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Tags that can Turn Everyday Objects into ‘Smart’ Devices

The tags can also be fashioned into thin keypads or smart home control panels that can be used to remotely operate WiFi-connected speakers, smart lights and other IoT appliances

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Printable tags can convert plain objects into 'smart' devices. Pixabay

Researchers have developed printable metal tags that can be attached to everyday objects and turn them into ‘smart’ Internet of Things (IoT) devices by reflecting WiFi signals.

The metal tags named “LiveTag”, made from patterns of copper foil printed onto thin, flexible, paper-like substrates, are designed to only reflect specific signals within in the WiFi frequency range.

“Our vision is to expand the IoT to go beyond just connecting smartphones, smartwatches and other high-end devices,” said senior author Xinyu Zhang, Professor at the University of California San Diego.

“We’re developing low-cost, battery-free, chipless, printable sensors that can include everyday objects as part of the IoT,” Zhang added.

The tags can be tacked onto plain objects that people touch and interact with every day, like water bottles, walls or doors. These plain objects then essentially become smart, connected devices that can signal a WiFi device whenever a user interacts with them.

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The team envisions using “LiveTag” technology to track human interaction with everyday objects. Pixabay

The tags can also be fashioned into thin keypads or smart home control panels that can be used to remotely operate WiFi-connected speakers, smart lights and other IoT appliances.

As a proof of concept, the team used “LiveTag” to create a paper-thin music player controller complete with a play/pause button, next track button and sliding bar for tuning volume.

The buttons and sliding bar each consist of at least one metal tag so touching any of them sends signals to a WiFi device, suggests the study presented at the recent USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation Conference.

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The researchers also adapted “LiveTag” as a hydration monitor and attached it to a plastic water bottle and showed that it could be used to track a user’s water intake by monitoring the water level in the bottle.

On a broader scope, the team envisions using “LiveTag” technology to track human interaction with everyday objects. For example, “LiveTag” could potentially be used as an inexpensive way to assess the recovery of patients who have suffered from stroke. (IANS)

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Microsoft Acquires Express Logic to Push IoT Dream

Microsoft is getting an established company with a proven product that can help it scale its Azure IoT business

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A man walks past a Microsoft sign set up for the Microsoft BUILD conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco, April 28, 2015. VOA

Microsoft has acquired San Diego-based software company Express Logic, that makes software for Internet of Things (IoT) devices, to accelerate IoT development for billions of devices at scale.

With this acquisition, Microsoft said late Thursday it will unlock access to billions of new connected endpoints, grow the number of devices that can seamlessly connect to its Azure Cloud and enable new intelligent capabilities.

“I am incredibly excited to share we have acquired Express Logic, a leader in real time operating systems (RTOS) for IoT and edge devices powered by micro-controller units (MCUs),” said Sam George, Director, Azure IoT at Microsoft.

Manufacturers building products across categories — from low capacity sensors like light bulbs and temperature gauges to air conditioners, medical devices, and network appliances — leverage the size, safety and security benefits of Express Logic solutions to achieve faster time to market.

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Logo of Microsoft outside it’s office. Pixabay

“Even highly constrained devices (battery powered and having less than 64KB of flash memory) can use Express Logic solutions. Over 9 billion of these MCU-powered devices are built and deployed globally every year, many of which can benefit from Express Logic solutions,” said Microsoft.

Microsoft is getting an established company with a proven product that can help it scale its Azure IoT business.

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The acquisition is part of a $5 billion investment in IoT the company announced last April that includes a number of Azure pieces, such as Azure Sphere, Azure Digital Twins, Azure IoT Edge, Azure Maps and Azure IoT Central. (IANS)