The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has taught us plenty – from the extraordinary contribution of key workers, to precisely which goods people are prone to panic buying. But what has the pandemic taught us about the Internet of Things (IoT)?
The healthcare sector has, of course, been at the forefront of public consciousness throughout the pandemic. Responding to a brand new virus – and subsequent variants – with no prior understanding of how different patients respond to different treatments – sharply emphasises the value of mass healthcare data collection and analysis. This is precisely what IoT in the healthcare sector can enable.
Connected devices in healthcare settings can monitor patients’ vital signs over both the short and the long-term – and, crucially, analyse that information in conjunction with data from thousands of other patients. This enables healthcare workers to more quickly pinpoint which interventions are most effective.
IoT in the healthcare sector goes beyond patient care, however, and also applies in areas such as keeping environments clean and pathogen-free, and the processes involved in transporting and rolling out vaccines. There, connected devices can help manage everything from transport logistics, to the refrigeration of vaccines, the use of emerging technologies such as UV LED lights to kill pathogens on surfaces.
Most people’s working patterns have changed enormously over the past twelve months, with entire sectors shifting to home working. This has meant huge shake-ups for corporate IT departments as they have scrambled to make enterprise technology available in their employees’ homes. It is has also placed huge demands on corporate IT security departments, as they rush to ensure that, while staff’s work devices are using the same networks as their personal devices, new security vulnerabilities are not opened up. IoT security, then, has taken on a different shape over the past year, with renewed emphasis placed on the need to identify and validate each and every connected device within IoT ecosystems – and to protect data from the point of creation, through transmission, to storage.
Back in those currently empty offices, the IoT is demonstrating a different kind of value. Smart building technologies such as connected security, light and heating systems mean that even the largest buildings can be kept ticking over with little to no on-site personnel – particularly important during the strictest periods of lockdown.
On a more positive note, the pandemic has enormously emphasised the value of collaboration and cooperation – which, in the world of the IoT, is a reminder of open source platforms.
The IoT is generating truly enormous volumes of data, which in turn require machine learning algorithms for effective, efficient analysis and the generation of tangible, valuable insights. Few organisations have the capabilities to perform such analysis themselves – or indeed, to enforce the sophisticated security necessarily to protect that data.
Perhaps, then, the greatest lesson from the pandemic as far as the IoT is concerned is a reminder of how, by working together and sharing expertise, individuals and organisations alike can achieve far more than they can alone. Open source products can enable businesses of all sizes and across all sectors to harness the benefits of the IoT without substantial upfront investment, while distributed computing engines can enable the smooth aggregation and analysis of IoT data.