IoT: “What is this Thing?”

An arduino microcontroller, used to describe the Internet of Things industry
Photo by Zan Ilic on Unsplash

You’re driving down the road, humming to yourself, even making the occasional song flip on the radio out of boredom. After driving hundreds of miles, you find it second nature to you, so you barely realize when you start to drift off, your car starts to drift off its lane, and you’re drifted off to the emergency room…

Although this is a scary thought to process, distraction and fatigue are some of the leading cause for accidents worldwide.

Imagine if we could have avoided this situation entirely.

Imagine if there was a way to sense an accident, alert the driver, and contact emergency services early. Before you’re picked up by an ambulance, doctors will already be reading your files, and treatment can start as soon as you reach the hospital.

Your life may have just been saved by IoT.

What is IoT?

IoT refers to the internet of things, where multiple devices, known as “things” send readings from sensors to industry-specific applications via an IoT gateway. I guarantee that if you are reading this on a device connected to the internet, you have seen IoT in action.

“Alexa, how many litres in a gallon?”

If you know what I am referring to, you have seen the capabilities of the most widely used form of consumer IoT in the world. In this case, Alexa gathers readings of your voice through sensors and refers to a database of skills and responses to fulfill your task.

Nowadays, IoT can allow you to connect multiple “things”, so now you can say:

“Alexa, turn on the lights.”

Although helpful voice assistants are definitely a useful application of IoT, there are so many more groundbreaking applications to IoT that are in use today. The reason that I used the car analogy at the beginning of this article was to highlight the fact that IoT can literally be used to save lives — putting IoT in a box really limits your views of its amazing capabilities.

A car’s odometer and surrounding controls, used to describe the Internet of Things’ (IoT) use in the automotive industry.
Just like the picture above, warnings like check engine lights in your car are the results of a sensor’s output to the data bus of your car — a prime example of IoT used in the real world.

IoT for Enterprise

IoT is very popular in the consumer industry, but also for enterprise use — data from sensors is sent directly to an industry-specific software, where it can be analyzed and mined for valuable consumer insights.

For example, your car’s engine sensor detects an anomaly in your engine. This data is sent to the data bus of your car and then to your manufacturer’s software anonymously. The manufacturer can then send you a notification, directions to the nearest servicing centre, as well as a discount for the service. A single sensor just powered a whole transaction — that’s powerful!

IoMT

The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) is changing the way hospitals view patient treatment and is enhancing the quality of care. In IoMT, the main applications are:

  • Real-time patient vitals tracking
  • Medication Inventory Tracking and Automatic Ordering
  • Patient Diagnosis
  • Telemedicine (Doctors can monitor your symptoms from home since the data is transferred through the internet)

Another great example of IoT for positive medical impact is a startup called Neuropace. This company uses ECOG (electrocorticography) sensors to detect seizures before they happen, and stimulate certain areas of the brain electrically to stop them before they happen — without the patient even feeling it.

Supply Chain and Logistics

It is in the best interest for Logistics companies to track the condition of their products, perform quality checks, and track damages, and IoT is the best way to do so. Ecommerce giants like Amazon use IoT to track the location of your package, and many other purposes:

  • Monitoring Vibration in Transport
  • Vehicle Fleet Tracking
  • Automated Shipment Quality Checks
  • External Data Tracking (Temperature, Humidity etc.)
  • Improved Route Finding Systems

IoT for Agriculture

Although IoT can impact almost every industry, agriculture is one of the most apparent ones. With sensors constantly tracking data around the farm and automated systems to regulate them, farmers can focus on more important tasks — removing some of the labour out of a very laborious job.

  • Monitoring of Soil Moisture, Plant Health, Humidity, and UV index
  • Automated Systems for Regulation of Metrics (Watering Drones)
  • Constant Security around the Field
  • Automated Farming Vehicles (Tractors, Plows, Harvesters)
  • Yield and Harvest Tracking
A picture of a line of cattle, showing the use of IoT to constantly track the health of cattle and plants.
A picture of a line of cattle, showing the use of IoT to constantly track the health of cattle and plants.
IoT in farming is also being used to track the health of cattle for quick treatment after detection.

IoT Mapping

At this point, you have been shown the surface of IoT — now there is experimentation in the field of IoT mapping, where amazing data can be gathered anonymously through mass use of smart sensors.

Imagine a weather company tapping into where cars experience skidding — there is a high chance that these locations are covered in icy or rainy surfaces. If multiple cars experience this in the same location, the company can be sure that there is some ice or rain buildup in that area. Cities can also track this and send repair services to fix any possible damage before it occurs.

Now, imagine millions of these cars tracing paths all across the country — constantly mapping where they experience skidding, and to what extent. The result will be a highly accurate diagram of both potential snowy areas and accident-prone locations.

Think of it like doing a leaf rubbing on paper — doing a few strokes with a pencil won’t properly show the leaf, but the longer you shade, the higher the “resolution”. IoT mapping is the future, allowing context to be provided with mass usage of devices.

A leaf being shaded onto a piece of paper, showing the implications of IoT in a global use scenario known as IoT mapping
Context for the analogy that I am trying to illustrate through leaf shading. The more people that use smart devices, the more valuable context we can get from global data trends.

The bottom line is: this is just the beginning of the future for IoT. Now more than ever, brands are desperate to find ways to maintain loyalty, reduce shrinkage, and increase profits, while you want a more convenient and enjoyable life. IoT offers a win-win situation for both you, and the businesses you buy from.

It is even more exciting to realize that IoT will have huge potential with new disruptive technologies, such as blockchain and AI. Not to mention, there are countless other implications for IoT that haven’t even been mentioned in this article, such as smart cities, power plants, and personalized ads!

All in all, IoT is a technology that you should be looking for. IoT is everywhere if you know where to look — I challenge you to find at least one uncommon example of IoT around you, when you are driving, or when you’re at school.

When looking at a potentially disruptive technology, it can be hard to see yourself twenty years in the future using it yourself, and hopefully, this article has proven to you that IoT isn’t just a speculation, it is the reality we live in.

I write about things every week(ish).