The technology sector is buzzing with predictions and hype about the Internet of Things (IoT), but many people are still confused about what it means, what the real world opportunities are and why businesses should be looking into IoT.
At a fundamental and simplistic level the Internet of Things refers to 'physical objects which linked via wired or wireless networks'
These physical objects could be anything (such as medical machines, vehicles, building systems, signage, toasters, smoke alarms, temperature sensors, weather monitors, intelligent tags or rubbish bins for example). Almost any object, in any sector, in any location could potentially join the Internet of Things, so its no wonder that Gartner predict there will be 50 billion devices connected by 2020 (and other analysts estimate several orders of magnitude more).
Typically the Internet of Things is used to gather data and insight, find efficiency, automate tasks or improve an experience or service. At Smarter Technology Solutions (STS) we put this down to a simple formula, with greater insight, comes better decisions.
I know what you're thinking, why would you connect an object like a rubbish bin to the Internet?
Well its a simple example but it has tremendous flow on effects. Simply tracking the fill level of a rubbish bin using a smart sensor, councils and waste providers can find out a few important facts such as fill-level trends, how often the bin really needs emptying and when, to better plan waste collection services (eg timing of bin collection near food outlets to avoid lunchtimes) and to identify areas that may need more/less bins (to assist with city/service planning).
By collecting just the fill level data of a waste bin the following benefits could be attained:
- Reduction in cost as less bin collections = less waste trucks on the road, no unnecessary collections for a bin that's 20% full, less labour to complete waste collection. This also provides a level of operational efficiency and optimized processes.
- Environmental benefit - where waste is not overflowing and truck usage is reduced, flow on environmental impact, pollution and fuel consumption is minimized. By ensuring waste bins are placed in convenient locations, littering and scattered waste is also minimized.
- Service improvements - truck collection routes can be optimized, waste bins can be collected at convenient times and planning of future/additional services can be amended as the data to trend and verify assumptions is available.
More complex examples of IoT include:
- Intelligent transport systems which update digital signage on the highway and adjusts the traffic lights in real time to divert traffic, optimise traffic flow and reduce congestion;
- A farm which uses sensors to measure soil moisture, chemical levels and weather patterns, adjusting the watering and treatment schedules accordingly;
- The building which draws the blinds to block out the afternoon sun, reducing the need to consume more power cooling the building and to keep the environment comfortable;
- Health-care devices which monitor patients and auto-alert medical practitioners once certain symptoms or attributes are detected;
- Trucks which automatically detect mechanical anomalies and auto schedule themselves in for preventative maintenance once they reach certain thresholds;
- Asset tracking of fleet vehicles within a services company which provides operations staff with fleet visibility to quickly dispatch the closest resource to a job based on proximity to the next task;
- Water/gas/electric meters which sends in their own reading in on a monthly basis and trends analysis which can detect potential water/gas leaks; or
- A retail store which analyses your in-store behavior or purchasing patterns and recommend products to you based on previous choices and your personal preferences.
At Smarter Technology Solutions we specialize in consulting with organizations to understand the benefits of IoT, design best fit solutions, engineer and implement solutions as well as supporting the ongoing support needs of the organization. This results in 3 key outcomes:
- Discovery of New Opportunities - With better visibility, trends, opportunities, correlations and inefficiencies can be understood. From this, products, services and business models can be adjusted or changed to achieve competitive advantage.
- Improved Efficiency - By identifying inefficiencies in existing business practices, work-flows can be improved and more automated services can be provided.
- Improved Services - With trends and real time data businesses are able make smarter decisions and alter the way you services are delivered.