This is the fourth article of the series on the Revolution of Management Systems imposed by Omniera. So far, we have talked about the origins of this revolution, the advent of collaborative economy and the applicability of Big Data to business.
In this article, we will address the impacts of the Internet of Things on business.
The Internet of Things is the concept of everyday objects, from industrial machines to handheld devices, that use sensors to collect data and act based on such data through the internet. This is a technological revolution that connects electronic devices to the internet through wireless sensors, therefore allowing remote access to the device.
For example, in a house, it would be possible to turn the air conditioning, the TV and the lights even before arriving home, by using a smartphone app. Also, the electronic devices would be able to send alerts on possible failures in the washing machine, refrigerator or electronic gate to the app over the internet. The principal aim of the Internet of Things is to make life simpler and more efficient.
This new paradigm will have a deep impact on the way people live, the way they deal with day-to-day problems and how companies will deal with staff, customers, partners and suppliers. It may include a level of automation yet unseen by humanity.
On the other hand, the ways to plan and manage a business will be increasingly challenging. Considering the number of possibilities opened by the Internet of Things, there will be new scenarios to be managed much more often than today. Moreover, traditional business models will not be enough and companies will have to reinvent them.
IoT: Origin and current examples
The term Internet of Things was coined in the end of the 1990’s by Kevin Ashton, a businessman. Ashton was one of the founders of the MIT Auto-ID Lab, one of the most important centers of research and technology of the world, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. He was a member of a team that discovered how to connect objects to the Internet through an RFID label and used the term Internet of Things for the first time during a presentation made in 1999. The Internet of Things, thus, refers to the use of a radiofrequency identifier and of a wireless network sensor, although it is much more than that.
What was nothing more than an embryonic initiative during the 1990’s has soon gained importance. Nowadays, there are several initiatives, such as the prototype of a vehicle that promises to reinvent the interior of passenger cars: when the drivers enter the car, a cam enabled with Internet of Things technology will recognize their faces, and use their profile to offer information on their daily lives, recommend music and receive instructions on the operation of the GPS on the car panel.
If the driver is not recognized, the cam sends a snapshot of the individual to the owner’s smartphone, as a means to prevent car theft. This is an example of vehicle using the Internet of Things to offer more intelligent accessories that will soon be available on the market.
Another initiative that is ripe enough turns the IoT into a tool for economy and agility in service provision. Two companies have developed an intelligent online system to monitor elevators in business and residential buildings. Elevators will be provided with devices connecting them to the internet and from the internet to a monitoring company. The idea is to provide real-time assistance and prevent accidents by applying preventive maintenance. This initiative results in an expressive reduction in elevator-monitoring costs and is an excellent example of the commercial use of the Internet of Things.
We also have the initiative of intelligent LED lights. Those lights can be configured via smartphone to turn on, change their intensity or their color, in order to make the environment more comfortable according to the situation – always at a distance.
Today, innumerable devices are connected to the Internet and the practice offers many economic benefits. Read on to find some examples of the impact the Internet of Things will have on some segments:
Hospitals and clinics
Patients will be able to wear connected devices to measure blood pressure and heart rates, for instance, and the data collected will be sent to a cloud system that will control the tests in real time. Information will be stored automatically in the patient’s file (in the cloud) for future reference, or, depending on the result of the self-test, may be forwarded to the doctor in charge by the patients themselves for more urgent action, such as requesting clinical support.
Sensors scattered across plantations and crops can provide very precise information on temperature, soil moisture, probability of rain, wind speed and other data essential for good crop yield. Similarly, sensors connected to cattle can help, for example, control livestock – one chip placed in the animal’s ear keeps track of the animal itself and stores its history of vaccines and veterinary reports.
The Internet of Things can help measure machine productivity in real-time or indicate which sectors need additional equipment or supplies, are damaged, are going through preventive maintenance, or under setup, etc. The output of these indicators, collected remotely from Internet-connected devices and machines expedite critical decisions for better performance and productivity of factories.
Smart shelves can tell in real time when a particular item is beginning to run out, where weaker sales require product repositioning, indicate the need for new promotions, change prices automatically in the several channels and points of sale within the supermarkets, etc.
Users of public transport systems can consult either their smartphones or screens placed on bus stops or subway stations for information on vehicle location. This type of sensor installed on buses, trains and subways can also help the company responsible for transport services to find vehicles facing mechanical problems, learn if schedules are being complied with and whether additional vehicles are needed.
Data provided by sensors installed on trucks, containers and even individual boxes, combined with traffic information and temperature, can help logistics companies determine the conditions of the goods being carried, especially when dealing with weather-sensitive goods and orders that bring great financial impacts in case of delay.
Sensors in garbage cans can help the city administration optimize garbage collection. Smart cars, in turn, can connect to a central traffic-monitoring center to find the best route for that moment, as well as to help the traffic control department to find out which city roads are busier at certain times of peak traffic.
Sensors installed in vehicles will help understand and improve traffic flows, understand and reduce fuel consumption, prioritize vehicle repair times and even save lives.
Smart electricity grids
Companies may use sensors connected to the Internet to connect renewable resources, more efficiently. Also, it will be possible to improve the reliability of the information provided by the load system based on smaller and more sustainable increments of use, measuring and correcting, with greater speed, anomalies in the use of electrical resources.
These sensors can diagnose and predict outstanding maintenance problems, short-term partial breakdowns, and even prioritize maintenance team schedules for preventive and/or urgent repairs of equipment.
Smart city structures are under construction that will make it easier for local governments to manage waste disposal, enforce laws, and use applications in activities that create revenues for the city. Other systems will increase the efficiency of public management.
Big companies like Dell, Intel, and Samsung, for example, have come together to standardize the connections in a group called the Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC). These companies intend to create a common protocol to ensure the proper functioning of the connection between the various devices. The resources to be developed by OIC will include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC.
Other members of this standardization initiative include Atmel – a microcontroller manufacturer; Broadcom – a company providing wired and wireless communications solutions, and Wind River – a company providing onboard software and technology.
Although we are engaged in connecting people and things, we are preparing for a world where mundane and boring issues can be automated to allow time for the important things. With the records of relevant things, you can reduce, optimize and conserve energy and natural resources, for example.
ERP systems are already preparing to connect to numerous devices and sensors so that they can manage even better the daily issues of the companies through the Internet of Things and the management power that sensors and devices bring to companies.