Internet of Things (IoT) has been around for almost 20 years, but not until the last couple of years has “Internet of Things” become part of everyday language. For those that haven’t heard the term, IoT is the inter-networking of physical devices embed with software, sensors or electronics all connected to a network that collects the data for a purpose. Those are some fancy terms, so think about this in common applications like your home and business.
Over the past couple of years marketing companies have been selling the concept of a smart home through security systems, lights, thermostats or audio video products. Typically, these cool gadgets have a quick setup guide that you have the neighbor nerd or family member help install and we don’t think twice about what these devices are really doing. When you think about how the devices operate, how they are connected and how they have changed habits, IoT is really incredible. While we are discussing how IoT has changed homes, a great example would be the Google Home device paired with other IoT devices. If you’ve never heard of Google Home before, it is a small speaker that sits on your countertop that is connected to your network and able to help you perform activities. Those activities are very similar to using google or using your android smart phone. For example, by first saying “Ok Google” you can ask your Google Home device what the temperature is outside, to set a reminder on your calendar for tomorrow to book your flight or to call your Aunt Phyliss next Thursday for her birthday. When you pair Google Home with other devices, these devices connect through the same network making more IoT magic possible. A great example of IoT magic is by simply saying the words “Ok Google” you can instruct your Google Home device to turn the temperature in your house up or down or turn your lights on in the living room because you need more light to read. These same devices are also accessible through your smart phone making it possible to change your house temperature, open the garage or turn on your lights all from an app on your phone. The options for a smart home are really limitless.
As for the business arena, IoT has been a game changer and when you think about the possibilities and what has changed over the past couple of years, the impact is real. Just like in the home, businesses have key pain-points that IoT can alleviate. Take for example a transportation company that hauls food across 5 states. Their business is successful if their trucks are efficiently running, making timely delivers and the food is kept at proper temperatures as to make sure the food does not spoil. In the past, this company would just use a radio to communicate from the driver to the office and vice versa. With IoT, this company can elevate their business in many areas. A few examples I’ll dive into are real time vehicle diagnostics, GPS, zoned temperature sensors and pallet temperature sensors. If this transportation company invested into a fleet management product that provided real time truck diagnostics and GPS, this would provide the company managers, dispatchers and mechanics real-time data allowing them to make decisions without needing to crack open the hood to determine issues or having the truck return to the yard to check diagnostic codes. Companies deploying fleet management products are making a conscious effort to be proactive versus reactive and not just waiting for the problems to happen to address them. Further than the fleet management product is the zone and pallet sensors. Imagine the type of quality control this transportation company has with knowing exactly what temperature the truck has every 5 square feet along with what each of the pallets temperatures remained at during its trip. This gives the customer confidence their product was maintained at temperatures required and tells them your business cares enough to keep their product safe using accurate real-time products.
Another business example of how a company could benefit from IoT would be a manufacturing and supply chain management company. With the advances of RFID, RFID readers and software, companies have real-time data about what is happening in their plant or distribution center. Imagine having a press where you are making a widget. This batch of widgets have an RFID badge attached to the pallet and is entered into the machines before it can operate. When that widget machine starts making widgets, the company knows the batch is in production. When that batch is complete, a hi low driver picks up the pallet of widgets and take them to the loading dock. At each of the doors, the company has furnished RFID readers that constantly read the RFID badges which update a status for the manager. When the pallet makes it to the loading dock, the manager knows the batch of widgets are ready to be shipped. Once that pallet is moved onto a truck, the hi low driver again passes another sensor resulting in a status change for the batch of widgets telling the manager that they have been loaded for shipment. If you take a minute to stop and think about what IoT has enabled this company to do, it is quite remarkable. They have reduced manual effort to keep up to speed with what is being manufactured, where parts are at and how their shipping and receiving is operating. Now imagine if this manufacturing facility had 50 widget machines working all day long with 3 different warehouses where parts are being located. This data is VERY powerful to this organization and can now be represented in key performance indicator dashboards that all of management can see at any time to make better decisions.
The term Internet of Things can be confusing but hopefully this article has given you household and business applications of how IoT has changed how we operate. Some fear that the advances of IoT in personal and business life pose a security risk which reinforces the importance of strong passwords and proper security appliance for your home and office. One thing to also keep in mind about IoT is that possibilities are changing constantly and if you can think it, it likely is possible even if it isn’t commercially available. If you are struggling to find the proper solution, let us know and we’ll work with you to create a custom IoT solution for your organization!