The Internet of Things (IoT) has already helped to connect our world in so many ways, bringing huge improvements and convenience to our lives, homes and health. But we’re often guilty of taking it for granted and failing to celebrate the many ways in which being connected supports some of the world’s largest industries, such as transport, agriculture, manufacturing and even the cities in which we live. With around half of the world’s population now online and discovering more and more sectors are turning to tech everyday, I thought it would be a perfect time to highlight some of the fundamental changes IoT has made society what it is today.
Farmers are increasingly using their smartphones for new techniques that improve the production of livestock and field activity – also known as ‘agritech’. This includes looking after the health of cattle, analysing grazing time, and even water consumption through sensor-fitted collars. These can even alert farmers when they sense motions associated with labour from pregnant cattle. Meanwhile, organisations like the Wildlife Conservation Society are monitoring endangered species prone to poaching activities through the use of motion-sensing cameras.
Not only are they finding that IoT minimises their operational costs, but also allows them to achieve better results. For example, harmful pesticides and extreme weather conditions that could have adverse effects on crops can be detected in advance – This way a course of action can be put in place.
Climate and environment
Networking and telecommunications company Ericsson claims that the footprint of IoT could help cut up to 63.5 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Whilst The International Telecommunication Union predicted that rural areas and developing countries will evolve the way they access electricity and the internet thanks to smarter energy saving solutions.
Various organisations are already providing smarter solutions for protecting the planet, for example, San Franciscan startup, Rainforest Connection, enhanced the protection of forests vulnerable to deforestation including Indonesia and the Amazon. This was achieved by transforming mobile phones into solar-powered listening devices attached to the trees, these are set to alert rangers if they sense the sound of a chainsaw from over a kilometre away. Other examples can be seen through IBM’s China Research Lab and London’s Pigeon Air Patrol, which are scaling up the quality of the city’s air through a forecasting system that monitors pollution levels in different neighbourhoods.
In many ways, it feels as though the transport industry has long used IoT, thanks to technologies like sensor street lights, speed cameras, and Sat Navs which have been commonplace since 2013. And the innovation hasn’t stopped there – we’re continuing to see plenty of movement in the space, for example, Transport for London (TfL) supports approximately 21 million commuter trips each day – and has predicted that the city will be populated by a total of 10 million people by 2030. It’s no wonder the introduction of Oyster cards in 2003 was a huge success, later to be replaced by a contactless payment system that today accounts for more than one billion journeys. We later saw London’s iconic red buses also go green in 2014 with the introduction of wirelessly charging hybrid buses. Similarly, car manufacturers such as Mercedes, BMW, and Tesla all have plans to launch driverless cars in the near future, with predictions that 10 million self-driving cars will be on the road by 2020.
Although it’s interesting to see the how IoT has become so widespread and had such a massive impact on various industries and people’s lives, it’s almost natural to forget the dangers and risks that come with it or envisage a time when we managed without it. As more and more industries take advantage of the benefits offered by IoT, poorly secured devices pose a growing risk. For this reason we need to remember that all devices need to be protected with secure networks and the latest software. In the age of the internet of things, this will be more important than ever.