IEEE Talks IoT: Yen-Kuang “Y.K.” Chen

Y.K. ChenIEEE Fellow Yen-Kuang “Y.K.” Chen is a steering committee member of the IEEE Internet of Things Initiative. As an IoT expert, he discusses the benefits to individual, the home and the whole communities, as well as how many devices and disciplines must work together.

Question: IoT has a lot of applications. What area is of particular interest to you and why?

Chen: Personal wellness, in particular, mental wellness, is an exciting area. The pace of life today is so fast, which means a lot of people are under a great deal of mental stress. Mental stress means health problems. We’ll soon see devices that will be able to measure a person’s bio signals. It might be something that simply measures your breath and knows your body’s condition, as well as your current heart rate and temperature. As these devices collect more and more information, they can understand a person’s mental health state and whether they’re underperforming because of the stress they’re under. Once a system can understand someone’s mental condition, it creates an opportunity to help them and make recommendations. This is preventative, and can help people have a better life.

Question: Do you see these as being a single device for health or do you see multiple devices for different health applications that would talk to each other?

Chen: It’s the Internet of Things, which means when more devices are working together, we get more benefits. Maybe there will be a single device that can do one or two things, but I think the biggest benefit comes from many devices working together. There’s lots of talk about devices you wear on your body, including ones that tell you you’re stressed, but there may not be the context as to why. But if your calendar says you have a meeting in 15 minutes, it may be the reason why. If the device isn’t connected to the calendar, it can do a bunch of measurements of the human body but not have any context for the results.

Question: Personal health are clearly big opportunities for IoT. What other areas of daily life present opportunities?

Chen: Context-aware convenience at home will come soon. We all have lots of keys and many of us have garage door openers. But do we really need a physical key at all? Do we really need a garage door opener? Can a system recognize us and let us in without a key, without a garage door opener? It would be great that when our car is approaching the driveway, your home would sense you as the homeowner returning and automatically open the garage door. And when you leave the house, it should be able to close the door, lock it automatically because it knows you are gone and even turn on your alarm system. Aside from security, other convenience applications in the home include energy efficiency and lighting control.

Question: How do you see IoT benefitting a broader community such as neighborhood or entire city?

Chen: For us to use electricity more efficiently, we need to know how to distribute the electricity load. The whole idea of a Smart Grid is to make sure electricity is distributed and used in a balanced way with the ultimate goal that 100 per cent of what is generated is used.

Question: Regardless of the use case, IoT incorporates a lot of different technologies and disciplines. How does it all come together?

Chen: Collaboration is very important. For a big system to work, many different components must work together. We not only have a device, but a device that needs to communicate, and data that needs to be analyzed. And the application domains are so diverse. For health applications, engineers have to collaborate with doctors because without working with doctors or biologists, it's hard for engineers to know how human beings interact with the technology. If we’re talking about use cases in agriculture, engineers need to work with farmers. In each individual domain, we’ve done a lot of research already, but in order for the system to work, a lot of collaboration needs to happen.



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