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The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to bring immense value to every organization. By continuing to connect all our things, people, and environments, we’ll unlock tremendous organizational value and achieve feats that will truly seem like magic. But because IoT is so broad and far-reaching of a concept, we’ve found that many are confused about what the potential applications for IoT are exactly. How can my business actually implement IoT solutions? How should my city think about creating value for residents using IoT? Below we’ll give some Internet of Things examples and applications to clear things up.
But before we do, we should first make the distinction between consumer IoT and enterprise IoT. Consumer IoT refers to things like wearables, smart home devices, etc., all of which are marketed directly to consumers. In contrast, enterprise IoT refers the use of IoT in improving an organization’s existing systems and processes and enabling organizations to increase operational efficiency or unlock entirely new value (e.g. by launching new business lines or products).
We’ll be focusing on enterprise IoT in this ebook because at Leverege, we believe that this is where the most value can be created, even if it’s not “sexy”. Plus, this is the area in which we have deep experience to share with you. So now let’s explore some examples and applications of IoT.
It’s helpful to think of IoT as doing one (or more) of the following: increasing efficiency, improving health/safety, or creating better experiences.
“This years’ series of Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) forecasts reflect a growing focus on driving results using sensor-based data and creating analytically rich data sets…solving complex logistics, manufacturing, services, and supply chain problems.” — Louis Columbus, Roundup Of Internet Of Things Forecasts And Market Estimates, 2016
Increasing efficiency means more output with the same input or the same output with less input. Inputs could include time, energy, money, or resources. Output could be units produced or tasks accomplished.
Efficiency is particularly important for industrial applications, because more production at less cost means greater profit, but efficiency gains can be realized in just about any organization. Below are some examples:
Whether the assets are big or small, fixed or mobile, attaching sensors to them allows organizations to track real-time location, monitor performance, improve workflows, and optimize utilization.
For example, the smart boating solution we built for Siren Marine enables boat owners to check in on their boat(s) from afar and make sure all systems are functioning correctly. And the car tracking solution we built for Manheim allows personnel at the auction locations to quickly locate the vehicle(s) they’re looking for, rather than manually search through thousands of parked cars.
Sensors embedded in manufacturing equipment and placed throughout a factory can help identify bottlenecks in the manufacturing process. By addressing bottlenecks, manufacturing time and waste is reduced.
Rather than standard preventative maintenance, which means performing maintenance on machines before they break, “predictive maintenance” means using advanced sensing and analytics to predict exactly when machines will need maintenance. Because predictive maintenance means only servicing machines when they need it, this cuts total costs and the time machines spend idle.
People and organizations can achieve significant decreases in their energy usage with IoT. Sensors monitor things like lighting, temperature, energy usage, etc. and that data is processed by intelligent algorithms to micromanage activities in real-time. This is how Google cut 15% of its energy expenditure in its data centers.
For outdoor agriculture, an example could be sensing soil moisture and taking weather into account so that smart irrigation systems only water crops when needed, reducing the amount of water usage.
For indoor agriculture, IoT allows monitoring and management of micro-climate conditions (humidity, temperature, light, etc.) to maximize production.
By placing tags on individual products, the exact location of single items in a large warehouse can be shared, thus saving search time and lowering labor costs.
Another example is in a retail setting. By knowing exactly what’s in-stock and what isn’t, the store can order new products only when needed. This reduces the cost of keeping extra inventory in the back. Also, smart inventory management eliminates the need to manually check what’s on the shelves, reducing labor costs.
IoT enables heightened surveillance, monitoring, and detection, which all combine to improve health and increase safety. This is particularly interesting for organizations like local or city governments, which need to ensure the health and safety of their residents, but also extends to large businesses supporting their employees.
Sensors can collect critical information about the environment, allowing for early detection of environmental disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis, etc., thus saving lives.
Better surveillance and tracking tools will allow authorities to detect when crime has occurred and respond much faster, keeping citizens safer. Also, law enforcement will even be able to predict crime, stopping it from happening in the first place.
Patient surveillance can be life-saving; automatically detecting when someone falls down or when they begin to experience a heart attack so that emergency care can be sent immediately.
Sensors can also detect radiation, pathogens, and air quality so that dangerous concentrations can be identified early, allowing people to evacuate.
“We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works” — Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt
The Internet of Things will allow our world to increasingly shape itself to our needs and our wants, creating a better experience. Rather than just passively providing information and reacting to our inputs, much of the value of IoT will come from anticipating and addressing needs automatically.
For example, if your building(s) are equipped with smart building management systems, they can adjust temperature in real-time in response to occupancy (how many people are in which areas of the building), environmental factors (certain rooms might be getting more sunlight and in need of further cooling), and contextual factors (today might be a holiday so no one will be in the office).
While you might group the above example under energy efficiency because it would in fact be saving energy, this would undervalue the better experience provided to all your employees to make sure everyone has the optimal temperature for comfort and performance.
Hopefully you’re beginning to grasp the potential of IoT, and some ways that you can apply it to or within your own organization. But how does an IoT system work exactly?