The term “Internet of Things” has become increasingly popular over the last five years or so, and it looks like we’ll be hearing even more about it in the coming years. But, as is the case with other hot buzz phrases like this, many people scratch their heads and ask, “What is this, and why should I care?”
That’s why we’re here. In this article, we will explore what the Internet of Things (or IoT for short) is, different IoT applications, how different industries are applying the concept, and what the future of IoT looks like.
What is the Internet of Things?
Let’s begin with the basics. Exactly what is the Internet of Things? There are plenty of definitions out there, and a lot of time, it depends on the perspective of the article’s author. The simplest, most straightforward definition is: The IoT is a network of Internet-linked devices, vehicles, and appliances that can collect and share data without need of human interaction. That’s it.
IoT devices gather information and send it along to some central data server, where the information is processed, collated, distilled, and used to make a host of tasks easier to perform. The business world enjoys the benefits of IoT, government, organizations, and the individual consumer.
Specific IoT-equipped devices include smartphones, laptops, coffee machines, refrigerators (mine auto-orders replacement water filters!), Google Home, Apple watches, Fitbits, to name a few. Any device can be plugged into the IoT provided it is equipped with sensors and an Internet connection.
Often, IoT is mentioned in the same breath as Big Data, since the former generates the kind of massive quantities of information characteristic of the latter. One could say that while all of the information from the Internet of Things is Big Data, not all of Big Data is from the Internet of Things.
What Are the Internet of Things Applications?
The Internet of Things can be used in many different aspects of life, in both the private and public sectors. Thanks to IoT, people can track things like lost pets, their house’s security systems, or appliance maintenance schedule.
Consumers can use the IoT to help them make restaurant reservations, monitor their exercise progress and overall health, and receive coupons for a store only by virtue of walking by the business in question.
Businesses can use IoT to monitor supply chains, track customers’ spending habits as well collect their feedback, monitor and maintain inventory levels, and engage in predictive maintenance of their machines and devices.
The IoT also proves helpful in ITIL, which is a set of IT service management, an important detail, since IT departments are called on to do more and more in a world that’s getting increasingly digital, with more reliance on wireless networks.
Blockchain, which is being increasingly used as a more efficient and secure method of transaction and data processing, is a natural beneficiary of IoT technology. We can expect to see IoT and Blockchain coming together more often in the future.
But how do different industries apply the Internet of Things to make things more efficient?
Top Applications of IoT
The ubiquity of the Internet of Things is a fact of life thanks to its adoption by a wide range of industries. IoT’s versatility makes it an attractive option for so many businesses, organizations, and government branches, that it doesn’t make sense to ignore it. Let us learn about IoT applications across industries below:
1. IoT Applications in Agriculture
For indoor planting, IoT makes monitoring and management of micro-climate conditions a reality, which in turn increases production. For outside planting, devices using IoT technology can sense soil moisture and nutrients, in conjunction with weather data, better control smart irrigation and fertilizer systems. If the sprinkler systems dispense water only when needed, for example, this prevents wasting a precious resource.
2. IoT Applications in Consumer Use
For the private citizen, IoT devices in the form of wearables and smart homes make life easier. Wearables cover accessories such as Fitbit, smartphones, Apple watches, health monitors, to name a few. These devices improve entertainment, network connectivity, health, and fitness.
Smart homes take care of things like activating environmental controls so that your house is at peak comfort when you come home. Dinner that requires either an oven or a crockpot can be started remotely, so the food is ready when you arrive. Security is made more accessible as well, with the consumer having the ability to control appliances and lights remotely, as well as activating a smart lock to allow the appropriate people to enter the house even if they don’t have a key.
3. IoT Applications in Healthcare
First and foremost, wearable IoT devices let hospitals monitor their patients’ health at home, thereby reducing hospital stays while still providing up to the minute real-time information that could save lives. In hospitals, smart beds keep the staff informed as to the availability, thereby cutting wait time for free space. Putting IoT sensors on critical equipment means fewer breakdowns and increased reliability, which can mean the difference between life and death.
Elderly care becomes significantly more comfortable with IoT. In addition to the above-mentioned real-time home monitoring, sensors can also determine if a patient has fallen or is suffering a heart attack.
4. IoT Applications in Insurance
Even the insurance industry can benefit from the IoT revolution. Insurance companies can offer their policyholders discounts for IoT wearables such as Fitbit. By employing fitness tracking, the insurer can offer customized policies and encourage healthier habits, which in the long run, benefits everyone, insurer, and customer alike.
5. IoT Applications in Manufacturing
The world of manufacturing and industrial automation is another big winner in the IoT sweepstakes. RFID and GPS technology can help a manufacturer track a product from its start on the factory floor to its placement in the destination store, the whole supply chain from start to finish. These sensors can gather information on travel time, product condition, and environmental conditions that the product was subjected to.
Sensors attached to factory equipment can help identify bottlenecks in the production line, thereby reducing lost time and waste. Other sensors mounted on those same machines can also track the performance of the machine, predicting when the unit will require maintenance, thereby preventing costly breakdowns.
6. IoT Applications in Retail
IoT technology has a lot to offer the world of retail. Online and in-store shopping sales figures can control warehouse automation and robotics, information gleaned from IoT sensors. Much of this relies on RFIDs, which are already in heavy use worldwide.
Mall locations are iffy things; business tends to fluctuate, and the advent of online shopping has driven down the demand for brick and mortar establishments. However, IoT can help analyze mall traffic so that stores located in malls can make the necessary adjustments that enhance the customer’s shopping experience while reducing overhead.
Speaking of customer engagement, IoT helps retailers target customers based on past purchases. Equipped with the information provided through IoT, a retailer could craft a personalized promotion for their loyal customers, thereby eliminating the need for costly mass-marketing promotions that don’t stand as much of a chance of success. Much of these promotions can be conducted through the customers’ smartphones, especially if they have an app for the appropriate store.
7. IoT Applications in Transportation
By this time, most people have heard about the progress being made with self-driving cars. But that’s just one bit of the vast potential in the field of transportation. The GPS, which, if you think of it, is another example of IoT, is being utilized to help transportation companies plot faster and more efficient routes for trucks hauling freight, thereby speeding up delivery times.
There’s already significant progress made in navigation, once again alluding to a phone or car’s GPS. But city planners can also use that data to help determine traffic patterns, parking space demand, and road construction and maintenance.
There’s even a possibility that apps can be made that can prevent a car from starting if the driver is inebriated!
8. IoT Applications in Utilities/Energy
IoT sensors can be employed to monitor environmental conditions such as humidity, temperature, and lighting. The information provided by IoT sensors can aid in the creation of algorithms that regulate energy usage and make the appropriate adjustments, eliminating the human equation (and let’s face it, who of us hasn’t forgotten to switch off lights in a room or turn down the thermostat?).
With IoT-driven environmental control, businesses and private residences can experience significant energy savings, which in the long run, benefits everyone, including the environment!
On a larger scale, data gathered by the Internet of Things can be used to help run municipal power grids more efficiently, analyzing factors such as usage. Also, the sensors can help pinpoint outages faster, thereby increasing the response time of repair crews and decreasing blackout times.
9. IoT Applications in Wearables
From medical to fitness to GPS tracking, wearables serve a wide range of purposes. These IoT have more than doubled in the last three years.
The fitness bands monitor calorie expenditure, meters of distance covered, heartbeats per minute, blood oxygen level, and more. These IoT mostly come in the form of wristbands/watches. However, they can also appear as earbuds, clip-on devices, or smart fabric.
Other wearables include virtual glasses and GPS tracking belts. These small and energy-efficient devices equipped with sensors and software collect and organize data about users. Top companies like Apple, Google, Fitbit, and Samsung, are behind the introduction of the Internet of Things.
10. IoT Applications in Traffic Monitoring
A major contributor to the concept of smart cities, the Internet of Things is beneficial in vehicular traffic management in large cities. Using mobile phones as sensors to collect and share data from our vehicles via applications like Google Maps or Waze is an example of using IoT. It informs about the traffic conditions of the different routes, estimated arrival time, and the distance from the destination while contributing to traffic monitoring.
Traffic pattern analysis gives commuters a perfect idea of what might happen during peak hours. Thus, they will be better prepared to avoid traffic by being aware of possible alternatives.
11. IoT Applications in Fleet Management
The installation of IoT sensors in fleet vehicles has been a boon for geolocation, performance analysis, fuel savings, telemetry control, pollution reduction, and information to improve the driving of vehicles.
They help establish effective interconnectivity between the vehicles, managers, and drivers. They assure that both drivers and owners know all details about vehicle status, operation, and requirements. The introduction of maintenance alarms in real-time help skip the dependence on the drivers for their detection.
12. IoT Applications in Hospitality
Interesting improvements to the service quality have found their way with the application of the IoT to the hotel industry. The hassle-free automation of various interactions, such as electronic keys sent directly to each guest's mobile devices, has brought about a transformation. It provides easy check-out processes, immediate information on the availability of rooms, and quicker assignment of housekeeping tasks while disabling the operation of doors.
The guests' location, sending offers on activities of interest, the realization of orders to the room, the automatic charge of accounts to the room, and more can easily be handled via integrated applications using IoT technology.
13. IoT Applications in Smart Grid and Energy Saving
From intelligent energy meters to the installation of sensors at strategic places from the production plants to the distribution points, IoT technology is behind better monitoring and effective control of the electrical network.
A smart grid is a holistic solution employing Information Technology to reduce electricity waste and cost, improving electricity efficiency, economics, and reliability.
The establishment of bidirectional communication between the end user and the service provider allows substantial value to fault detection, decision making, and repair thereof. It also helps users monitor their consumption patterns and adopt the best ways to reduce energy expenditure.
14. IoT Applications in Water Supply
When incorporated externally into water meters, a sensor connected to the Internet accompanied by software helps in the seamless collection, processing, and analysis of data, allowing a better understanding of consumer patterns, fault detection in the supply service, and result reporting.
Simultaneously, they offer end users to track their consumption information via app or web page in real-time. Automatic alerts that detect consumption out of the average range record, indicating the presence of a leak, have immensely contributed to water saving.
15. IoT Applications in Maintenance Management
Maintenance management is one of those areas where the application of IoT technology is most extensive. Sensors and software specialized in EAM/CMMS maintenance management provide a multifunctional tool applicable to many disciplines. It helps extend the functional life of physical assets, guaranteeing availability and reliability.
Real-time monitoring of physical assets enables the determination of instances when a measurement gets out of range and demands condition-based maintenance (CBM) or AI application to predict a failure.
16. IoT Applications in Smart Home
Every second there are 127 new smart home devices connected to the Internet. Some popular ones include Google Home, Philips Hue Lighting System, and Amazon Echo Plus.
IoT allows you to connect all your home applications like air conditioners, lighting, locks, thermostat, theft alarm systems, and whatnot into a single system and have the control at your fingertips with a smartphone.
It is predicted that by 2023, 309M homes worldwide will have smart systems installed. Their popularity is on the rise as they provide the complete freedom to personalize a home.
17. IoT Applications in Smart Pollution Control
IoT has helped address the major issue of pollution. It enables controlling the pollution levels to more breathable standards. Data related to city pollution such as vehicular emissions, pollen levels, weather, airflow direction, traffic levels, and more are collected using sensors in combination with IoT. This data is then used with Machine Learning algorithms to forecast pollution in various areas and inform city officials of the potential problems beforehand. Green Horizons project by IBM's China Research Lab is an example of an IoT application for pollution control.
18. IoT Applications in Smart Cities
IoTs have already made several cities more efficient such that they need fewer resources and have increased energy efficiency.
A combination of sensors in different capacities throughout the city for various tasks such as managing the traffic, handling waste management, optimizing streetlights, saving water, monitoring energy expenditure, creating smart buildings, and more. Some best examples of cities working on becoming smarter with IoT include Singapore, Oslo, Geneva, and Zurich.
19. IoT Applications in Water and Waste Management
Water treatment units for water recycling have helped immensely in water management. The use of IoT makes them more efficient as one can see how much wastewater is being produced, the consumption of water in a specific area, and changes in waste production over time.
With a smart waste management system, it gets handy to predict waste quantities in a specific location. Consequently, authorities can plan how to process it, when to clear it, and how to interpret the data for future planning. City upgrade projects will pick up the pace when analytics solutions and data obtained are combined, which would bring about transformations.
Watch the video below to understand IoT and how it works.
The Future of the Internet of Things
So, considering the above, just what does the future have in store for the Internet of Things?
A Gartner report predicts that connected devices across all manner of technologies will hit 20.6 billion. That number could hit 1 trillion by 2025, according to HP, and that’s just a staggering figure. According to a Cisco report, the next decade will see IoT devices creating $14.4 trillion worth of value across several industries like the ones mentioned above.
In other words, the Internet of Things is poised to create life-changing conditions in our lives, both in a professional and personal capacity. Many of the innovations mentioned are already in place to one extent or another. One thing’s for sure: there’s no going back. The IoT offers an unprecedented degree of control and efficiency that no industry can ignore.
What does that mean for you? The Internet of Things, and its association with technologies such as ITIL, Blockchain, and Big Data, is a lucrative field with lots of potential for careers. Check into Simplilearn’s offerings in the technologies as mentioned above to get your start in becoming proficient in the workings of the Internet of Things, and be prepared for the future.