Still unsure about what the Internet of Things (IoT) actually is? Well, it’s going to be big. IDC says there will be 9.2 billion connected or IoT devices shipped worldwide this year, rising to 27 billion by 2020.
So what is it? The Internet of Things is “where physical objects or things seamlessly connect to the Internet and can become active participants in business processes”, IDC analyst Charles Reed Anderson told attendees at the recent CIO Summit in Perth.
And machine-to-machine communication – where a device captures an event, transmits it over a network to an app and translates that into meaningful data – will underpin it, Anderson said.
Anderson provided an example of how the Internet of Things is working for Cargosmart, an organisation that ships potatoes in containers. The firm uses sensors inside these containers to transmit temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide levels.
“They make sure that the potatoes arrive into the port in perfect condition. That’s machine-to-machine – it’s a device that captures that information and transmits it to a device that’s on the network,” says Anderson.
"So I’ll be sitting there on the ship and say, 'look it’s getting too hot … somebody go find container number 4706 in this aisle and go and open a vent.'"
But this application is still pretty limited, he says.
“It’s not just about sending someone to go and open a vent, it’s automating that vent so that once you start capturing it [data], you know it’s getting too hot in there, the vent is already open. It eliminates the inefficient bit of the process, which is us as human beings unfortunately,” he says.
This is all great for organisations, but what is The Internet of Things going to mean for you? How will it potentially change the way you go about your daily shopping, go to work, or interact with services provided by governments and other enterprises?
IDC’s Anderson explained the potential of the Internet of Things by walking through a day in the life of a mining engineer, using an Infographic created by the analyst firm.
Here’s the daily scenario that provides an example of how Internet-connected devices – many of which are available now – will infiltrate our work and home lives in the near future.
John’s Internet of Things
John is an engineer who lives in Perth and works at a remote mine site 400 kilometres from the city.
He rises at 7am, checks his emails, and an automated concierge service, which knows his daily schedule, indicates that he has an early meeting.
The service – which talks to the city’s traffic monitoring system – indicates that there are road works and recommends he drive an alternate route to work.
John also receives an email from his electricity provider indicating his electricity usage. He has a smart meter at home that talks to a monitor allowing him to view his usage to control costs.
Finally, he gets an email from his insurance provider. He has placed a sensor inside his car to track his car usage. His insurance rates are now based off his driving performance.
“All these things are available today, it’s combining them together,” says Anderson.
John travel in his car to the office at 8am. His car’s on-board computer sends him a notification from the car dealer indicating that it has been a year since the car was serviced. The dealer provides a list of updates and he selects an appropriate time for an appointment.
“Also, because the car knows about the new road works that are coming up, it takes a different route,” says Anderson.
John arrives at his office. He attends an early morning management meeting where staff look through an operations review at the new command and control centre.
“This is the fun bit, he can walk in and start using things like digital media signage,” says Anderson. “We always present figures of what’s going on, now you can use new screens – the same ones that you are using for ordering groceries in the supermarket – to put up your business intelligence information.”
John may also employ a team of virtual drivers who are remotely controlling vehicles or monitoring automated trains at a remote mine site, says Anderson.
“They could have a remote surveillance system … linking up video cameras and doing remote surveillance for remote sites for security and safety.”
An equipment prognostics and automation solution may also be used to measure tyre pressure in these huge vehicles, he says.
“In some of these tyres which are double my size, they stick monitors inside to track [tyres] so when they start to lose tyre pressure, they can automatically be re-inflated. The amount of cost savings you get from keeping those inflated at a mining site is enormous.”
The meeting ends and John has to drive the 400kms to the mining site and the car calculates how much fuel will be required. It says based on the fuel level, he's going to run low on gas in a particular area.
“He gets a phone call from his son, saying ‘Dad, I’ve locked myself out.' Dad grabs his phone, unlocks the door remotely and lets him back in. Meanwhile, his smart watch notifies him he’s been driving for too long and he needs to take a break and stretch his legs."
John arrives at the mining site to check on the progress of a new excavation process.
“Here is where he uses a Google Glass solution to see how far they’ve been excavating, how deep they are going. He shares this view with the supervisor who is sitting in the control centre,” says Anderson.
He’s also fitted with the lone walker solution. He walks around and people know where he is located to improve security and safety.
Finally, he gets back to the hotel at 10pm and realises that his wife and kid are asleep, Anderson says. He touches his bond paired device and his wife, who is wearing the device at home, can feel his touch.A bond device prototype
Image courtesy of kwamecorp
Despite the fact that most of the applications are available and it’s a matter of linking them together, there are challenges ahead including getting industries to work together, finding the right skills to develop solutions, and ensuring devices are secure.
The Internet of Things will take years to evolve but one particular model Anderson says may work is telecommunications companies becoming a supermarket-as-a-service.
"So you have an operator who has smartphone solutions already, so they'll be doing broadband at your house, they can control your locks, they can control your lighting and thermostat. They've already got the customer relationship, why wouldn't they [develop] a relationship with a manufacturer of white goods who creates a smart appliance solution?" he asks.
"Then they could link up with a supermarket as well which has a distribution [network]. Suddenly, instead of going to the supermarket to get your goods, you can [purchase] them through the [telco] operator," he says.
This creates a new revenue stream for the operator and means the smart appliance manufacturer now has a solution that is being used. The supermarket will acquire new customers and become a distribution centre rather than bear the cost of running physical stores, he says.
"This is how industries can shift."
Follow Byron Connolly on Twitter:@ByronConnolly
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