04 February 2016
These days the Internet of Things (IoT) is all the rage – a much hyped term that has a lot of people excited. And that’s cool – because it is fun to build software that has impact on the physical world.
However, “IoT” isn’t all that new. Back when communication was via serial ports (before USB, wifi, and Bluetooth) I worked on a system that automated the loading of concrete ready-mix and asphalt trucks with material.
The dispatcher sat in an (often nice) office taking orders from customers and scheduling them - with near real-time displays of where all the trucks were (based on the driver pressing one of seven buttons that sent a radio signal to a receiver, which then fed a signal to the computer via serial port - I worked on that too).
When orders were scheduled they became available to plant operators. When a truck drove onto the scale the truck’s tare weight was fed to the computer via serial port, then the plant operator would tell the computer to load the truck. The computer sent commands via serial port to the machinery surrounding the truck, resulting in tons of sand, mix, rock, and water being loaded (or whatever other materials). Then the scale would send the resulting truck weight via serial port to the computer.
The driver would then push one of those seven buttons to indicate they were on the way to the destination, and that would appear on the big ceiling-mounted displays back in the dispatching office.
Totally IoT - but predating the “I” (outside military/academic scenarios) by close to a decade