What Is IoT and Why It Matters
The Internet of Things or IoT has become an increasingly popular technological trend but most explanations regarding it leave the reader confused.
15:19 30 January 2020
In this article we will try to explain what IoT is, how it works, why it matters and why it has become so ubiquitous in easy to understand terms.
What is IoT?
The concept of IoT refers to connecting a wide range of physical objects and people to the internet. This goes beyond what you already would expect, like your computer or smartphone. It extends to household appliances like refrigerators, AC systems, security systems, cars and so on.
To help you get a clearer picture, let's focus on a smart home. A smart thermostat can receive information from your car or smartphone to determine your location and whether you are headed home and will adjust the temperature so by the time you arrive it reaches optimum comfort.
How Does It Work?
A standard IoT system, like the smart home described in the example, works by integrating simpler computing devices which use sensors to collect the relevant information and send it to more complex systems that analyze it and produce an output in the form of an action, such as adjusting the temperature.
Let’s explain it through smartphones this time. Nowadays you can use it to listen to any song in the world, but that’s not because your smartphone has all these songs in its own storage. You input some information such as the name of the song to send a request that this is the song you want to listen to, this information is sent through the internet to find a server that does actually have the song stored on it and the output then gives you access to stream that song.
So, for a device to be smart it doesn’t need to have a supercomputer with huge storage on it, it just needs to be connected to one or several more sophisticated devices. This is the reasoning behind IoT systems.
In What Industries Is IoT Used?
IoT development companies provide services mostly to businesses in various sectors. IoT has garnered a great deal of attention in the area of customer service with the use of “big data” to predict consumer behavior and adjust marketing techniques, but it’s actually used heavily in manufacturing, farming, logistics, retail, and healthcare.
IoT allows enterprises in these sectors to improve their existing systems and optimize their resources by giving them entirely new forms of connecting and exchanging information with their partners and customers.
Let’s take them one by one.
In factories, sensors are used to monitor the equipment remotely and make sure that all the machines are calibrated to work at an optimal level and deliver high-quality results. It also helps with maintenance as it can detect malfunctions and predict what type of usage results in these glitches so that the machines can be checked, repaired and/or replaced before they have a chance to fail and halt the whole production process.
IoT is also used to monitor and ensure a safe working environment for the factory staff and increase productivity.
IoT has been a major improvement for the farming sector. A number of new IoT technologies allow for more automation in the field and thus a better use or resources. To give one example: moisture sensors. These sensors are installed across the fields and can detect the level of moisture in the soil so farmers know for sure when the crops have to be watered. To take it a step further, moisture sensors can be connected to the irrigation system which will trigger the process without any need for human intervention. This cuts down the cost and reduces the risk of losing the crop.
Sensors can also be used to monitor the health of the animals on the farm. They work similarly to the ones used by pet owners, but they collect data related to temperature, level of activity, nutrition and health, not only for one individual animal, but the whole farm.
The implementation of IoT technologies in the logistics and transportation sector started with labelling shipping containers with RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags which contained digital data that could be captured with another device called a reader. This allowed operators to track these containers constantly. With IoT, logistic companies are able to find out easily whether or not a shipment has arrived at a certain checkpoint like awarehouse, shipping yard and so on.
You are probably aware of this system if you have ever ordered a product from an online retailer and have used the option of checking where exactly your package is in transit.
IoT is used heavily in retail for ensuring optimum conditions for goods, keeping track of shopping carts, calculating how many people come into astore each day and what time intervals are linked to the most traffic so that the shops can make sure they have enough staff available, to speed up the check-out process and measure customer satisfaction, etc.
To give a more concrete example - when you go to the check-out counter and scan your items, this enables the store to keep track of what items they have sold and the system can check which items are running low and what needs to be ordered without someone having to actually count the items or physically check the shelves.
They have an optimum number of items based on how much they sell and they can place the orders and organize deliveries in such a way that they rarely run out and lose revenue.
With our aging population and increase in the number of chronic conditions, the healthcare sector has benefited greatly from the optimization provided by IoT technology.
Sensors are used to track the real-time location of medical equipment such as defibrillators or wheelchairs, to deploy medical staff to different locations quickly, to check the medication inventory in hospitals and clinics, to check temperature, humidity and hygiene conditions all throughout the building and to centralize medical data on patients so that it’s easily accessible no matter where they go to get medical care.