What is IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.

A thing, in the Internet of Things, can be a person with a heart monitor implant, a farm animal with a biochip transponder, an automobile that has built-in sensors to alert the driver when tire pressure is low — or any other natural or man-made object that can be assigned an IP address and provided with the ability to transfer data over a network. 

IoT has evolved from the convergence of wireless technologies, micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS), micro services and the internet. The convergence has helped tear down the silo walls between operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT), allowing unstructured machine-generated data to be analyzed for insights that will drive improvements.

Why IoT?

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.

  1. Collecting Data

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 centralized 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 analyze which appliances use the most energy. This type of analysis can help you to manage your energy consumption.

  1. 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 analyzing historical data and real-time sensor data to determine the condition of equipment.
  • Smart Use of Resources – Optimizing the use of resources such as water through analyzing 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?

3.      Performing Action

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.

What are the applications of IoT?

  • Aerospace and aviation industry
    IoT can help to improve safety and security of products and services by reliably identifying counterfeit products and elements. The aviation industry, for example, is vulnerable to the problem of suspected unapproved parts (SUP).
    An SUP is an aircraft part that is not guaranteed to meet the requirements
    of an approved aircraft part (e.g., counterfeits, which do not conform to the
    strict quality constraints of the aviation industry). Thus, SUPs seriously violate the security standards of an aircraft. Aviation authorities report that at least 28 accidents or incidents in the United States have been caused by counterfeits . Apart from time-consuming material analyses, verifying the authenticity of aircraft parts can be performed by inspecting the accompanying documents, which can be easily forged. It is possible to solve this problem by introducing electronic pedigrees for certain categories of aircraft parts, which document their origin and safety-critical events during their lifecycle (e.g.,modifications). By storing these pedigrees within a decentralized database as well as on RFID tags, which are securely attached to aircraft parts, an authentication (verification of digital signatures, comparison of the pedigree on RFID tags and within the database) of these parts can be performed prior to installing them in an aircraft. In this way, safety and operational reliability of aircrafts can be significantly improved.
  • Agriculture and breeding
    The regulations for trace-ability of agricultural animals and their movements require the use of technologies like IoT, making possible the real time detection of animals, for example during outbreaks of contagious disease. Moreover, in many cases, countries give subsidies depending on the number of animals in a herd and other requirements, to farms with cattle, sheep, and goats. As the determination of the number is difficult, there is always the possibility of frauds. Good identification systems can help minimize this fraud. Therefore, with the application of identification systems, animal diseases can be controlled, surveyed, and prevented. Official identification of animals in national, intra-community, and international commerce is already in place, while at the same time, identification of livestock that are vaccinated or tested under official disease control or eradication is also possible. Blood and tissue specimens can be accurately identified, and the health status of herds, regions, and countries can be certified by using IoT. With the Internet of Things, single farmers may be able to deliver the crops directly to the consumers not only in a small region like in direct marketing or shops but in a wider area. This will change the whole supply chain which is mainly in the hand of large companies, now, but can change to a more direct, shorter chain between producers and consumers.
  • Automotive industry
    Advanced cars, trains, buses as well as bicycles are becoming equipped with advanced sensors, actuators with increased processing powers. Applications in the automotive industry include the use of smart things to monitor and report various parameters from pressure in tyres to proximity of other vehicles. RFID technology has already been used to streamline vehicle production, improve logistics, increase quality control and improve customer services. The devices attached to the parts contain information related to the name of the manufacturer and when and where the product was made, its serial number, type, product code, and in some applications the precise location in the facility at that moment. RFID technology provides real-time data in the manufacturing processes, maintenance operations and offers new ways of managing recalls more effectively. Dedicated Short Range Communication (DSRC) technology will possibly help in achieving higher bit rates and reducing interference with
    other equipment. Vehicle-to vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications will significantly advance Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) applications such as vehicle safety services and traffic management and will be fully integrated in the IoT infrastructure.
  • Environment monitoring
    Utilization of wireless identifiable devices and other IoT technologies in green applications and environmental conservation are one of the most promising market segments in the future. There will be an increased usage of wireless identifiable devices in environmentally friendly programs worldwide.
  • Independent living
    IoT applications and services will have an important impact on independent living by providing support for an aging population by detecting the activities of daily living using wearable and ambient sensors, monitoring social interactions using wearable and ambient sensors, monitoring chronic disease using wearable vital signs sensors, and in body sensors. With emergence of pattern detection and machine learning algorithms, the things in a patient’s environment would be able to watch out and care for the patient. Things can learn regular routines and raise alerts or send out notifications in anomaly situations. These services can be merged with the medical technology services.
  • Insurance industry
    Often the introduction of IoT technology is perceived as a grave invasion on privacy of individuals. However, sometimes people are willing to trade privacy for a better service or a monetary benefit. One example is car insurance. If insurance clients are willing to accept electronic recorders in their car, which are able to record acceleration, speed, and other parameters, and communicate this information to their insurer, they are likely to get a cheaper rate or premium. The insurer can save money by being involved in a very early stage of an impending accident and can trigger the most economic actions. A part of the savings can be given to the customers through discounts on insurance premiums. The same applies for other assets such as buildings, machinery, etc., that are equipped with IoT technology. In these cases the technology mostly helps in preventing large-scale maintenance operations or allows for much cheaper predictive maintenance before an incident occurs.
  • Manufacturing industry
    By linking items with information technology, either through embedded smart devices or through the use of unique identifiers and data carriers that can interact with an intelligent supporting network infrastructure and information systems, production processes can be optimized and the entire life cycle of objects, from production to disposal can be monitored. By tagging items and containers, greater transparency can be gained about the status of the shop floor, the location and disposition of lots, and the status of production machines. The fine grained information serves as input data for refined production schedules and improved logistics. Self-organizing and intelligent manufacturing solutions can be designed around identifiable items.
  • Medical and healthcare industry
    IoT will have many applications in the healthcare sector, with the possibility of using the cell phone with RFID sensor capabilities as a platform for monitoring of medical parameters and drug delivery. The advantage gained is in prevention and easy monitoring of diseases, ad hoc diagnosis and providing prompt medical attention in cases of accidents. Implantable and addressable wireless devices can be used to store health records that can save a patient’s life in emergency situations, especially for people with diabetes, cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cognitive impairments, seizure disorders and Alzheimer’s disease. Edible, biodegradable chips can be introduced into human body for guided actions. Paraplegic persons can have muscular stimuli delivered via an implanted smart thing-controlled electrical simulation system in order to restore movement functions.
  • Media, entertainment industry
    Deployment of IoT technologies will enable ad hoc news gathering based on locations of the users. The news gathering could happen by querying IoT, to see which multi-media-capable devices are present at a certain location, and sending them a (financial) offer to collect multimedia footage about a certain event. Near field communication tags can be attached to posters for providing more information by connecting the reader to an URI address that contains detailed information related to the poster.
  • Pharmaceutical industry
    For pharmaceutical products, security and safety is of utmost importance. In IoT paradigm, attaching smart labels to drugs, tracking them through the supply chain and monitoring their status with sensors has many potential benefits. For example, items requiring specific storage conditions, e.g. maintenance of a cool chain, can be continuously monitored and discarded if conditions were violated during transport. Drug tracking and e-pedigrees allow for the detection of counterfeit products and keep the supply chain free of fraudsters. Counterfeiting is a common practice in this area and it particularly affects the developing countries. The smart labels on the drugs can also directly benefit patients, e.g. by enabling storing of the package insert, informing consumers of dosages and expiration dates, and assuring the authenticity of the medication. In conjunction with a smart medicine cabinet that reads information transmitted by the drug labels, patients can be reminded to take their medicine at appropriate intervals and patient compliance can be monitored.
  • Process industry
    In many plants of the oil and gas industry, scalable architectures are being
    used that consider possibilities for plug-and-play new ID methods combined with sensing/actuating integrated with the IoT infrastructure and integrate the wireless monitoring of petroleum personnel in critical onshore and offshore operations, container tracking, tracking of drill string components pipes, monitoring and managing of fixed equipment etc. A review of high-impact accidents in the chemical and petrochemical sectors in the UK  has observed some common features in these disasters, such as lack of understanding as well as poor management of storage, process, and chemical segregation. IoT can help in reducing the number of accidents in the oil and gas industry by equipping the containers of hazardous chemicals with intelligent wireless sensor nodes.
  • Recycling
    IoT and wireless technologies can be used to advance the efficiency and effectiveness of numerous important city and national environmental programs, including the monitoring of vehicle emissions to help supervise air quality, the collection of recyclable materials, the reuse of packaging resources and electronic parts, and the disposal of electronic waste (RFID used to identify electronic subcomponents of PCs, mobile phones, and other consumer electronics products to increase the reuse of these parts and reduce e-waste). RFID continues to provide greater visibility into the supply chain by helping companies more efficiently track and manage inventories, thereby reducing unnecessary transportation requirements and fuel usage.
  • Retail, logistics and supply chain management
    IoT can provide several advantages in retail and supply chain management
    (SCM) operations. For example, with RFID-equipped items and smart shelves that track the present items in real time, a retailer can optimize many applications. For example, he can make automatic checking of goods receipt, real time monitoring of stocks, tracking out-of-stocks or the detection of shoplifting. IoT can provide a large savings potential in a retail store, since it has been found that 3.9% of sales loss happens worldwide when shelves go empty and customers return with getting the desired products. Furthermore, IoT can help making the data from the retail store available for optimizing the logistics of the whole supply chain. If manufacturers know the stock and sales data from retailers, they can produce and ship the right quantities of products, thus avoiding the situation of over-production or underproduction. The logistic processes from supply chains in many industry sectors can benefit from exchanging of RFID data. Moreover, environmental issues can be better tackled. The carbon footprint of logistics and supply chain processes can be optimized based on the availability of dynamic and fine-grained data collected in the real world directly by some of the things of IoT, such as trucks, pallets, individual product items etc. In the shops, IoT can offer many applications like guidance in the shop according to a pre-selected shopping list, fast payment solutions like automatically check-out using biometrics, detection of potential allergen in a given product, personalized marketing, verification of the cool chain, etc. Commercial buildings will also benefit from smart building functionalities.
  • Telecommunications industry
    IoT will create the possibility of merging of diverse telecommunication technologies and create new services. An illustrative example is the use of GSM, NFC (Near Field Communication), low power Bluetooth, WLAN, multi-hop networks, GPS and sensor networks together with SIM-card technology. In these types of applications the reader (i.e. tag) is a part of the mobile phone, and different applications share the SIM-card. NFC enables communications among objects in a simple and secure way just by having them close to each other. The mobile phone can therefore be used as a NFC-reader and transmit the read data to a central server. When used in a mobile phone, the SIM-card plays an important role as storage for the NFC data and authentication credentials (like ticket numbers, credit card accounts, ID information etc). Things can join networks and facilitate peer-to-peer communication for specialized purposes or to increase robustness of communications channels and networks. Things can form ad-hoc peer-to-peer networks in disaster situations to keep the flow of vital information going in case of telecommunication infrastructure failures.
  • Transportation industry
    IoT offers solutions for fare collection and toll systems, screening of passengers and bags boarding commercial carriers and the goods moved by the international cargo system that support the security policies of the governments and the transportation industry, to meet the increasing demand for security in the globe. Monitoring traffic jams through cell phones of the users and deployment of intelligent transport systems (ITS) will make the transportation of goods and people more efficient. Transportation companies would become more efficient in packing containers since the containers can self- scan and weigh themselves. Use of IoT technologies for managing passenger luggage in airports and airline operations will enable automated tracking and sorting, increased per-bag read rates, and increased security.

How can IoT help?

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.