This article’s objective is to give concrete examples for each sector so as we can understand how IoT is impacting every single category of our economy. We’re not going to present a lengthy list, but rather want to to highlight how deep and broad the IoT revolution is.
The way IoT is changing the business is one or several of the following 3 principles, described by John Rossman in his book, the Amazon Way of IoT:
- re-inventing customer’s experience (e.g. short car rental)
- improve operational effectiveness (e.g. water pipe leaks detection)
- develop new business models (e.g. app platform)
IoT deployment makes it necessary to improve the quality of the communication network, in order to interact with humans, and also between IoT.
You’ve probably heard about the upcoming 5G, which is absolutely vital for self-driving cars that need to send and receive a huge amount of data very quickly, in order to be safe and efficient. As for the 4G, this technology concerns mostly any large cities, because it’s based upon the same infrastructure (antennas).
Alongside, several projects of low orbit satellite constellations (the most famous being Starlink by Elon Musk) are starting to be launched, to install fast internet on the whole planet (including remote areas, oceans, deserts…).
These two technologies will improve the communication between humans.
For the IoT to IoT communications, another system is used: radio waves, with the protocol LoRa
Long Range Wide-area network. The objective is to slowly, but confidently, send small amounts of data through walls and buildings (e.g. to reach a water pipe underground).
Another method implemented by Nodle is the crowdsourcing of connectivity, using millions of phones that connect to the nearby IoT. This method works for IoT which doesn’t need to be constantly connected, but it has to provide or receive data, for example once a day.
The most direct impact of IoT is the energy optimization. For producers, sensors are monitoring an energy grid in order to determine the problems quickly. The data produced help to identify patterns and prevent shortages.
For consumers, it helps in smart homes to reduce energy consumption (turn off lights and / or heating). It was one of the first IoT BtoC applications.
But moreover, it pushes the energy innovation forward by making it necessary to invent low energy devices. Indeed, if the energy consumption of an IoT exceeds the energy saved, that’s nonsense. The objective is as well to avoid the frequent battery replacement in difficult access locations.
Health monitoring was one of the first mainstream IoT playgrounds, including smart wrists and other sensors. The data generated (blood pressure, heart rate…) help to personalise treatments and increase, and prevent the health of both the IoT wearers and the global population by identifying particular patterns.
In hospitals, tracking devices for medical equipment, such as a stretcher, make it easier to locate any in large buildings. Dedicated sensors also help to maintain cleanliness and hygiene, and prevent infections in the hospital, as well as keep the pharmacy inventory and run automatic reordering.
As the population is getting older year by year, IoT helps elderly to remain independent in their homes (read this article for more).
Schools didn’t change a lot for more than a century. Many children in classrooms would still take notes.
Significant innovations have appeared during the last decade with the introduction of MOOC, tactile whiteboard and online management, and information systems for parents (to follow agenda, results…).
IoT helps to personalize the way the children learn with the use of online tests and courses (automatic correction), making time for the teacher to focus on a teaching method.
IoT in education doesn’t only involve the way a child learns directly but everything around it:
- make the way to school safe with the bus card tracking
- sensors and detectors in the building (fire, water leak, burglary)
Read more about IoT in education here.
The first answer when talking about IoT for transportation is self-driving cars. Being one of the most promising and life-changing innovations, it still faces a lot of obstacles. Putting aside the remaining technical issues, the transition between 100% human drivers and 100% self-driving cars will be tricky. Today, the main obstacles are linked to political, insurance, social (taxis, bus, truck drivers) and behavioral (most people don’t trust a computer to drive them) aspects.
We have already adopted a lot of IoT (or its ancestors) in our cars: radio — 50 years ago, GPS — 20 years ago, vehicle status (onboard computer), Bluetooth interface allowing hands-free phone calls, real-time traffic…
The most recent, considerable and transparent IoT innovation is an end to car’s ownership, through car-sharing or Uber. With an outcome-based business model, one pays only for what they need, for instance, driving from point A to B.
For goods transportation, the revolution of online shopping made it necessary to introduce cost-effective real-time parcel tracking.
Sensors are making all transportation modes safer, more secure and reliable (planes, trains, boats), in both equipment monitoring and fleet management.
IoT allows to use pay-per-usage business models, which can be adapted in a lot of sectors, such as transportation (as mentioned above).
Beyond that, connected devices, like the Amazon dash, improve the LVC by making commodities automatic reordering (like washing liquid) easy.
The objective is to facilitate consumer’s life by offering simple solutions to everyday problems. People want things to be cheaper, faster and more adapted to their needs and IoT makes it possible: delivery in 20 minutes by drone (instead of 2 days) of just one paper ream (instead of 10) and cheaper than from a traditional retailer.
Agriculture (smart farming)
We can assign IoT in agricultural use to 3 categories:
Operational effectiveness: with the help of drones, weather alerts, soil sensors, and automatic irrigation systems, farmers can be more efficient, use fewer resources, reduce their waste and chemicals, and improve their production
Direct distribution: it’s now easier for farmers to sell directly to consumers. They can display their products and pre-sell using live-streaming (working in China)
Tracking and monitoring: beacons on the livestock, camera monitoring of fences, aerial views. All these innovations are now accessible to a great number of farmers, saving time and reducing potential risks.
The new technologies also allow compensating a declining workforce in the countryside, left for cities.
The data gathered help for the resources allocation and business evaluation.
IoT makes it possible for ultra-personalised travel journeys and staying to be arranged, by automatically replicating the customer preferences for the hotel room he or she’s renting on the other side of the planet (room temperature, lighting, TV channels etc.). A journey is more convenient with electronic tickets and biometric passports. An idea is to start the experience of a trip yet at the airport.
For hotels, energy-saving devices and connected systems allow to reduce the energy consumption by automatically enabling heating only in the rooms that have been booked. As for any building, maintenance fees are better projected with the sensors installed around them.
A tourist trip tour is enhanced with a virtual guide, augmented reality and gamification devices, and real-time notifications; and its security is improved by camera monitoring and tracking beacons.
More information here.
Governance (smart cities)
Smart cities take advantage of the IoT deployment in each sector to improve real-time and long-term decisions based on “super-systems” interconnection.
For example, if there is a car accident next to an airport and a school, while the airport system, school bus system and traffic monitoring being interconnected, it’s possible to quickly and easily re-route the school buses and delay some flights through all the data coming into a super system (very well explained in this video).
On another level, cities and countries that take full advantage of new technologies (especially IoT and blockchain) can reinforce the voter’s participation, by more frequent and more secure consultations. Those technologies are intrinsically carrying risks (well explained in this article).
Environment and natural catastrophes
If the pollution sensors in cities allow a better understanding of a situation, there is no revolution on this topic as they have been used in cities for decades. The biggest improvements will be for the remote areas monitoring :
- in forests for early fire detection
- in mountains to prevent deadly avalanches
- in specific places to foresee earthquakes and tsunamis
- in lakes and seas to detect pollution and monitor the wildlife
For the protection of endangered species, the beacons improve our understanding of their reproduction cycles. Drone and cameras help to protect reserves from poachers (very well explained here).
These are only a few examples of the possibilities offered by IoT for environmental purposes.
The new satellite network providing hi-speed internet everywhere on the globe will considerably improve communication and coordination of the disaster areas (earthquakes, flood, war).
The sensors installed all along the production lines allow to prevent machinery breakdown or identify one once it happens. More and more manufacturers are proposing to outsource the monitoring and maintenance by replacing any pieces as soon as or just before they are damaged and allowing the client to have a production process always up and running, as Rolls Royce (read more).
The fabrication processes monitored are improved in order to be faster, to generate less waste and to be more efficient. The production forecasts are then more precise and risks of errors reduced.
Finance and insurance
It’s the insurance sector where IoT has unleashed the most innovative use and business models. For example, for auto insurers, the sensors integrated in a car allow to set a price per use (the more I drive, the more I pay) but also per behaviour (the faster I drive, the more I pay).
This new risk assessment possibilities can be applied in life and health insurances:
- the number of steps I do per day
- the content of my fridge
- sport facilities I visit
Insurance companies can incentivize (or impose) an installation of smart sensors in a house to monitor the fire outbreaks or water leaks and set up a personalised price for their clients. Read more here.
In the finance pure players, IoT are mainly used in transactions security, with biometrics devices (retina scan, finger print, facial recognition), parallely to the blockchain technology development.
All around the world, ports are subject to technical, economic and environmental constraints, due to the dramatic rise of maritime transportation. IoT and data management are becoming an absolute necessity to transform ports into smart ports in order to facilitate the flux of containers.
On the way to its destination port, trackers inside the containers on shipping boats allow the expeditor to precisely follow their location, their temperature and insulation at all times. The tracker on boats improves the world shipping circuit by reducing friction on maritime roads.
Ports in the north of Europe are now including student campuses and start-up incubators, in order to generate and test constant innovations. See the example of Rotterdam here.
For fishermen, IoT helps decrease costs, respect maritime reserves and comply with regulations. Multiple sensors alert sailors about the weather, weight already fished, currents etc.
Facilities management (water and waste)
As for electricity, water management, distribution and consumption can become more efficient with an IoT integration at several critical points :
- reduce consumption
- reduce leakage
- reduce billing
- reduce maintenance costs
- real-time alert about water contamination
The connected water meters prevent damaging water leaks by alerting consumers. They also help to monitor their real-time consumption and observe how small daily behaviour changes can reduce consumers’ water bills.
The sensors all the way back to the water management centre control the quality of water and prevent leaks or contamination.
The analysis of data gathered and digital modeling (digital twin) of the global water distribution system make it more efficient. Read more.
Regarding waste management, the sensors integrated in dustbins allow a garbage truck to select where it should go (dustbin full) and which locations to skip (dustbin empty). Those sensors, when linked to a house name, make it possible to charge each household per use, rewarding the most responsible families. Read more.
This article will be regularly reviewed and updated.
First publication the 22 Feb. 2020.
Last modification the 22 Feb. 2020.