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You don’t have to look far to find the Internet of Things. From your smartwatch to your company’s HR performance review system, connected tech is all around you. Of course, that doesn’t make it any less thought-provoking to explore new IoT examples in surprisingly familiar places.
Where does the IoT shine the brightest, and how is it forcing people to reevaluate their ideas on distributed computing? Although it’s not the kind of in-your-face battering ram that some nascent technologies evoke, the Internet of Things is quietly changing our reality from the inside.
Why should enterprise leaders care about the IoT’s non-business applications? These examples of connectivity serve as bellwethers of what’s in the pipeline for enterprises of the future. As more companies leverage off-the-shelf hardware to create top-shelf apps and solutions that weren’t even previously on the menu, gaining an understanding of how the wave is spreading might ensure your continued ability to ride along without washing out. Here’s an introspective look at where the tides of progress are carrying humanity.
If you’ve got the will, it doesn’t take much for a device to join the IoT. Transmitters that use protocols like Bluetooth LE, 5G, LoRa and other forms of wireless networking can run from embedded devices that operate under their own local battery power for months. Thanks to standards like Power-over-Ethernet, it’s also simple to connect systems and realize previously unattainable network architectures without really breaking a sweat — or having to put your IT department through the gauntlet.
The scope of the IoT examples you see is only limited by where you look. Just cast your gaze on these applications from the consumer arena:
Connected appliances ease the daily grind by telling homeowners when it’s time to replace AC filters or unlocking their garages as they roll up the driveway. They let busy commuters program schedules so that their morning coffee is steaming and ready for them when they wake up. Some devices can even automatically reorder consumable items, such as dishwasher pods.
It’s easy to picture such features being used in commercial settings, such as facilities that handle bulk uniform laundry or on-the-go catering services. Since the nature of the specific appliance doesn’t really matter, these principles could also be applied to things like factory machines that need to operate on preplanned schedules. With many of these solutions, companies don’t even have to deviate from the consumer standard. Smart lightbulbs, energy-saving thermostats and entry point monitoring systems can all be installed in industrial settings and tied to enterprise networks as-is.
Want to be sure that you never forget a maintenance appointment? Over-the-air, or OTA, systems are helping motorists stay on top of things even when their busy lives might usually make responsible ownership difficult. Tesla drivers, for example, don’t have to visit a dealership to keep their vehicle computers running smoothly since they can just install patches remotely.
This approach is ideal for fleets that want to keep their vehicles in better condition and minimize the costs of routine operations. Although you probably won’t push updates that give your trucks speed boosts like a vehicle manufacturer would, you can still benefit from the same types of information offered by today’s digitally linked consumer cars, such as locations, driver actions and wear histories.
The paperless office was just the beginning of the Green Revolution. Today, entire cities are enhancing the efficiency of traditional resource consumption patterns by connecting power-using assets. For instance, smart street lights automatically dim fixtures when there’s nobody around, which can massively limit waste. Other cities install sensors beneath curbside parking zones to tell when they’re occupied. Sending the data to drivers in search of vacant spots helps vehicles burn less fuel and emit fewer greenhouse gases.
One of the most refreshing hidden-in-plain-sight examples that are probably active near you is that of the connected dumpster. Cities have long struggled with trash services, especially in their commercial zones. Since many municipal garbage collectors charge more to provide their services to businesses and multi-family rental properties, it’s not uncommon for landlords to only order dumpster pickups when it’s absolutely necessary. This status quo usually results in overflowing containers that spread pollution, but connected dumpsters solve the problem handily by signaling when they need emptying. This technology works well enough that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employs it to keep bases cleaner and better predict disposal trends.
Many of the green-minded IoT examples you’ll witness out in the wild ship customized for enterprise users from the start. For instance, although you can purchase smart lightbulbs from any modern hardware store, systems like connected waste containers are generally geared towards larger facilities or cities that have to contend with tons of rubbish every day. Being able to draw from such a well-stocked range of ready-made IoT options lowers the barriers to entry that you’d typically come up against when using new organizational tools.
Connected hardware makes some of its most high-profile appearances in the form of personal wellness trackers. Devices such as fitness monitors let anyone keep track of their resting and active heart rates. Smart stethoscopes filter out background noise using machine learning to let listeners zero in on easy-to-miss signs of trouble while examining patients.
Corporate telemedicine illustrates how such personalization strategies make the IoT — and companies – more humane. Businesses that operate remote facilities, such as oil rigs or mines, no longer have to maintain local medical staff or spend as much money ferrying potentially injured employees to caregivers. Connected personal health systems keep watch on their wearers’ physical conditions as they work, making it simpler to establish an accurate baseline. Amazingly, these devices may even improve the quality of care by letting emergency doctors access accurate, up-to-the-second patient information and draw life-saving conclusions even from far away.
Retail is already all over IoT personalization. Connected stores tag their products with RFIDs that help them monitor how consumers move through their facilities and interact with items. From there, merchants use buying behaviors and other feedback to hook loyal customers up with exclusive deals tailored to them. They also leverage the information to design better store layouts that lessen congestion.
IoT-based personalization is particularly game-changing in manufacturing. A factory that produces stamping hardware for metal processors might receive a client request to customize its devices for specific operating conditions or stock alloys. Instead of having to change out all of its toolings to fulfill a single order, the device maker can let the IoT programmatically perform the adjustments and return things to normal afterward.
Does the IoT make running a business smoother? It might not cure all of your entrepreneurial miseries, but an increasing body of evidence suggests that it could very well help you excel at your trade.
Take the IoT example of a bulk seed processing operation that suffered from significant inconsistencies. Thanks to the uneven flow rates in its chutes and silos, a grain company found that its 75-pound bags were often under- or over-filled by as much as five pounds. Although the company had devised several hacks, problems like the product naturally clumping together meant that these solutions involved costly, dangerous manual labor that often resulted in damaged goods. The answer turned out to be as simple as retrofitting the pneumatic filling valves with IoT pressure sensors. By creating a closed-loop system that could tell when backups happened, the business was able to stop the problem in its tracks.
Smart hotel lodgings exemplify a similar flavor of versatile connected problem-solving in another domain. On top of letting guests preprogram their room lighting and climate control for more personalized experiences, these IoT systems allow the hotel to track basic hospitality details, such as whether rooms have been adequately prepared for stays. In other words, you might never again face the dreaded prospect of coming “home” to the towel-less, untidy aftermath of someone else’s vacation.
If you’re feeling super motivated after reading these Internet of Things examples, don’t worry because it’s a totally normal response. After all, most people’s first reaction to hearing about the IoT is to wonder why they haven’t taken advantage of it yet.
As an industry thought leaders with a history of real-world implementations, we often find ourselves wondering something similar: Why hasn’t this or that business used the IoT to solve an outstanding problem, and how can we help?
Davra’s solutions let enterprises build on these and other Internet of Things examples. We’re making medicine healthier, keeping transit timely and helping manufacturers realize optimally efficient business models. When it’s time to raise the standard for how the IoT can improve lives, we’re the ultimate case in point, so why not pick our brains for inspiration? Feel free to get in touch and learn more about IoT examples and the Davra IoT Platform.
Brian McGlynn, Davra, COO
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