How IoT Will Change Our Lives
John Koon posted on February 13, 2019 |

Introduction

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to devices such as cell phones, vehicles, electronic appliances, and smart sensors that are connected to a wireless network. These devices contain sensors that can collect data, and software that can upload the data to the cloud or directly exchange data with other connected devices. As the sensors, data storage, the Internet, and analytics become faster, cheaper, better, and more integrated together, users will be able to rely on analytics to make better choices. IoT devices will have a significant impact on many aspects of our lives including how we live, drive, and farm animals and crops.

Smart Cities

IoT devices will impact many aspects of our lives including how we live, drive, grow our food, and farm. (Imagecourtesy of ARC Advisory Group.)
IoT devices will impact many aspects of our lives including how we live, drive, grow our food, and farm. (Image courtesy of ARC Advisory Group.)

As more and more people move into cities worldwide, there will be a higher demand for water and energy, and an increased potential for disease outbreak, pollution, traffic congestion, and crime. At the same time, most of the developed world needs to deal with an aging demographic. By installing sensors in every building and road, the government can construct a 3D virtual representation of the city to perform more in-depth analysis of the everyday challenges that the city faces.

For example, in Singapore, 3D geospatial data gives the government a detailed view of every location so that city planners can study incidents of flooding, energy consumption, traffic congestion, and disease outbreaks. Analysis of flooding episodes can help the government prepare emergency evacuation routes and waste systems. Examining energy use can help the government plan for the installment of solar panels on roofs and water retention features. Analysis of traffic flows can help the government plan for new transportation routes. 3D data can even help public health officials identify disease clusters by measuring the population density in areas where people have contracted the disease. In the U.S., all major telecommunication carriers including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile are engaging in the development of connected, smart cities as they promote their 5G business.

Overall, IoT-based smart cities use data and technology to create a more efficient and sustainable infrastructure to manage the resources, traffic flow, population behavior, develop the local economy, and improve the quality of life of residents. Done right, smart cities will be able to deliver many benefits including:

  • Reducing traffic congestion; for example, routing cars away from an area where a major traffic accident has just occurred.
  • An ambulance can go through the streets sounding an alarm which stops all other traffic by changing the traffic lights. Additionally, a nearby connected hospital will be standing by to expect the arrival of the patient.
  • Smart parking can reduce a great deal of driving time and fuel while searching for a parking space during busy times.
  • Smart city lighting will reduce energy consumption when no one is present.
  • Smart buildings can be stand-alone projects or part of a smart city, in which energy can be monitored during peak usage hours to minimize brown outs.
  • Early warning systems can be installed in a smart city so when major accidents, earthquakes, or storms occur, the nearby first responders, police and hospitals can be informed all at the same time.
A smart street light is capable of monitoring traffic accidents and  relaying data to first responders. (Imagecourtesy of Unicquia.)
A smart street light is capable of monitoring traffic accidents and relaying data to first responders. (Image courtesy of Unicquia.)

Driverless Cars and IoT

Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) and autonomous electric vehicles (AEVs) may help reduce traffic congestion significantly with real-time traffic management, thus reducing human errors in driving. In addition, CAVs can provide more mobility to the elderly and disabled persons, while at the same time cutting carbon emissions.

Once every building and device becomes connected, adding connected driverless cars on top of the infrastructure is not only feasible but also sensible. The system architecture of CAVs and AEVs will consist of field-level intelligent infrastructure such as roadside units, LiDAR and RADAR sensors. The weather-proof field sensors will collect data on pedestrians and cyclists, while roadside units manage the near-real-time exchange of information between vehicles and the infrastructure. Backend software will handle micro-services and integrate the CAVs in the cloud. Machine learning analytics will identify potential risks, alert cars as well as pedestrians and cyclists, and optimize traffic conditions by managing passenger demand via cloud-based micro-services. This way, CAVs and AEVs will improve traffic safety, provide mobility to a larger population and at the same time reduce emissions.

Animal Farming

Farmers can monitor the everyday activities of cattle by having them wear wireless IoT monitor devices. (Imagecourtesy of Active Communications.)
Farmers can monitor the everyday activities of cattle by having them wear wireless IoT monitor devices. (Image courtesy of Active Communications.)

Annually, U.S. farmers lose billions of dollars due to animal illness and death, infertility, or diminished productivity. The use of IoT will enable farmers to reduce animal mortality as well as increase productivity. Farmers can install sensors on facilities that house animals to monitor the interior humidity and temperature as well as potential fire hazards. By having animals wear portable sensors, installing sensors on feeding and water troughs, or using drones to conduct aerial surveillance of the animals, farmers can monitor the daily calorie intake and the level of activity of each animal, and identify and isolate the sick animals early to prevent the spread of diseases. By monitoring the body temperature of the animals, farmers can increase animal fertility by identifying the optimal time to breed and give birth. Wearable sensors can also help farmers figure out the best time and frequency to milk cows.

IoT may even save the honeybees, which are essential to crop pollination. The honeybee population has plummeted in recent years and there is great concern that it will collapse beyond recovery. IoT can help beekeepers monitor beehives and even individual bees to track the effect of pesticide exposure and genetically-modified pollen on the bees. Furthermore, IoT can reduce the threat from predators such as Asian hornets, which are notoriously hard to track and terminate. By capturing and tagging individual worker hornets with sensors, beekeepers can follow them to their nests and perform total termination.

Smart Agriculture

 

Using IoT, modern farming will be able to increase production and reduceresources. (Image courtesy of Techno FAQ.)
Using IoT, modern farming will be able to increase production and reduce resources. (Image courtesy of Techno FAQ.)

The farming of crops will be severely affected by two factors. First, climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of droughts, allowing harmful insects to thrive. Second, the retirement of the baby boomer generation of farmers and an inadequate number of replacement workers will leave farms short-handed. By installing sensors around the farm and collecting data on temperature, air and soil humidity, water level, or by flying drones over the fields to collect data, farmers can reduce waste in water and fertilizer by identifying the best time to irrigate, fertilize or harvest. Big Data can also provide localized weather forecasts that are based on past weather patterns, which will help farmers make better decisions.

For example, all these measurements will be very helpful to the farming of canola, one of the most valuable crops in North America. In the beginning of the process, soil temperature is crucial to the success of seeding and germination of canola. When it is time to harvest, farmers face a dilemma with the canola plants that are at varying stages of maturation. If they harvest the crop early and let it dry in the field, they will end up with too many immature, low-quality canola seeds mixed in with the mature, high-quality ones. If they give the crop more time to mature, they risk losing the crop due to elements like rain, wind, or frost, or the canola pods bursting open upon maturation. Furthermore, a sudden change in temperature or soil humidity may kill the plant or cause the pods to break open unexpectedly. Right now, the best way to monitor canola crops is manual, which is expensive and inefficient. The use of IoT will enable canola farmers to monitor changes in weather and soil humidity more effectively so that they can identify the optimal time to harvest.

Conclusions 

The Internet of Things holds great promise but also brings significant concerns. First, every connected device will be collecting a considerable amount of data. As data storage is becoming cheaper, indexing the data effectively for analytics may be a greater need. Second, the data needs to be stored securely, to prevent hacking attacks on company servers and identity thefts of the individual. Block chain is an upcoming technology that would provide an added layer of security. However, since data analytics already demands a large amount of computational power, the layering of blockchain on top of Big Data may place additional demands on the infrastructure and support. All told, IoT will continue to thrive because of the many benefits it will bring to the various segments of business, only to improve with time.­

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