network edge

Stuart Corner | Nov. 9, 2016
Thoughtworks’ ‘head of things’ on the growth of fog computing.

One implication of this trend that Thoughtworks has been exploring is the ability of IoT to give companies insights into customer behaviour in the physical world that matched the insights they can now easily gain from customers' online interactions.

"Companies get amazing insights about their customers from their online experiences. Now you can use IoT to get the same level of insights from the physical environment," Henshall said. "Every time a business has a physical interaction with a customer there are opportunities to get the same level of insights."

As an example, Henshall cited a project Thoughtworks has undertaken for a conference company to gain delegate feedback on conference sessions. "They wanted to get the equivalent of a Facebook 'like' in a seamless way," he said.

"They used to have just red and green pieces of paper as people left the room. Then they introduced a smartphone app but the participation rate went down from 90 per cent to something like 30 per cent. There was simply too much friction in the new system.

"So we created some custom hardware that allowed delegates to use their badges as they left the room and just swipe the badge. The advantage over the paper system was the organiser got the timing - whether someone had left at the start, in the middle or right at the end. And they also got ID so they could go back to people and ask them why they did not like something."

He added: "It seems simple but it was remarkably difficult to do. We looked around and could not find anything so we decided to build it."

Open source Bluetooth mesh

Thoughtworks developed portable readers and a Bluetooth mesh technology to communicate with them because, Henshall said, Wi-Fi is notoriously congested and unreliable in conferences venues.

"As a spinoff from that project we will be releasing that Bluetooth mesh technology as open source software in a couple of weeks," he said.

According to Henshall, bespoke developments account for the bulk of Thoughtworks business, although it also has a software product development arm. The company employs about 4000 people globally and 400 in Australia. In Australia it has developed web-based and smartphone applications for, amongst other, RealEstate.com.au, IOOF, GetUp!, Target, Dominos and Woolworths.

 

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