Why the internet of things is big data’s latest killer app — if you do it right

Published March 5, 2014   |   
Derrick Harris

Every year, nearly 2 million people contract infections while staying at the hospital, and inadequate handwashing is a big cause. It turns out we might be able to help fix the handwashing problem with help from intelligent sensors, and a Huntsville, Ala.-based sensor-network company called Synapse Wireless is working on just such a system for its hospital-industry customers. However, the trick to pulling it off isn’t just having the right sensors, it’s also having the right tools in place behind the scenes, on the servers that act as the sensors’ brains and tell them what to do.

Essentially, Synapse’s system is like a real-time monitor, reminding people to wash their hands when there’s not a malpractice lawyer hanging around to do it for them. A very simple implementation might go like this: When a nurse enters a room, a sensor on the name badge will send that information to a server, which will relay it to a sensor on the soap dispenser. If the nurse doesn’t wash his or her hands within, say, 30 seconds, the soap dispenser tells the server, which then sends an alert to the nurses badge.

“We’re actually triggering events in real time,” Synapse’s cloud platform lead Bryan Stone explained to me.

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