The Internet of Things (IoT) works the same way the Internet works. If you were to research the topic, what you would get back is information on how the Internet works. Applying simple logic tells you this makes sense.
So what’s the difference between how the Internet works and how the IoT works? As they say, the devil is in the details. It’s the application that makes IoT different. What do you do with the information provided by all of these things we’ve connected to the Internet?
Even a cursory investigation into the IoT will produce a discussion of sensors, microcontrollers, actuators, micro-pumps, mobile communication devices, etc.
For example, sensors designed to detect everything from the availability of parking spaces in urban environments to measuring the vital signs of athletes are used. These sensors will wirelessly connect to the Internet and provide data to be stored and analyzed. What we do with that data and the analysis of that data sparks both technological and philosophical discussions worldwide.
Let’s take a look at some simple examples in a handful of vertical markets to get your mind working on the limitless number of applications in every vertical market out there. These simple examples should allow you to go to work tomorrow armed with a variety of applications that make the place you work better.
Commercial and Industrial
You’re in charge of a large food processing plant. Some of your products require refrigeration at a very narrow range of temperatures. Someone does not completely close the door to the refrigeration unit and the temperature starts to slowly rise. The cooling system automatically adjusts the temperature, but it continues to rise over a thirty-minute period. Suddenly one of your employees receives a text message alerting them to this fact and they close the door, saving you energy costs and spoiled food.
Now use that same algorithm and apply it to any manufacturing facility, logistics company, or any industry or commercial building you imagine. Processes are controlled and adjusted automatically or remotely, lights are dimmed, and faults are detected. Now you might say a lot of that can be done today, but it’s the level of granularity that will change.
Think of it this way: anything you’d like to monitor and control now has the possibility of being connected to the Internet. The only limitation is the human mind.
Medicine and Healthcare
The medical field is potentially where the greatest impact could be seen. Imagine wearing a sensor, or having one implanted, that would monitor all of your vital signs and all of your body’s functions. Now imagine getting a text message telling you that you’ve taken in too much sugar or fat, or that you’re lacking in vitamin D. If you’re a pre- or post-operative patient, medicine could be released into your body through a transdermal nanopump on a prescribed schedule, rather than having a nurse come in and give you a shot or a pill.
Now imagine those body sensors in your connected home. You’re lacking in specific vitamins? Your body sensor communicates with an application on your refrigerator, which recommends a shopping list containing foods high in that particular vitamin, or deletes the gallon of ice cream because your cholesterol is high.
Agriculture and Farming
Irrigation systems up to this point have been pretty much an all-or-nothing proposition. Sensors placed in the soil at specific intervals could measure the moisture content and direct small, mobile irrigation systems to very specific parts of the farm to make sure that moisture content is kept at a level to produce the largest yielding plants.
Once the plants are harvested and ready for market, all of the logistics in getting those crops to market will be connected so that they arrive at stores at the appropriate time to ensure the best possible shelf life.
Retail and Consumers
The IoT will not only connect retail employees to each other and large amounts of product data through the use of wearable technology, but the products they sell will be connected as well.
The connected or smart home saw some of the earliest developments ion M2M and the IoT. Smart phones will talk to appliances, and appliances will talk to each other. This will provide automated and remote control of every electronic device in the home.
When I first moved to San Antonio, Texas, I thought I was the luckiest driver in the city. Every time I came to a traffic light at an uncongested intersection, the light would turn green in matter of seconds. Then I noticed the cameras and access points mounted on the cross beam. This was my first introduction to a smart city.
That was over ten years ago. Today, all cities—large and small—will have the ability to monitor not only traffic intersections, but also traffic patterns all over the city. Then with the use of message boards and the exiting traffic light infrastructure, they can alter the flow of traffic to less congested streets.
Imagine driving in New York City and knowing where every available empty parking space is at any given moment in time. This alone would alleviate traffic problems in areas where people crawl down the street looking for an available space. For paid parking, rates could be posted as well, allowing you to find a spot within your budget.
Education and Learning
Last but not least, the potential exists for a significant paradigm shift in education, based on the adoption of the IoT. The traditional classroom and the role of teachers face dramatic changes in a completely connected world. Students will have access to new sources of traditional information, as well as the analyzed data gathered from the IoT.
Student data can also be gathered and analyzed to record attendance and performance. From a performance aspect, students’ strength and weaknesses in particular areas of study can then be analyzed to indicate potential careers where they could be most successful.
Facility data can also be gathered and analyzed to reduce energy consumption and other operating expenses to extend historically strained educational budgets, or to reduce them, resulting in property tax reductions.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rich Hummel has over 30 years’ experience in different areas of technology. He has degrees in electrical engineering and management, as well as a variety of technical certifications.
This is an excerpt from the Global Knowledge white paper, The Internet of Things: A Primer for the Curious.