(Rogers Enterprise) — Saving money is just one of the many benefits your business can realize by investing in the Internet of Things (IoT). Thanks to its ability to create more automated operations and processes free from human error, implementing an IoT system can help you improve operational efficiency, transform the customer experience and ensure your organization remains competitive.
Businesses across the globe have already realized the immense value of IoT, and more are realizing it every day. In fact, IoT use in Canada is expected to exceed $6.5 billion by 2018, representing a compounded annual growth rate of 18%.
The automotive, healthcare and oil and gas industries, for instance, are already enjoying the technology’s ability to send real-time data straight to users’ devices. Businesses in the pharmaceutical, retail and mining industries, meanwhile, are taking advantage of the automation afforded by IoT technology to innovate for future growth.
Yet more businesses in the farming and firefighting industries are leading the charge to transform how these markets function. Even government bodies are joining the trend as cities across the globe race to become the “smartest.”
Narrowing the intelligence gap
IoT-enabled sensors send real-time information to mobile devices, which helps your operations run smoother and gives you the opportunity to make better, data-led decisions. Many industries have already found success with machine-to-machine (M2M) communications.
When it comes to implementing connectivity in Canadians’ everyday lives, the automotive industry is leading the pack, with more than a third of all automotive companies investing in the technology. Most vehicles can gather a wide breadth of immediately actionable information for their drivers: seamlessly linking to a smartphone so drivers can safely answer a phone call, relaying real-time traffic conditions so drivers can optimize their routes, and automatically deploying roadside assistance in the event of an accident.
This tech trend is only going to grow: research suggests 90% of new vehicles will feature a built-in connectivity platform by 2020, up from just 10% a few years ago.
IoT-connected sensors have also made it possible for manufacturers to develop vehicles that can park themselves, alert drivers if they’re moving beyond their own lane, and brake before the driver is even able to react.
What’s more, this industry is well on its way to creating driverless cars, which will impact many industries beyond automotive, such as insurance, infrastructure and government.
Hospitals already use IoT technology for everything from patient monitoring to record keeping, but connected sensor-based technology remains part of the care equation, even after a patient has been discharged.
IoT remotely monitors patients’ recovery and wellbeing, enabling them to get better in a more comfortable home environment. The notion that people can receive the highest level of care without sacrificing comfort is certainly an appealing one, contributing to the $117 billion in IoT market share that the healthcare industry is poised to hit by 2020.
Oil & Gas
We need only look back a few years to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to see how a failure in the oil and gas industry can impact the entire world. Leading oil and gas companies have already invested billions in IoT, and are reaping such benefits as increased asset uptime, efficient predictive maintenance and a higher return on innovation.
Offshore oil rigs, for example, can be remotely monitored with IoT-enabled sensors to not only ensure they’re working efficiently and safely, but can also enable business leaders to readily access data and make real-time decisions on production levels. What’s more, the technology can alert a network administrator to any issues that arise, or immediately set remedial actions in motion.
Transforming the business
With more automated processes, your business can also put more resources toward innovating for future growth. Outfits in some industries are already using IoT technology to strengthen and grow the business.
IoT technology is permeating almost every aspect of the pharmaceutical industry: from manufacturing and packaging, to shipping, distribution and even post-production processes and consumer outreach initiatives.
For instance, some companies have developed specialized apps that automatically alert a family member when someone doesn’t take their medication. Other Internet-connected tools can show users how to administer certain medications, such as insulin shots for those suffering from Type I diabetes.
Meanwhile, IoT-enabled tracking ensures pharmaceutical companies are able to monitor every shipment of its products so that, if there is a recall, it can be addressed quickly, with as little injury to the public, and impact to the brand, as possible.
Leaders in the retail industry are using IoT technology to track heat maps and in-store Wi-Fi usage to determine the most effective promotional activities—whether that’s the best signage locations or pushing alerts directly to consumers’ phones—completely changing the customer experience. After all, 55% of Canadian smartphone owners say they use their devices to comparison shop while in a store.
Retail businesses that take advantage of IoT-enabled systems can also help business leaders more easily analyze the results of customer-centered initiatives and make better data-led decisions.
IoT technology is improving miners’ safety by monitoring and tracking underground mining sites’ equipment, structural integrity and oxygen levels.
In fact, the mining industry is especially dedicated to using technology to collectively improve the sector. Global mining IT and communications spend is forecast to reach US$26.1 billion by 2018, while North American machine-to-machine technology usage in the mining industry has already surpassed US$11.1 million.
Reconstructing the industry
Right now, IoT is transforming industries. It is helping organizations get work done more efficiently, quickly and cost-effectively. It is even transforming how markets and the companies within them operate. Here are a few exciting examples of industries that are seeing the IoT transformation in action:
As more farms and food manufacturers use IoT technology to optimize soil conditions, they’ll be able to more quickly produce a larger amount of food, and we’ll have access to a more readily available food source.
It’s important to optimize production, given that demand for meat has tripled in the developing world over the last 40 years, while egg consumption has increased sevenfold. As a result, experts believe we’ll need to double crop production by 2050 to feed livestock.
What’s more, as the global population continues to grow, more efficient food production could work toward solving already prevalent hunger issues around the world.
Recent developments around wearable technology have produced equipment that can not only withstand the elements in a burning building, but can track firefighters’ locations and physiological symptoms. This information is automatically relayed to a central control unit where staff can more effectively communicate with the firefighters inside a building and monitor their exposure to the toxic burning gases to better ensure their safety.
What’s more, this technology could impact a number of factors in the industry—from the types of equipment firefighters require to the insurance premiums fire departments pay, and even the way firefighter teams approach an emergency situation.
Municipalities that enable IoT technology in various government-delivered services—from trash pickup and snow plowing, to traffic lights, parking meters and more—benefit from a resourcing standpoint as they enable their workers to complete more valuable and fewer labour-intensive tasks, but also have the power to create smart services that entice people and businesses to relocate.
It’s estimated that, by 2020, $400 billion a year will be spent creating these smart cities, but there are some that are already entirely connected. Songdo, in South Korea, is one of those cities. Built on land reclaimed from the sea, every home and office in Songdo has a built-in terminal that helps the city monitor public infrastructure. The city also has a smart energy grid to monitor and regulate the supply of and demand for energy, and a disposal system that automatically directs waste from each household to sewage treatment centres for environmentally friendly disposal. There are even plans to use this waste to generate power for the city.
A closer look at creating smart cities
Cities across the globe are in a race to become the smartest of them all—and the Internet of Things is the engine to drive that journey.
But it’s not just for bragging rights. Smart cities enjoy cost savings and improved customer service, often making the decision to implement an IoT solution at the municipal level a win-win.
IoT-enabled sensors can be used to analyze traffic patterns and automate things like traffic lights. An automated system can also be employed to direct drivers through the most expedient route or to the most convenient parking lot, and further enable them to pay for parking via smartphone app.
Smart lighting not only enables cities to automate the brightness of streetlamps for energy and cost efficiency, but cities can receive automated alerts when a bulb needs replacing. What’s more, existing streetlights can be programmed to shine coloured light to indicate a “no parking” zone ahead of scheduled snow plowing.
Each of these connected devices and programs collect a wide range of information. City planners and managers can collect this data in a single dashboard, affording them better transparency into each and every city process and enabling them to make better data-led decisions to reduce costs and improve the quality of life of its citizens.
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