A Few Thoughts on IoT and its Adoption

Posted on : 11-05-2016 | By : Maria Motyka | In : Innovation, IoT

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The “Internet of Things” (IoT) is becoming an increasingly growing topic both within and outside corporate environments. As Internet is becoming not only widely available, but even considered a right (as it enables citizens to enjoy their right to expression and opinion, among other basic human rights), the ground is being set for the world of connected devices.

Contrary to common belief, concept is not new (if you are old enough, you’ll remember the story of programmers connecting to Coke machines over the internet in the 1980s to check whether they were stocked before deciding to make the trip down a few floors…) – the term IoT was first used by Kevin Ashton, co-founder of the Auto-ID Centre at MIT in 1999, in a presentation he made to Procter & Gamble.

Perhaps the best quote on the topic of IoT is one he made in an article for the RFID journal:

“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”.

So, where are we heading with the IoT? Following last year’s peak of the IoT hype (visible through both media and investment), 2016 is the time for a reality-check on IoT and establishing realistic expectations, according to Gartner. A full adoption IoT will be marked by the development IoT platforms and business solutions, the latter being still in an early stage of development.

Mind-blowing numbers. The numbers however suggest, that we have come a long way in terms of IoT adoption. As early as in 2008, there were already more Internet-connected things than people and it is estimated that by 2020, the number of devices connected to the Internet will reach a whooping 50 billion. We can also expect $19 trillion in profits and cost savings coming from IoT over the next 9 years (CMO stats).

So, what about the practical applications of IoT now? One exciting example of IoT application is Nest, which offers Thermostat Smoke + CO Alarm and Camera devices at home. The company’s offering delivers a lot more than just a smoke detector that does not just get attention by frantically swinging a towel at it when grilling sausages 😉

For instance, you can connect to the thermostats throughout the house from a remote app, adjust them manually or, more importantly, detect whether anyone is inside the house and then regulate the device automatically. On the smoke detection side the devices “speak” (or send alerts) rather than annoyingly just emit beeps, and are aware of environmental difference and severity of event.

This is the important piece which relates directly back to Ashtons vision. Indeed, Nest has been working on a smart fridge which can use the same technology to turn up the fridge when no one is at home (as it knows the door won’t be opened).

Other practical examples are in the healthcare and manufacturing sectors. In the former, we already see sensors monitoring an individual’s vital signs such as heart rate, movement, blood pressure etc… and using this data either for personal fitness or medical analysis. There are plenty of smart, but simple, initiatives in this area.

One example of this is Hyginex. This start-up is tackling one of the biggest issues in healthcare, that of hospital acquired infections which lead to just shy of 100,000 deaths each year in the US. Of these, it is estimated that 80% are due to staff not washing hands. To combat this, Hyginex have developed a wristband which reminds them when to sanitise with special “over-bed sensors”  designating patient zones and soap and alcohol dispenser sensors interacting with the wristbands to monitor quality and duration of hygiene events. Simple and smart.

According to Soreon Research, smart wearable devices, which everyone is so hyped about, may help save 1.3 million lives by 2020.

In manufacturing, IoT has potential to radically redefine the supply chain and enable the leaders to provide more differentiated services to customers through a networked ecosystem. Ultimately this supply chain will be able to react intelligently to drive efficiency through changes in environment, circumstance, political landscape and the like. A way off maybe, but we are already seeing commercial telematics solutions delivering efficiency in fleet logistics.

Of course there are many challenges to overcome, not least being the never ending reliance on data and an increasing exposure to cyber-risk.

However, the IoT promises a very different world from that which human beings have orchestrated so far. We are getting closer and closer to its promises being delivered.