Will the IoT change everything?
Posted on 17th August 2017
IoT is being cited as the enabler for the next industrial revolution, with claims that it will impact every part of our lives. Over the past few years, similar hype has been attached to other technologies such as blockchain, big data and artificial intelligence (AI).
I started working with AI in 1995 and back then there was a massive expectation that it was going to change the world. Unfortunately, the promises were big, the timescales optimistic and after 22 years AI is only just emerging as a mainstream topic outside of movies.
The most commonly known AI stories are around games and bots. Google recently beat the GO world champion with their DeepMind and AlphaGo technologies. Work on chat bots creating their own language was reported long before the hysteria surrounding the Facebook bot shutdown. AI bots have been put to practical use defending parking fines in an early disruption to the legal system. Microsoft are working with the BBC to use AI in a new version of iPlayer that will automatically recognise your voice to log you in and allow you to converse more naturally to find the programmes you want to watch.
The second industrial revolution is often cited as being driven by the discovery of electricity. It was possibly the most significant invention of that era because it enabled the convergence of technologies that included lighting, motors and new techniques in manufacturing that truly brought revolutionary changes to the world. In a similar way, IoT will not change everything but will form the underlying technology that will provide the data that will drive (indeed already are driving) the new revolution. Let’s look at a few examples…
For the 50th Superbowl, the 49ers invested heavily in IoT and networking technologies inside the Levis Stadium so they could track where people were, the stock level of kiosks and their stores and information about parking spaces. This allowed them to produce an app that could direct you to or reserve a parking spaces, let you order from the store (even when outside the stadium) or order food and drink from your seat, and provide location information for the least busy kiosk or (very important at a game!) toilet. While all this created a great customer experience, the 49ers also saw a 67% increase in food and drink sales and an average increase in store sales from $77 to $212.
American football is not the only sport impacted by technology. Golf and Tennis have been tracking telemetry from games to collect statistics that are have been frequently used by the media when commentating, but much of this data is also used in training. F1 has been a sport that has always collected large amounts of data on the cars. Lotus report that they gather 2.4 billion data points per car, per race. While this is mostly used by the teams to analyse performance, F1 has now recognised its importance in fan engagement. This year the Tour de France collected and published location data for all the riders, making it easier for fans to track their favourite rider. IoT technology in sport in consistently advancing to measure more facets of sporting performance, whether human or mechanical/techological. Scottish company, Sansible Wearables, has developed an impact body suit that can monitor how rugby players tackle with their bodies, improving training drills and informing post-injury rehabilitation programmes.
Many people are now using fitness trackers to track things like activity and sleep. For many, the data from a fitness tracker is a motivational tool, but in at least one case it has actually saved someone’s life. Employers and insurance companies are starting to offer benefits, such as lower premiums or gifts vouchers, to those who are willing to share their personal fitness data. For some, this health monitoring can go beyond basic fitness data and include things like the continuous monitoring of glucose level for patients with diabetes.
The use of remote monitoring through IoT devices is also making it into assisted-living homes for people with dementia. This allows carers or family to be notified if the door is opened at unusual hours, if the bed has not been slept in, the heating has not been turned on or off, or even if the fridge has not been opened.
The terms Industrial IoT (IIoT) and Industry 4.0 are coming into much wider use as organisations seek to create new levels of efficiency and customer service. Companies such as Aggreko and ThyssenKrupp are using remote monitoring technology to detect failure of their products and prevent failures, and thus reduce the cost of maintenance through better scheduling and ensuring the right parts are carried by the service engineers who can then fix issues on their first visit.
ThyssenKrupp have taken this to another stage, further combining augmented reality with digital twins. This allows service engineers to collaborate all over the world and overlay instructional videos for the task at hand. Digital twins are now making their way into many products, with embeded IoT capabilities allowing manufacturers to monitor their products and how they are being used after the initial sale.
Companies are starting to make use of smart contracts to provide transparency in the supply chain. This can range from simply knowing a crate was put on a lorry at a particular time to knowing that a item that needs to be transported at a particular temperature was maintained through its journey. This is helping to reduce counterfeiting in the pharmaceuticals industry.
Our cities are being flooded with sensors enabling a wide range of benefits to the community. Smart lighting was installed as part of Glasgow’s Future City project. As well as being efficient LED lighting, the new lights can monitor noise, movement and pollution. The movement sensors allow control centres to detect unusually high levels of activity and potentially redirect police and emergency services. Smart traffic lights are another development that has been proven to improve city life. While originally designed to help keep traffic moving, work has also been done to develop algorithms that can help control pollution.
There are many other examples I have not had space to mention here, but it is clear that IoT is enabling many new solutions to problems. Maybe that new Industrial Revolution is arriving?
It would be great to hear of more interesting uses of IoT, so please feel free to leave a comment or get in touch.
Philip Coupar, Bridgeall
Posted in Guest Blog
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