Author: Amit Kumar – Technology Consultant
Date: 22nd June 2016
In the first of our three part feature series on IoT we look at what it is, where it can be applied and what are the future possibilities for this technology.
What is IoT?
Although there is huge amount of excitement around IoT, it isn’t a new concept. Many businesses and technology firms are using it and the technology already features in our day-to-day lives.
The Internet-of-Things is a concept of devices (the “Things”) connected and communicating over the internet. These devices can push the information back to a central location or to other devices, and also receive data or commands from a remote source. These connected devices can be anything from a thermostat, connected security system, a coffee maker, washing machine, wearable devices, software, mobile phone, sensors etc. For example, vending machines that can report their inventory or a CCTV camera that you control with your phone.
IoT has evolved from the convergence of wireless technologies and the internet. It is more than connected devices and smart homes. Experts estimate there would be 26 billion connected IoT devices by 2020.
Companies are always looking for new and innovative ways to improve services, automate processes and reduce costs, and the collection of data that leads to actionable insights is often an enabler for these improvements. Adoption of IoT technologies has increased dramatically as they can unlock new data sets combined with lightning fast analytics that can in turn transform businesses.
The heart of most IoT projects is data collection. Low costs sensors and standard protocols means it has never been easier to collect data such as temperature, light, velocity, direction, altitude and many other indicators. You can collect the data in a centralised database for analytical purposes or view the data in real-time for functions such as monitoring. For example, you may wish to collect energy data from your home for different appliances to see which ones are currently being used, and at the end of the month analyse which appliances use the most energy. This type of analysis can help you to manage your energy consumption.
Using the Data
All this extra data can only be helpful when we are able to gain an actionable insight from it. There are so many scenarios including:
- Predictive Maintenance – Moving from routine maintenance to predicting when maintenance should occur by analysing historical data and real-time sensor data to determine the condition of equipment.
- Smart Use of Resources – Optimising the use of resources such as water through analysing sensor data. For example, reducing spraying through combining soil moisture sensor data with weather forecast and plant drought tolerance information.
- Environmental Monitoring – Providing real-time information on environmental factors such as air quality or pollen levels.
The possibilities are endless; the question is what data can make a different to your business?
Once you have collected data and you have actionable insights it’s time to perform those actions. This could be as simple as firing off an order for more stock when a vending machine reports low levels, or something more complex such as device to device communication to perform certain actions if an event occurs.
IoT is not dependent on a single technology, project or product. It will continue to evolve as people think of innovative ways to harness the power of data and I think connected smart devices and automated decision making will continue to grow at pace. Smart cities which can help us reduce waste and improve efficiency for things such as energy consumption, will improve our lifestyles and will change the way we live and work. There are endless possibilities with connected smart devices, and IoT is already helping us in many ways.
In my next article, I’ll talk about the technical part of the IoT and how you can make your first IoT device connected to the internet.