How the Internet of Things is transforming Aussie businesses
Regardless of what industry your business sits within, IoT – or the Internet of Things – has the potential to transform what you do and how you do it. In fact, it probably already is.
That smart watch you’re wearing, the handheld point of sale device you used to pay for your morning coffee, the virtual assistant (Alexa, Siri, etc) you asked about today’s weather – all these run on IoT technology. For business purposes, the options and range of devices is growing every day.
The impact that IoT has made on Australian businesses is already monumental, and the future outlook looks equally exciting.
Yet because the term is a little vague (“things” sure does include a lot!) and it encompasses a vast array of products and possibilities, let’s look at some examples of IoT devices and how businesses across a diverse set of industries use these to transform how they operate.
What is the Internet of Things?
In a previous blog, we discussed in greater detail what the Internet of Things is, what (and how) it does what it does, and the possibilities it presents.
Essentially, the Internet of Things describes devices and objects that have sensors, software and other technologies that can communicate and share real-time data with other devices on a network.
Generally, we call these “smart” devices.
There are four “pillars” of IoT that must all work together for it to function.
- The device itself, or the physical object or hardware
- The data the device collects and sends
- The analytics of the the received data
- The connectivity through which communication can occur
IoT needs each of these pillars to operate, otherwise it no longer works as a “smart” device but rather returns to being a “dumb” one.
What is an Internet of Things device?
An IoT device could really be anything these days. With the size of chips dramatically decreasing in size over the years, a device can be anything from your fridge, security system, doorbell, lightbulb, jacket, fuel tank, vacuum cleaner and an almost endless array of other handy items.
Despite its name, IoT devices don’t necessarily need to be on a public internet to work, but they do need a network to connect to where it can respond to messages it receives. This is what’s known as addressability.
So if IoT devices don’t need a public internet connection to operate, how do they send and receive information? There are a wide range of technologies that enable connectivity between devices. These may include:
- Bluetooth mesh networking
- Li-Fi (light fidelity) – similar to Wi-Fi but using visible light communication to increase bandwidth
- LPWAN (Low-power wide-area networking) – long-range communication at a low data rate
- Wired Ethernet
How 5G enhances the Internet of Things
While a public network may not be necessary for IoT to work, technologies like 5G can enhance how IoT operates.
5G technology can achieve faster speed, lower latency, more connections, and less drain on battery life than any other technology available today. This makes it especially suited for IoT applications as it means data can transfer quicker and on a more stable connection. In uses where real-time reporting and alerts are critical, that stable, fast connection is particularly important. For some use-cases, it may even save lives.
Additionally, 5G technology allows businesses to control and manage more IoT-enabled devices remotely so you can take advantage of more applications.
Ultimately, 5G in IoT has the potential to open up a world of new opportunities for Australian businesses.
eSIMs and Internet of Things devices
Using eSIMs in IoT devices is another option for connecting the device to a network.
eSIMs are a great option for IoT devices as you don’t need to manually replace or configure the SIM to get the device functioning. They also offer future proof connectivity so that as new connectivity options become available, your eSIMs and the devices they’re in can easily upgrade.
Examples of the Internet of Things in practice for business
Startups and larger tech companies alike are going all in on developing new applications using IoT technologies. Now, as a result of this new influx of companies providing solutions for some niche and specific problems that businesses face, every industry can take advantage of the benefits of the technology. The possibilities are truly astounding!
Here are a few examples of how IoT is used for these industries. This is by no means a complete list.
Medical & healthcare
From small GP offices to massive hospital facilities, the Internet of Things is helping healthcare professionals provide improved patient outcomes. A few areas where medical practitioners have used IoT devices include:
- Wearable devices that monitor patient health. With these devices, doctors can monitor or record changes in patient health conditions and patients can better manage conditions by taking readings of things like glucose levels or blood pressure
- Ingestible sensors to detect diseases. Using IoT, patients can ingest a sensor, like a kind of pill, with genetically engineered bacteria that can better detect and diagnose gastrointestinal conditions
- IoT-enabled smart inhalers. Asthma sufferers can better manage their condition with reminders when you’ve left your puffer behind, tracking factors that cause asthma attacks, notifications regarding proper use of the inhaler, and more
- Real-time hospital equipment tracking. Hospital staff can more quickly and efficiently access critical life-saving machinery
- Smart hygiene monitoring sensors. These help detect and track the spread of infectious diseases in hospitals to prevent further infections.
Students, teachers, administration and school boards alike can benefit from the enhanced learning and cost-saving benefits of the Internet of Things in the education sector. Here are a few examples where IoT devices are helping education providers of all levels:
- IoT-connected learning devices. Students can engage with interactive learning materials including interactive displays, mobile e-learning programs, and cloud-connected devices. These offer new learning opportunities for students and allow teachers to assess students’ work quicker and better determine who needs extra attention
- Equipment and lighting controls. These systems automatically turn off unneeded lights and machinery when not in use to help schools reduce operating costs
- IoT-enabled security cameras and smart building technology. These devices can improve on-campus security and help keep staff and students safe through threat monitoring and processing real-time data during an emergency.
Manufacturing & logistics
Manufacturing and logistics sectors can especially benefit from the many uses of the Internet of Things. These are a few ways the industry is using IoT to improve processes and save time and money:
- Factory automation. Manufacturers can save money using IoT automation systems to identify inefficiencies, conduct quality control, and monitor machinery performance
- Automated materials handling. Using IoT sensors, robotics, and autonomous vehicles, factories can transport and handle materials safely and efficiently. The process eliminates human error or injury, reduces contamination and product loss, and improves handling times
- IoT-connected environment sensors. Detect environmental chemical leaks quickly so plants can identify, manage, and prevent environmental pollution to keep employees and the public safe
- IoT-enabled asset and freight management sensors. These sensors can monitor, track, and manage freight and assets in logistics fleets to help improve efficiencies and reduce costs.
Governments from small municipalities up to the state and federal level can deploy cost-saving Internet of Things strategies to improve their area of governance. Here are a few examples of how governments and government agencies use IoT in their electorate:
- Smart city air pollution monitoring. Measure and track changes in air quality in an efficient, timely, and more cost-effective way. Such monitoring can alert residents quickly and help with future city planning projects
- IoT traffic monitoring sensors. Find areas where congestion occurs to monitor, develop solutions, and plan infrastructure builds
- Smart public transport management solutions. Transport authorities can better manage maintenance schedules, track vehicle performance, and send alerts when it detects potential defects in vehicles or train lines.
The Internet of Things is particularly useful for farming and agriculture businesses across Australia. These examples are just a few ways that the farming and agriculture industry can benefit from IoT:
- IoT crop health management sensors. Farmers can use IoT-enabled sensors to better monitor moisture levels, air and soil temperature, and wind speed
- Smart agriculture vehicles. Combining IoT, precise GPS positioning, machine learning, robotics, and autonomous vehicles, smart vehicles can perform tasks like picking fruit, weeding, or other repetitive jobs
- Livestock tracking and management. Use IoT to monitor animal vital signs in real time to curb the spread of illness and disease, follow grazing patterns, and prevent loss of livestock
- Precision crop irrigation management. IoT sensors can monitor, assess, and automate irrigation systems to reduce water consumption and optimise growing conditions.
Even the retail industry can use the Internet of Things to save money and improve efficiencies. Here’s how retailers can use IoT for their business:
- Smart point of sale systems. Process transactions anywhere in store and automatically update inventory levels in real-time to keep up with stock management
- Precise customer tracking. Using IoT, retailers can better analyse store layout, measure the success of promotions and displays, and better understand customer behaviour
- Smart shelves. Automate the tracking and management of on-shelf stock levels and alert staff when stock is low. Smart shelves can also detect potential theft
- Customer experience personalisation. When in the proximity of the store, an IoT system can send an alert to a customer’s smartphone with personalised discounts, promotions, reminders or other customised messaging.
The many and varied benefits of IoT
Every industry and any business can reap the many rewards that IoT can offer. These examples are just the beginning.
IoT is not just helping Australian businesses to save money and work more efficiently, it’s also driving new forms of innovation and entrepreneurship. Today, local startups are developing new solutions to common and niche problems using IoT, and this trend shows no sign of slowing down.
There’s a lot more still to come in the coming years and decades as smart devices become smarter and more ubiquitous.