Developers + Flying Drones = Incredible Opportunities
By Ed Schmit, Executive Director AT&T Developer Program
Drones have been more than something written about on the pages of a science fiction novel for a while, and their uses just keep getting more interesting. Today, flying drones are an integral part of the movie business helping to record scenes that a ground crew can’t reach. Late last year, Amazon demonstrated its Prime Air service that uses flying drones to deliver packages in select areas. We are just at the beginning of envisioning how we can use drones. There is so much potential for using flying drones in both industrial environments and consumer applications. It’s a great opportunity for developers to integrate technologies such as RFID and Bluetooth Low Emission (BLE) with drones to create some amazing apps.
We are getting to a point in technology that if you can imagine it, you can probably develop – at the very least – a prototype. What’s even more exciting is the developer opportunity for making apps that can use drones to improve safety, productivity, and potentially save companies hundred of thousands of dollars.
Can Flying Drones Pave the Way for a Safer Work Environment?
There are plenty of fun ideas for how consumers can use drones. It’s a good time for developers to think about how to use this technology at the industrial level. For example, warehouses and construction sites are notoriously hazardous environments for employees. In those situations, there is a lot of heavy machinery being maneuvered around the property. This is an area where there’s potential for technology that’s already successful and gaining adoption with consumers. Many new cars feature built-in screens that activate a camera to display what’s behind the automobile when it’s in reverse. While it’s definitely a step in the right direction, the view is limited to what’s in the path behind the car. Those cameras couldn’t necessarily spot a child bouncing a ball standing on the corner. What if you had a digital camera that could capture 360-degree views mounted to a forklift and the driver could be alerted on a mobile device before hitting something or someone? That has the potential to save money and lives.
Perhaps you didn’t want to mount something and prefer to start working with flying drones. Let’s face it: That’s some cool tech. Imagine creating an application where a drone flew ahead of the machinery and verified the area was clear in every direction, and you could view what it saw on a smartphone. You could include a motion detector feature, so even if you couldn’t physically see a person or potential roadblock on the screen, you would still be alerted that there was something nearby. It could potentially, save lives in the workplace and reduce the amount of injuries that occur on the job.
Drones Can Change the Small Business Playing Field
Flying drones aren’t just for keeping the workplace safe. Enterprises are always looking for better methods to handle things like inventory control and security. Big box retailers already use RFID to efficiently manage inventory, which helps save money and provide accurate information to customers looking for a specific product in a timely manner. Drones can quickly and easily scan the tall shelves that line large warehouses. ADASA Inc. is already working on a drone RFID reader that should be available in the near future. There are great opportunities for developers to integrate this type of technology to proliferate and penetrate new markets.
Investing in this type of inventory control or even drone technology is initially expensive and cost prohibitive for small companies. Historically, we’ve seen this is how technology advances. Big companies invest in technology to solve work challenges. Over time, the technology becomes more affordable, and new options become available that make it a viable solution for small businesses. There will be a huge opportunity for developers to provide low-cost solutions for small businesses and help technology evolve.
Many small businesses face similar inventory tracking challenges as big companies, just on a much smaller scale. They also tend to have more localized needs. Developers can use what we’ve learned about how the tracking works in the enterprise and integrate it with things like BLE and RFID to create affordable custom solutions for small businesses. An app that monitors inventory can place restock orders, provide alerts about products that aren’t performing, and even offer some security features could be extremely beneficial to a local retailer and an incredible opportunity for a developer who created it. The mom-and-pop shop will save money, be more efficient, and have a better grasp on what’s doing well, so they know where to focus marketing efforts. The developer who creates the solution can easily tweak it to fit the needs of other small operations. It’s a win-win!
What type of emerging technologies being used or will soon be used in large corporations that would be beneficial to smaller companies? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.