The Internet of Things or IoT is a revolutionary technology that gained popularity in recent times. It extends internet connectivity into everyday physical objects like devices, appliances and sensors, enabling them to effectively communicate with each other.
Now, this connectivity between objects could change the way various industries of the world operate. And, with 5G just around the corner, we can expect to see some radical changes and improvements in the world around us. In fact, Indian MNC Wipro believes that “The convergence of IoT and 5G will help manufacturers realize their vision of Industry 4.0.”
Here are 8 real-world applications of IoT that could change the way our industries and in turn our world operates.
Applications of IoT
1) Supply Chain Management
The supply chains of various industries today have many loopholes. From the factory to retail stores, goods suffer misuse, theft, expiry, and delay in several instances. IoT-enabled devices and sensors can offer robust solutions to most of these problems.
- Location tracking: RFID tags and sensors placed on various goods can help track the real-time location of these goods. At any given point, a manufacturer can know where their goods are being stored, where they are being transported, and how they are being transported.
- Track storage conditions: Some goods like drugs, beverages, and eatables need to be stored under specific conditions. Sensors placed on goods can help us track the conditions in which they are being stored. The temperature, light, exposure, humidity, and in some cases even the pressure of the storage area can be tracked. These sensors also help detect the health of these goods and get rid of any expired goods.
- Streamline the movement of goods: IoT-enabled devices can help track the movement of goods and identify the cause of any delays. These devices also help in planning the best possible routes to make sure that the goods are delivered on time. In addition to this, the sensors and connected devices can aptly identify places where there is a shortage of these goods and ensure that they are re-stocked on time.
- Easily locate goods within storehouses: The storehouses of goods are extremely large and locating a particular good within the storehouse can be problematic. But, if we have RFID tags on them, it becomes easy to track the exact shelf on which those goods are located.
2) IoT in Agriculture
The rise of the internet and technology has brought about significant changes in almost every industry. However, the farming industry has somehow been left behind. In most countries today, we still see farmers using age-old farming techniques and machinery. But IoT could change this. The smart farming and precision farming techniques enabled by IoT could reduce costs, increase efficiency and produce enough yield to meet the demands of the ever-growing population.
So, what exactly is smart farming? Also known as precision farming, smart farming refers to a set of practices that make the process of raising crops more accurate and predictable. This is done by the use of sensors, robotics, drones and other automated hardware.
- The use of sensors will help farmers scan the health, fertility, nutrients, temperature and humidity of the soil. These sensors can also detect pest attacks and help prevent them.
- Automated drones could be used to survey the entire field for crop health assessment, crop monitoring and fertilizer spraying. The data accumulated by these drones can be used to measure the height of crops, the number of crops and predict yield for that year.
IoT-enabled devices and sensors can also be used in animal husbandry to track the location, number and health of the livestock. Sick animals can be easily detected and separated from the rest in order to prevent the spread of diseases among these animals.
3) Smart Cities
One of the applications of IoT that we have all been looking forward to is smart cities. Now, what is a smart city? A smart city is an urban habitat that makes use of a variety of connected sensors, devices, tools, and meters to collect real-time data about various operations within the city. The data collected is then used to better predict, manage and control these operations efficiently. In simple terms, this data can be used to identify the pain points of the citizens and eliminate them. Here are a few examples:
- Traffic control: IoT can enable the use of smart connected vehicles that can communicate with each other. These communicating vehicles can share data in real-time and avoid congestion. In addition to this, traffic lights can also be fitted with sensors that can detect congestion in certain areas and manage traffic accordingly.
- Pollution control: Air quality control sensors placed at various parts of the city can detect pollutants and dust particles and identify highly polluted areas. This will allow governments to deploy appropriate pollution control measures in those areas.
- Waste management: The process of collecting and eliminating the waste produced in a city is extremely inefficient and costly. IoT-enabled devices and sensors can eliminate some of these problems by monitoring how full a trash can is and then notifying relevant authorities to pick up trash. They also provide the best pick-up routes for this waste. Smart bins like EvoEco also aim to provide the best ways to sort, recycle and dispose of waste in a city.
- Smart grid: A smart grid could be the solution to all of our energy problems. It is a self-sufficient, two-way communication system between energy providers and energy consumers. It makes use of complex hardware and software to monitor the distribution and use of energy by various bodies. This enables us to improve efficiency, reduce the cost of production and energy wastage whilst increasing transparency in the supply chain.
4) Smart Homes
Not just cities, but IoT can make our homes smart too. Using interconnected devices and appliances, the day-to-day activities of our household can be made easy and enjoyable.
- We can have smart appliances in our houses that make use of sensors to detect the presence of a person and turn themselves on or off as required. This saves a whole lot of energy.
- These connected devices can work in coordination with each other to make life much simpler. For instance, the sound of your alarm in the morning could trigger other sensors to open up blinds, turn on the water heater and coffee machine even before you’re up from bed.
- IoT-enabled devices can take home security to a whole new level. The security cameras can detect the presence of intruders and relay real-time footage to your phone. IoT also paves the way for smart locks that can be unlocked with your fingerprint or passcode. Alerts can be sent to your phone every time a new person tries to surpass this.
5) Healthcare management
Healthcare is one of the industries that can majorly benefit from the use of IoT. If implemented accurately, IoT in healthcare can reduce the costs of treatment significantly and make state-of-the-art healthcare facilities accessible even in the most remote of locations.
The wearables, sensors, and latest mobile applications have opened doors and opportunities that we never thought were possible. For instance, virtual hospitals. A few years back, no one would have thought this is possible but now it is. Doctors can get real-time readings of their patients’ blood pressure, sugar levels, pulse, temperature, weight, and even ECG to properly diagnose and treat their patients who could be miles away from them. In addition to this, these IoT-enabled devices can help us understand the human body like never before, paving the way for researchers to come up with better ways to treat diseases.
Not just healthcare providers, but even pharmacists and drug manufacturers can benefit from the use of IoT. Using RFID tags and sensors, the delivery, usage, and administration of various drugs can be tracked accurately. This ensures timely delivery and prevents misuse of drugs.
6) IoT in Media and Entertainment
After noticing its positive effects on other industries, the media and entertainment industry also began incorporating IoT into its day-to-day operations. As the number of connected devices keeps growing both in number of functionality, we could see a paradigm shift in the way this industry operates and functions.
Right off the bat, implementing IoT in the media industry can take targeted advertising to a whole new level. With the ability to collect real-time user information, companies can send targeted ads to customers based on their immediate needs. For instance, if the sensors detect pregnancy in a user, the user might start to see related products like baby care kits.
IoT also has the power to take entertainment to a whole new level. Combine IoT with technologies like AR and VR and now we have a whole new level of immersive content. You might be able to watch full-fledged 3D movies at the comfort of your home or play fully immersive 3D games. With the help of connected devices, you and your friends would be able to watch the same movie/match from different locations and share real-time opinions, giving you a feeling of being right next to each other.
In addition to all of this, as the sensors can read your mood and also your surrounding weather, you might soon start seeing movie recommendations that suit your mood or a whole playlist of songs just for the monsoons.
7) IoT for crime prevention and law enforcement
When we think of the applications of IoT, most of us usually think of smart homes, smart cities and entertainment but, the applications of IoT extend way beyond this. Even in the fields of law enforcement and crime prevention, IoT can be of huge help.
Most major cities and towns in the world today have an arsenal of CCTV cameras that are used to record any criminal activities and track down criminals. But, the footage of these cameras is stored in some hard-disk and more often than not, it becomes very difficult to recover footage from it.
Also, there is always a threat of evidence being destroyed if it is stored in physical devices. This is where IoT comes into the picture. All of these CCTV cameras can be connected to a secure cloud and can then transfer real-time footage to the cloud, to be accessed by authorities. Even if the cameras are destroyed, we can ensure that the evidence is safe and in the right hands.
Also, imagine a world where wearables are made mandatory. With the ability to track every citizen in real-time, the police would be able to solve crimes very quickly, bringing down crime rates by a significant amount. Combining these IoT-enabled devices with A.I., the police can analyze previous crime records to identify crime hotspots. This will help them predict future crimes and stop them before they can even happen.
For example, the Dutch police are now using a network of sound sensors that can measure the levels of aggression on the ground and notify the nearest police station. This is helping them prevent violent street fights in the city of Eindhoven.
8) IoT for defence
Not just to the police, applications of IoT can also be of huge help to our military personnel. The increasing trend of IoT has encouraged world governments to make some significant changes to their defence mechanisms by incorporating IoT into their operations. By deploying a network of inter-connected devices and sensors, the military personnel can track the movements and activities of enemies accurately. This knowledge will help them plan in advance for any counter-attacks that need to be carried out.
By attaching some chips and bio-sensors to weapons, military personnel would be able to control a deployed weapon to ensure it reaches its target accurately and maybe even avoid any obstacles or fellow personnel on the way.
Future prospects for the applications of IoT
IoT is an extremely promising technology. These interconnected devices seem to be able to alleviate almost every pain point in our lives and provide solutions to most major problems faced by the world. But, in IoT’s path stand problems like cyber security threats and data privacy concerns. It would be interesting to see how these problems would be solved and what this technology could hold for us in future.