Centuries ago, the dawn of the Industrial Revolution changed the dynamics of a society that gave rise to urbanization and cities. A few years later, the next big revolution unfolded giving birth to the Internet which not only brought about changes that were technological but also societal in an epic scope. Today, in an era where the Internet of Things (IoT) has taken a front-seat in fuelling automation and making connected devices smart-connected, the impact it has made in simplifying businesses processes and operations across industries need no introduction. As an extension of the Internet, IoT is emerging as a disruptive technology of the 21st century bringing together sensors, devices, data, and connectivity into a mesh of connected Things that is capable of interacting with each other. IoT has successfully embedded itself into different industrial sectors such as manufacturing, healthcare, agriculture, transportation, automation, energy, retail, smart cities, etc. paving the way towards a digital age.
The start of the 20th year of the 3rd Millennium witnessed the spread of a global pandemic that not only took down several lives in a span of a few months, but continued to spread massively across nations given its nature of infecting the host in minutes. The novel Coronavirus pandemic significantly affected businesses and the global economy that also led to uncertainty in terms of a comeback and resumal of the old nature of work and life.
In Part 1 of our blog series, we discussed how enterprise needs were set to change during such pandemic outbreaks and nation-wide lockdown scenarios. It also detailed the thriving role of the Internet of Things in digitizing and automating work operations remotely, that assured field visibility regardless of where one is stationed at. And thus, several industries are today motivated to adopt wireless means of collecting data from locations such as farms, hospitals, industries, or factories without being physically present there at the time. It is needless to say that with more and more work force managing operations from closed doors during the Covid-19 pandemic, several IoT applications which were once a luxury will now become a necessity.
The global impact of a virus outbreak has left medical communities, social scientists, and governments struggling to bring back social and business order into the community. While regaining social order remains to be uncertain, experts forecast that the investments put forward by enterprises in enhancing their digital capabilities are likely to grow stronger during the Covid-19 crisis. The post Covid-19 world will see a future where IoT applications will be the way forward in sustaining life on the planet.
IoT Technologies that are likely to gain fast adoption
Boom of Remote Communications Tools
The need for remote asset access tools are becoming more in demand as they help people connect with machines and assets remotely during lockdown scenarios. Such tools help perform virtual inspections, remote diagnostics, and remote support.
Rising Need for Automation
Automation is expected to experience accelerated adoption not only in the manufacturing sector but in healthcare, banking, supply chain, etc. in the coming years. Milan Seth, Executive Vice President of Automation Anywhere - India, Middle East, and Africa East region says the demand for automation technology will certainly go up.
The Role of Digital Twins
Digital twins, posing as a digital replica or model of end-to-end supply chains, can provide businesses with a deeper understanding of the customer needs, production practices, and operations. Such insights assist in making sound decisions relating to monitoring, analytics and predictions.
Remote asset monitoring
Remote monitoring systems offer real-time asset and data visibility, capability to integrate with existing systems, perform remote diagnostics, and help the end-user to gain centralized access of asset data. Industries such as manufacturing, supply chain, inventory, health care, and transportation.
Track trace solutions
A variety of technologies such as RFID (Radio-frequency Identification System), GPS and EPOS are used to support Track & Trace solutions that identify the past and current location of any asset. As the pandemic has disrupted supply chains with altering demand patterns, a real-time supply chain visibility is proving to be a necessity. And thus, today's consumer-led supply chain is envisioning an industry-wide implementation of the track and technology.
Advanced screening tools and risk assessment guidelines powered by IoT applications are followed during such procedures. With overcrowded and possibly unsafe hospital conditions prevailing in the world, remote patient monitoring enables monitoring of patients outside of conventional clinical settings. Mechanized disinfectant methods such as UV disinfection trolley are also expected to gain more popularity in the upcoming months.
A glimpse into life after Covid-19
A research conducted by EY1experts revealed that factors such as reliable data management, increased productivity, and business efficiency were the key aspects for enterprises to invest in IoT before the pandemic. A rapid shift towards virtual workstations, a huge reliance on digital channels and an untimely disruption to supply chains resulted from the pandemic, is now emphasising on the positive outcomes that IoT can provide.
The present scenario is certainly pushing organizations in several industries to accelerate their existing digital transformation programs, which implies that several IoT use cases would gain traction and would soon become more relevant in the coming months. A study conducted by Business Wire2, anticipates that industries such as manufacturing, transportation and healthcare will experience a steady technological growth in terms of adopting IoT applications in the coming years. Global markets are hence positively responding towards choosing smart connected products (SCP) and services to carry out their operations remotely.
1: Mobile Ecosystem Forum - Industry Views, Internet of Things
2: Business Wire - Covid-19 Impact on The Internet of Things (IoT) Market 2020-2021
IoT in Healthcare
The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) plays a pivotal role in remote healthcare and is improving the efficacy and accessibility of medical devices. This is especially crucial in times when the pandemic is limiting accessibility to healthcare services. IoMT integrates healthcare devices through wireless networks providing accessibility to patient information in real-time. A few common use cases are:
Remote Patient Monitoring
Remote patient monitoring systems allow physicians or medical staff to remotely assess the health parameters of patients from afar and offer real-time patient support for disease management. This solution has simplified the method of accessing the patient's medical data which are captured in real-time with accuracy and reliability. This has furthermore improved in decision making and treatment.
Connected Medical Devices
It involves the smart integration of wearables, medical equipment and assets to a centralized portal that can be accessed by patients, physicians, and caretakers. Connected medical devices allows you to get real-time data for assessing the patient's medical history, managing device inventory alerts, and remotely monitoring them.
Tracking Staff, Patient & Inventory
Hospitals and healthcare facilities are showing a fast-paced adoption towards real-time location tracking systems for easy monitoring of assets and workforce. Sensor-embedded IoT devices can track and monitor the location of medical supplies in real-time, helping medical staff and health workers to realise the efficient and effective means of handling clinical operations, resources, and infrastructure.
IoT in Supply chain and logistics
The Internet of Things are greatly enhancing supply chain management and its associated processes. Some of the greatest challenges encountered today is knowing the quantity and location of assets throughout the supply chain process. IoT-enabled sensors can provide real-time knowledge of asset/fleet location, fleet motion speed, temperature conditions, and other crucial data that can immensely transform any business's supply chain.
Cold Chain Monitoring
IoT-enabled cold chain management solutions utilizes sensors to monitor and manage the environment of temperature-sensitive perishables to prevent its spoilage and wastage as they move through the supply chain. It allows customers and fleet managers to track shipments in real-time, receive alerts to any delays, and remotely inspect the condition of packages.
Warehouse Inventory Management
A warehouse inventory management solution allows easy tracking and monitoring, and thereby reduces human error and improves efficiency. Such solutions utilize RFID to tag and track packages. Inventory systems make it easy to update records as assets/packages move in and out of any facility.
Truck Yard Management
IoT's influence in the supply chain is offering ground staff and managers visibility over the location and status of trucks and operating vehicles. IoT-enabled truck yard management uses the benefit of embedded sensors and smart devices to monitor, manage, and automate the processes involved in managing truck yards and docks which includes activities such as loading and unloading, assigning docks, and monitoring movement of vehicles in order to increase operational efficiency and reduce detention costs.
Remote diagnostics plays a huge role in remote anomaly detection, diagnosis and maintenance and thereby imparts an essential feature for industrial IoT solutions. A plug and play framework will allow integration with an already in place ERP solution and give access to a single-window of information of the deployed infrastructure, its operational efficiencies, and raises any potential chances of failures by scheduling preventive maintenance strategies.These solutions find application in monitoring buildings, factory plants, machinery and automobile, tall structures, bridges, trees or in an operating environment such as production floor, construction sites, mines, logistics yard, hospital operation theatre, university campuses, etc.
Machines and equipment in general require seasonal inspection and maintenance to detect subtle wear and tear. For example, cars require timely maintenance in terms of insurance, tire and oil change. The Industrial Internet of Things is making this easier to the user by using Preventive Maintenance solutions to monitor things beforehand.
In IoT, predictive analysis uses action-based suggestions to forecast the 'here and now' of a situation. Based on predictive models. analytic solutions anticipate machine failures and provide tips on how to prevent such failures beforehand.
The subject of smart city implementation has been of interest to cities and governments for over decades. As a world of urbanization continues to flourish, a population spike was indeed seeing the need for intelligent and sustainable environments. But in the unexpected advent of a worldwide pandemic has led governments across nations to shift their gears towards a fast-paced adoption of smart cities. A smart city can bring together technology, government and society to enable a smart economy, smarty energy, smart mobility, smart environment, and smart living.
Smart Utility Metering
With Smart Utility Metering, the distribution and consumption metrics of resources can be directly and remotely controlled from any specific location as per the convenience of the distribution company. The company can use its sensors alongside the connectivity module and controller to bring the smart utility meter into action.
Greenhouses are enclosures with climate, temperature, and irrigation moderators to suit the agricultural productivity. They have an advantage over conventional greenhouses in the sense that all the intricate data such as the pH level and moisture of the soil, plant growth, and appropriate lighting required are all directly monitored using sensors.
Smart Emergency Buttons
Smart emergency buttons or panic buttons alert the users in case of disruptions in optimally set parameters. The functions of smart emergency buttons range from fundamental building applications such as room temperature, smoke detectors, lighting controls, and oxygen levels in confined rooms to security applications such as intruder alerts, fire alarms, and access control & identity management.
Smart Inventory Management Solutions
Smart Inventory management solutions utilizes smart sensors to keep track of the movement of each item in the storage unit and give periodic intimations regarding the inventory movement. The user can conveniently access the data using his smartphone or laptop remotely. This smart technology helps maintain the optimal inventory level at all times using real-time monitoring techniques.
The Boom of Smart Connected Products in the coming years
In the years to come, businesses and manufacturing units are expected to massively depend on smart connected equipment and products to get past the limitations set forth by the untimely pandemic. Industry experts are foreseeing a significant rise in the number of machines, equipment, devices, and appliances getting smart-connected. Products when made smart with the advent of the IoT, can collect real-time performance data. Market-leaders are today using smart connected products (SCP) to increase profitability, build passionate customer loyalty, and accelerate data-driven decision-making.
No data can be sent wirelessly from point A to point B if not channelled via a wireless network. And thus, selecting the right network technology along with a robust IoT enabling platform is essential to bridge the communication between smart products and the cloud for any IoT project to exist. While arguments exist in choosing between the best connectivity option from licensed to unlicensed spectrum of network technologies, Cellular technology is continuing to thrive amongst the lot for its established set of reasons. An already in-place connectivity infrastructure, less expertise for maintenance and management of cellular networks, over-the-air software updates & remote troubleshooting, and reduced total cost of ownership are a few reasons.
It is thus certain that, Cellular IoT will drive the future of smart connected products in the years to come. Although untimely, the entrance towards a new normal is setting the foundation for an era of a smart connected Things.