The Internet of Things has to be one of the most hyperbolic topics in IT today. ‘It’s changing everything!’ people claim.
Surely that can’t be true?
Maybe not. But the IoT is also genuinely one of the most dynamic, diverse and far-reaching branches of IT today. Is the hyperbole deserved? Well, in this blog we decided to take a look at five of the top IoT use cases, across a broad range of industries and applications, so that you can make up your own mind. And there’s not a smart fridge in sight.
The manufacturing industry is being truly transformed by the so-called Industrial Internet of Things – the IIoT. Essentially, this involves implanting connected sensors in machines throughout the production line. These small, inexpensive sensors typically measure vary simple variables – the level of oil left in an engine, perhaps, or the temperature of a particular machine – but by consolidating these data, manufacturing bosses can get a deep and holistic understanding of the performance of the entire production line – and, in turn, move towards strategies of predictive maintenance. That is, they can identify when small issues are occurring in expensive hardware, and repair them before they escalate – and before a time-consuming a costly manual check takes place. Predictive maintenance extends the useful lifespan of manufacturing equipment dramatically, and therefore has a huge impact on the business bottom line. The same sensors can also be used to identify production bottlenecks and greatly improve efficiency on the factory floor.
Any organisation that deploys a large number of vehicles – from bona fide transport organisations like taxi firms through to industrial businesses that manage their own logistics – can benefit from introducing IoT technology to those vehicles. Even simple GPS trackers can enable managers to gain a truly holistic view of where each vehicle is located and how each driver is performing, while also making rapid, top-level decisions to re-route traffic or change driver allocations. Other sensors implanted in vehicle engines can power vehicle diagnostics, helping give a smarter overview of each driver’s performance and, as with machinery on the factory floor, identifying small mechanical problems before they become noticeable – and costly.
The IoT is impacting on nearly every aspect of the medical sector. At the consumer end of the spectrum, wearable fitness devices that measure heartrate and activity levels are becoming as commonplace as wristwatches. More sophisticated medical wearables include external devices like insulin pumps or implanted machines like pacemakers – all of which collect and transmit valuable data for medical professionals. Then there are large, stationary devices in hospitals – things like chemotherapy stations or pharmacy dispensers – which are, similarly, implanted with connected technology that enables that to collect, transmit and be informed by data. As such, the IoT is enabling the medical sector to deliver more personalised and intelligent care, while also helping medical practitioners to reach more patients, across wider areas, more effectively.
Connected cows? Yes, really. Livestock farmers operating across large areas are now able to use GPS technology to track the location of their stock, granting them ongoing visibility and control of where flocks and herds are wandering. On the arable side, IoT technology is enabling more intelligent irrigation and fertilisation strategies, with sensors in fields measuring factors like soil saturation and even air quality, and feeding in back to centralised analytics engines.
The smart meter is perhaps one of the most ubiquitous elements of the IoT as far as the average consumer is concerned – but there’s a reason why they are becoming so commonplace. Smart meters enable utilities organisations to access previously untapped data as to energy usage in individual homes and buildings and, in turn, deliver a more reliable and responsive service. And ‘smart’ in the utilities sector goes beyond individual homes also. Smart grids, whereby IoT-enabled sensors are placed throughout electricity grids to measure performance, are allowing energy companies to identify, isolate and repair faults faster than ever before and, in turn, to deliver a more robust and reliable service.
Saying that the IoT is changing everything might be a stretch – but innovative use cases are already present in a wide variety of industries and settings. Any context in which capturing previously untapped data, analysing it and using that analysis to inform tangible actions has a huge amount to gain from the IoT era.