Nowadays, it’s not just our smartphones that are necessarily ‘smart’ anymore. As digitization proliferates into other seemingly innocuous devices (think coffee makers and pet collars) it’s safe to presume that every object around us has the capacity to be ‘smart’ in some way or the other. This is what is known as the Internet of Things (IoT) and is one profound trend that is here to stay. With over 75 billion devices projected to be part of IoT by 2025, there’s no doubt that IoT and IoT-backed devices are going to be part and parcel of our daily lives. In fact, some of them already are, unbeknownst to us.
Just like any other technological advancement, IoT is also a trend that aims to improve customer experiences and the overall quality of life, not to forget the convenience of collecting valuable data which will later assist brands to offer the most relevant choices to their customers. Albeit indirectly, IoT once again has created a positive feedback loop, similar to other advancements such as machine learning and augmented reality. Therefore, it’s no surprise that more businesses want to jump into the IoT bandwagon, among consumers themselves.
Likewise, software offshoring markets the world over will also need to adapt to such shifting trends, and the industry of software outsourcing in Sri Lanka is no exception. As the country focuses on increasing skilled exports pertaining to IT, blending in with the latest advancements in technology is essential to keep delivering what is in demand on a global scale. With leading names in the corporate world outsourcing their IT operations to prime offshoring destinations such as Sri Lanka, offering solutions that go beyond basic enterprise software or mobile applications is something that agencies in the country need to seriously consider (if they still haven’t, that is).
As we venture into 2020, IoT is going to play a big role in the way we live, work, play and study. While every market sector big and small has rolled out IoT-backed solutions to improve efficacy, productivity or simply in the interest of convenience, here are 5 key industries that have embraced the technology on a much larger scale.
Most of us were introduced to IoT through consumer devices such as fitness bands and virtual assistants. With so many gadgets developed for the average user to fulfil almost any task or objective, IoT has been most prominent in the consumer market, no doubt. As businesses remain hyper-focused on delivering stellar customer experiences, IoT has been able to provide just that through its range of devices – from wearables to home security. Of course, the aim of any technological trend has to be better customer experiences, and as IoT ventures out to achieve the same, it also creates the positive feedback loop that was mentioned earlier, by obtaining data that can in turn be used to deliver products which are more accurate and relevant to the needs of consumers.
While IoT-backed consumer devices offer real-time information and the autonomy to conduct daily duties without even looking at a screen (just shout out an instruction to Alexa and she’ll do the rest), they make much more possible. Remote monitoring and control are now all the more accessible, which can now give you the ability to switch the lights on or off even if you’re hundreds of miles away, for instance. Add to this the versatility of smart plugs – and how connecting one to the simplest of devices (such as your decades-old toaster) could turn an otherwise traditional electrical appliance to one that can be controlled remotely. With millions owning an IoT-backed device (and some not even knowing it) while brands roll out gadgets that are now far more accessible and affordable than ever before, IoT has long since become a technology that influences our lives at home and work, be it in a big or small way.
Whether it’s managing cattle or cultivating crops, IoT in the agriculture sector is now varied enough to cover every farming requirement through devices that can make life easier for farmers. An ever-increasing market for sensors, remote control and data collection, IoT-backed devices are most popular in monitoring soil (for ensuring the healthy growth of crops) and for keeping track of livestock (in case they stray too far away or to identify a sick animal, so it can be separated from the herd to prevent the spread of disease).
Another useful application of IoT-backed drones is the aerial inspection of agricultural land. By observing land conditions from up above, farmers are able to ascertain the overall health of their land, and thereby make adjustments on improving conditions even in the likelihood of limited resources. The drones are also able to capture weather information, thereby giving farmers even more data to work with. Additionally, animals that require special attention (such as pregnant cows) can also be microchipped, monitored and assisted in the event a birth is about to take place.
While IoT in the agriculture industry has progressed by leaps and bounds, each use case requires thorough planning and risk assessments before the final solution is implemented. Considering the many factors which are unique to farms, crops and livestock, addressing issues such as distance, battery life and the frequency of data collection is important to deliver a solution that is feasible and resourceful at the same time. For example, while Bluetooth and NFC can be used to transfer data within a 10-metre range, a fully-fledged WAN system may be required to transmit data thousands of metres across.
With so many variables involved in the transfer of goods from one point to another, the logistics industry is one of the most intricate, by far. The average shipping company has hundreds of orders to process, while organizations that manufacture goods from raw materials need to monitor their supply chain with much accuracy. All of this is now made possible by an array of IoT-backed devices, such as location sensors (to monitor vehicle data such as exact location, time spent in traffic etc.) and warehouse sensors (for swift re-stocking and overall inventory management).
Previously, the absence of IoT provided partial information on the whereabouts of a vehicle/parcel, since real-time data couldn’t be retrieved. This led to delays and errors in delivery, along with a decline of trust between clients. However now, the inclusion of IoT has now streamlined processes, while maintaining complete transparency with regards to the whereabouts of any product in transit. One of the latest advancements in this field is drone-based delivery, where flying drones are being tested by Amazon to deliver goods that weigh five pounds or less, to be delivered to customers’ doorsteps in thirty minutes or less. Although this is still under development, this signifies the potential that IoT has in the field of logistics – both on a consumer and industrial level.
Add to this the prospect of self-driving vehicles; just like drones, such advancements are in the works to eliminate human labour (and therefore error) while offering real-time updates on everything from vehicle conditions to estimated delivery times.
With so much monitoring and tracking involved in the healthcare industry, it’s no surprise that IoT has made its way into medicine too. Helping doctors analyse their patients’ stats and recovery, many IoT-enabled devices have proven to be immensely resourceful – from smart blood pressure cuffs to continuous blood glucose monitors. Such devices have provided doctors with comprehensive insights on what patients’ stats are on a frequent basis, as opposed to seeing the patient once a week and recording stats in person. In turn, this has enabled doctors to prescribe medication that is more accurate, than if they would’ve at the absence of the device.
While wearable IoT trackers are commonplace in the healthcare field, many unique forays have also taken place. Ingestible sensors, for example, are contained within pills when once taken, send a signal to a sensor worn on the body, which in turn relays the message to a smartphone app. Doctors can therefore monitor whether their patients are regularly taking their medicines, and also encourage clear communication between patients and doctors. Smart contact lenses are another less common venture when it comes to IoT in healthcare, but the lenses have now recently been developed to monitor changes in eye dimension, to detect and treat glaucoma.
Smart inhalers are another extremely useful IoT derivative too, as a chip on each unit delivers data to a smartphone app which conveys everything from usage frequency to possible allergens. With both doctors and patients having access to this data, and that too on a real-time basis, how illnesses are diagnosed, treated and then monitored post-recovery has been drastically transformed, needless to say.
If one is to consider the qualities that make bitcoin and IoT possible, merging both technologies together can reveal something that consists of the best from both worlds. An online currency that contains a decentralised ledger system where every transaction is approved (and seen) by all members on a network, bitcoin has been vastly profitable for those who have invested in it well beforehand, thanks to booming prices. The element of security that the decentralised system adds is also immensely beneficial, considering today’s highly vulnerable cyber environment where even the most protected networks are under threat of being breached.
Adding to this the properties of IoT, connecting smart devices to operate with bitcoin and its decentralised system is one that has much potential for the future. While businesses, consumers and financial institutions alike need to make a drastic shift to bitcoin before this is made possible, the advantages that lie herein are some that can transform the way in which we purchase goods and services – while having a natural element of transparency and therefore security associated with every transaction.
For example, automatically paying for goods and services through bitcoin as a smart device is something that is on the pathway to being explored for implementation on a mass scale. This also trickles down to regulatory authorities, as new policies will also need to be created and maintained so that this new means of purchasing goods and conducting transactions is done according to standard.
Just like smartphones, AI and augmented reality, IoT (Internet of Things) is here to stay. Defined as an interconnected network of devices that can transmit data over from one device (such as a sensor) onto another (such as a smartphone app), IoT has now extended across a multitude of devices, for a wide variety of applications and across many industries. Just like every technology, IoT is also utilised to optimise customer experiences, and therefore everyday gadgets such as fitness bands, personal assistants and smart home appliances are just some out of many examples that improve the overall quality of life, thereby heightening customer experience.
Another beneficial aspect of IoT is the avenue it creates to obtain valuable data from usage, which can thereby help determine usage habits and consumer behaviour. During this age of data domination, this is a boon for any business as it enables product suggestions with greater accuracy and relevance. While almost every market sector has long since jumped into the IoT bandwagon, certain key industries are taking the limelight for their high-end gadgets and increased dependency on IoT. From regular wearable technology to long-distance monitoring, these industries have set benchmarks for many others to follow.
While the consumer market is the largest for IoT thus far, other industries such as agriculture and logistics follow suit with their smart devices that track livestock and soil (for the former) and telematics-based gadgets that monitor vehicular activity (for the latter). The healthcare industry has embraced IoT in the form of sensors attached to regular monitoring equipment, such as blood pressure cuffs, inhalers, blood glucose monitors and even contact lenses, to track real-time stats and prescribe accurate medications. Bitcoin, on the other hand, also presents immense potential to merge with IoT, as its high level of transparency can provide consumers with added security when conducting transactions.