IoT (Internet of Things) is one of the biggest buzzwords in technology and most semi-tech savvy folks define the term to mean a series of connected physical objects that transfer data over a network without human interaction. With such a limited definition, however, we limit the value and true future of IoT integration.
In reality, the IoT definition most commonly accepted today comes from Machine-to-Machine (M2M) technology and the connected device. For over 20 years people have been connecting devices to turn them on/off, gather information, or execute on other remote interactions. It’s not all that new. Cellular tech changed the game, however.
The moment data could travel through cellular technology, the use cases for IoT grew exponentially. This drove the transition from the basic Connected Device to large M2M deployments. As we continue to transition from M2M to IoT, the focus has become more about the application and benefits being brought to the masses then simply devices talking to each other. One of the most mature real-world examples of this transition is within the trucking and transportation industries.
IoT integration in trucking & transportation
IoT integration in the trucking and transportation industries started when GPS units were used to track company vehicles in the case of theft. That use evolved to creating breadcrumb trails of where vehicles had been in the past, further evolving to monitoring driver behavior, allowing companies to monitor speed and possible erratic behavior of drivers. The trucking and transportation industries clever IoT integration also kept track of vehicle maintenance and used various sensors to gather information like temperature and even door open/close. This led to an even larger cultural change.
In the past few years, various IoT integration technologies were implemented to replace driver’s paper logbooks commonly used to keep track of their regulated driving hours. ELD (Electronic Logging Device) and HOS (Hours of Service) mandates were put in place to prevent drivers from fudging their logbooks to allow them to go over legal maximum hours, leading to driver fatigue and accidents. (The jury is out if this lowers accident rates.) The newest IoT use for transportation are camera systems with Artificial Intelligence to recognize drivers falling asleep, smoking, using cellphones, etc. as well as other driving behaviors like following another vehicle too closely or drifting out of their lane.
Future Use Cases of IoT
In future pieces, we will explore and examine fully what IoT integration means for your industry and the economy as a whole. IoT technologies are almost limitless in their potential. Smart clothing that monitors biometrics and heart rate are only the beginning.
Wide area and remote access for IoT can include things like cellular, microwave, satellite and/or traditional wireline connections. But local uses are worth exploring as well.
Using gateways that onsite devices connect to like RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy), NFC, and LoRa or LoRaWAN (Long Range WAN) which is a specification of Low Power, Wide Area (LPWA) also present a wide array of IoT integration possibilities.
Actionable uses are particularly exciting as well. Various IoT devices could return analytics, automatic notifications, action triggers of complementary devices, or a combination of these, resulting in some amazing real-world scenarios, like preventing water damage.
Imagine a water sensor identifying a leak, immediately triggering a master shutoff valve, notify maintenance in real-time. And why not track water pressure and/or usage with a sensor, analyzing data provided to understand fluctuations in water usage by location or time of day. The excitement is surrounding IoT is exciting, but we must be careful.
IoT’s Biggest Future Hurdle: Science Project
My personal view is that the biggest hurdle IoT must overcome is being understood as a science project. In the beginning, there were no off-the-shelf solutions and therefore, every IoT integration had to be conceptualized and worked through. Moving forward, as more technologies appear on the market a new problem will take shape: solutions without problems.
While it will be compelling for CIOs and CTOs to track nearly everything in their power, the first step companies must take moving forward is to truly understand the issue or problem you are trying to solve first. Write down what problem it is you’re trying to solve, acceptable deliverables and only then, look at the components to achieve that deliverable.
Many future-focused companies are looking to IoT in hopes of automating and simplifying as many pieces as possible, but process and patience will save you from out-of-control costs, and lackluster partnerships.
Chris Moeller is a 5G and IoT researcher at 3 Tree Tech. If you want to integrate IoT technology into your tech or need mobility infrastructure help, he’s willing to lend you his big brain. Reach out!
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