“If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things—using data they gathered without any help from us -- we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed  replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best. We need to empower computers with their own means of gathering information, so they can see, hear and smell the world for themselves, in all its random glory”  (Kevin Ashton, MIT 1999)

Understanding the Internet of Things (IoT) – Part 1

Today the size and cost of sensors, powerful micro-controllers and long range radios has dropped to the point where this vision becomes possible. Combining this with IPv6 allows us to assign a unique address to billions of devices.

Wireless data coverage has improved significantly with the emergence of IoT specific networks in competion with cellular service providers. Battery technology has improved to the point where an IoT device can operate for up to 10 years on a single battery. Solar recharging and energy scavenging can extend this life even further.

IoT describes a system where items in the physical world, and sensors within or attached to these items, are connected to the Internet via wireless and wired Internet connections. These sensors can use various technologies for connecting to the Internet such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), Sigfox or LoRaWAN, Cellular LTE-M and there are more technologies evolving all the time.

The Internet of Things is the Enabling Technology

  • Connecting both inanimate and living things to the Internet. Early trials and deployments of Internet of Things networks began with connecting industrial equipment. Today, the vision of IoT has expanded to connect everything from industrial equipment to everyday objects. The types of items range from gas turbines to automobiles to utility meters. It can also include living organisms such as plants, farm animals and people. Smart Agriculture collects data from ground moisture and PH sensors, location of livestock and equipment, feed stock levels and livestock health while wearable computing and digital health devices focus on connecting people to the Internet of Things landscape.
  • Sensor data collection and artificial intelligence. The physical objects that are being connected will possess one or more sensors. Each sensor will monitor a specific condition such as location, vibration, motion and temperature. In IoT, these sensors will connect to each other and to systems that can understand or present information from the sensor’s data feeds. IoT sensors will present real time "awareness" to other devices, systems and processes to achieve more coordinated and automated control architectures.
  • Change what types of things communicate with each other. In the past, people communicated with people and people operated machines. Imagine if all of your equipment had the ability to communicate. IoT-enabled things can share real time information about their condition and the surrounding environment. Over time, everything will have a digital identity and connectivity so that you can identify, track and communicate with any object, any time and anywhere .

IoT data differs from traditional computing. The data is small in size but frequently updating. The number of devices, or nodes, that are connecting to the internet are also greater in IoT than in traditional PC computing. Machine-to-Machine communications and intelligence drawn from the devices and the Internet will allow businesses to introduce a level of autonomy into their systems and processes which ultimately improves efficiency and therefore reduces costs and potential errors. 

What it means for your Business

IoT will inevitably impact every business. The Internet of Things will change the types of devices that connect into a company’s systems. These newly connected devices will produce new types of data. The Internet of Things will help a business gain competitive advantage, improve efficiencies, harness intelligence from a wide range of equipment, improve operations and ultimately increase customer satisfaction.

IoT will also have a profound impact on people’s lives, both personal and work lives. It will improve public safety, transportation and healthcare with better information and timeliness. While there are many ways that the Internet of Things could impact society and business, there are at least three major benefits of IOT that will impact every business. These benefits are visibility, efficiency and cost.  

IoTamy delivers on IoT benefits:

Visibility. IoT communicates information to people and systems, such as state and health of equipment (e.g.it’s on or off, charged, full or empty) and data from sensors that can monitor a person’s vital signs. Almost every company has a class of assets it would like to track and location is important for items that move, such as products, equipment and people.

Efficiency. Once a performance baseline has been established, a collective dataset across many sensors can be used to pre-empt an equipment failure. The host application is configured to automatically schedule maintenance as well as pre-order the required parts and pre-book the workshop and pre-allocate the resources required.

Reduced costs.  Systems can utilise sensors data to optimise fuel or reduce wear and tear on consumables. New smart meters in homes and businesses can also provide data that helps people understand energy consumption and opportunities for cost savings. Smart Agriculture can optimise farm efficiency by using sensor data to ensure an ideal environment exists at all times and to provide early warning when production falls below pre-set limits. 

IoTamy can get you started with IoT

IoTamy can help you develop an IoT strategy for your organisation in three steps;

Define what data you’d need to collect. Identify what information is important and what meaning should be applied to that data. We then identify the most appropriate IoT architecture that will collect this data reliably. Once the data is being collected, what processes need to be applied to this data to deliver the desired outcomes.

Help you design and build your IOT network and security foundation. Select the most appropriate connectivity architecture for the actual IoT devices plus additional security safeguards such as data encryption, physical security and network security.

Help you to extract meaning from your data.  While each sensor may only produce a small amount of data, a company will be collecting data from thousands to millions of sensors. Only meaningful data should be captured for decision making purposes which requires a combination of "end point" processing and filtering together with aggregated processing and filtering at intermediate and edge based network devices such as gateways so that the data that arrives at the core can better represent of the real time "state" that you need to monitor or control. 

In Part 2 we will present a specific application with technical details, business benefits and ROI obtained.