Providing a creative environment for students of various disciplines to develop ideas, the Internet of Things lab can be recognized as a “campus hub” for students and faculty alike.

The IOT lab allows students to solve real world problems through open exploration of computer technology, Sandra Bradley, the lab’s director of Research for Consumer and Retail Applications, said.

“The university has a great opportunity to create and be at the forefront of innovation,” Bradley said.

The lab opened in January 2014, and in its second year, it will offer a continuation of its most recent projects as well as a pavilion at the Engineering Expo this April, Bradley said.

The lab provides an opportunity for students to work outside a classroom setting, and attendance is a result of dedication and passion from the students, Bradley said.

With a central focus on exploration, the Internet of Things lab is looking into ways students can take their ideas to the next step by receiving feedback from companies, continuing work on inventions or even starting companies around their projects.

Students gain hands-on experience through their work in the lab, a research component among faculty and meaningful industry connections, Bradley said.

“One of the questions we ask is ‘How do we bring value to industry?’ Companies are interested in what’s next on the horizon,” Bradley said.

One group addressed the issue of bike thefts going unresolved. Using a radio chip and a sensor, new bike rack technology is able to contact authorities if a bike thief places a stolen bike in another smart rack.

Being active in the IOT lab helps students display their initiative and learn practical skills before entering the workforce, Reed Kinning, team leader of the Bike Recovery Network Project, said.

“The Madison Police Department called it both a deterrent and recovery solution to bike theft,” Kinning said of the project.

The IOT lab also provides the opportunity for students to participate in an extracurricular activity, along with gaining useful practical skills that are not learned in the classroom, Bradley said.

The IOT lab is geared toward students who want to be highly involved and allowing the ideas to grow in the lab, Tom Yen, lab manager and instrumentation innovator, said.

It gives students with different backgrounds the opportunity to collaborate on a collective idea, Yen said, as well as gives them a better understanding of how to use technology to improve their society and solve issues.

“No one is untouched by the Internet,” Yen said. “There’s nothing now, if not, certainly in the future, that won’t connect to the Internet in some way.”