There has been a huge buzz around Internet of Things (IoT) in the last few years. Several possibilities are being discussed and they have the potential to completely change the way we communicate and do things. IoT, simply put, is a concept that envisions turning every single device on the planet into a smart device, by connecting it to the internet, and enabling it to intelligently communicate with other devices. The benefits of IoT have already been realized, albeit on a small scale. However, in order to maximize its potential, extensive researched is underway.
What’s enabling IoT?
The cost of implementing IoT solutions for practical real world problems would have been unimaginable a decade ago. But rapid technological advancements around all aspects of IoT have made it a reality. Some of the developments are:
- – Affordable Sensors – The cost of sensors has been reduced by more than 50% in the last 10 years.
- – Fast Communication – High speed networking infrastructure like 4G and optical fiber technology have enabled high speed and made uninterrupted data transfer possible.
- – Cheap Storage – Cost of physical memory has almost become negligible. New big data analysis algorithms have enabled the processing of incoming data and making responsive action feasible.
Most of the investment has been towards the development of smart homes followed by health care innovations. There is also a lot of interest from venture capitalist in wearable technologies and user interfaces that control data from connected devices.
IoT around the Globe
The United States has been the frontrunner in driving IoT innovations. About 551 companies are actively researching and developing solutions across all industries. The UK and Canada are following the lead with 40 and 37 companies respectively involved in IoT.
IoT Now – Impact across Multiple Industries
Let’s take a look at how IoT is already making a difference in a few sectors and what is in the works for the future.
1. Energy & Utilities
Organizations in this sector are one of the earliest adopters of IoT. Smart electricity meters and smart grids have extensively increased the efficiency of power usage by easily detecting sources of power leakage. By 2022, Navigant Research, expects 1.1 billion smart meters to be connected to the internet.
Smart meters can also be installed for residential and commercial water and gas metering to effective monitor utility usage. Water pipe networks, gas and oil pipelines, storage tanks, processing facilities and energy sites like wellheads can also be accurately monitored through the use of this technology. Oil and gas companies can use IoT to monitor critical components in the oilfield to predict failure ahead of time, which can avoid costly breakdowns.
With devices that monitor local weather conditions connected to central systems that can start and shutdown equipment, bad weather scenarios can be easily tackled.
The usefulness of IoT has been realized in healthcare, unlike any other sector, where it has had a direct impact on people’s lives. Pill cameras and patient monitoring systems connected through IoT have revolutionized the way medical practitioners gather patient’s vitals without them having to make hospital visits.
Wearable smart devices that monitor physical activity are gaining a lot of attention. It is reported that the overall wellness of people tend to increase when their activities are monitored and tracked. A Verizon study found out that the participation of overweight people increased by 86% when wearable devices were used. Governments and businesses are exploring ways to use wearable devices to increase wellness and reduce medical care cost and increase productivity.
3. Industrial & Manufacturing
The industrial and manufacturing sectors are already using IoT to monitor the functioning of different machinery parts and reporting the same in the event of a malfunction. Similarly, there are IoT systems to analyze the manufacturing processes and physical attributes of the end products to determine if they meet the established quality standards.
Also, IoT enhances the process of asset tracking and gives a greater control over logistics and delivery for manufacturers. Further, manufacturers can give their customers real-time tracking data that can prove to be an appealing differentiator in a crowded market.
IoT is expected to transform the industrial and manufacturing sector in a big way in the coming years. Future factories that will be based on IoT are likely to be more efficient and flexible to meet the ever-changing demands of customers. Product design and customizations, work schedules, inventory management and every other aspect of manufacturing will be positively impacted by IoT.
The transportation industry as a whole adopted IoT very early and has reaped benefits in a big way. Organizations involved in fleet management such as care hire companies and utility providers – use IoT extensively to locate and monitor their vehicles more effectively.
In the automobile industry too IoT is expected to be a game-changer. Currently, only 8% of all cars globally are connected to the communications network but in the future, cars are likely to become data collection hubs providing real-time information about traffic, shopping discounts and more.
5. Public Sector
Currently, there are many applications such as smart lighting systems, traffic systems and smart bins that are addressing the problems arising out of rapid and unplanned urbanization. For example – garbage collection is a major bottleneck as the garbage generated per person is constantly on the rise. Smart garbage bins based on IoT will communicate when the garbage bin is ready to be emptied, avoiding overflow of trash. Similarly, smart pollution systems send alerts to residents to not flush their toilets during overflow events, and also provide regular updates about pollution levels.
Going forward, more such applications are expected to address many of the pressing problems prevalent in crowded megacities.
IoT in the Future
The vision for the future is to have all aspects of the society within the IoT framework but we have barely scratched the surface. Much work is left to be done before we can exploit its full potential. Experts estimate that, by as early as 2020 more than 50 billion smart devices will be a part of IoT so in the near future, our lives will become safer and more sophisticated than ever before. IoT is just in its infancy, but there is a lot of promise. It is only a matter of time before IoT becomes an integral part of our lives.
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