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How the Benefits of IoT are Making Digital Lives Better

Main image for a BOLD Awards article on the benefits of IoT #bebold

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The Internet of Things (IoT) is a technological revolution that is reshaping the ways we live and work, and the environments around us. This BOLD Awards blog explores the far-reaching impact and benefits of IoT in six key sectors, from smart homes and cities to industrial and agricultural applications, and delves into the potential it holds for a connected and data-driven future.

IoT: A Revolution of Connectivity

IoT is not just a buzzword; it’s a transformative force that is connecting devices, sensors, and systems in ways that were once unimaginable. This connectivity is creating a world where data flows seamlessly, enabling new possibilities in various domains.

IoT in Action: Real-World Applications

Smart Homes

An iot benefit is control of domestic equipment from any location by phone
An IoT benefit is control of domestic equipment from any location by phone. Photo by Frederik Lipfert on Unsplash

IoT devices, from smart thermostats to voice-activated assistants, are making homes more efficient, secure, and convenient. Users can control and monitor their homes remotely through smartphones, apps on phones can set devices such as washing machines to the correct settings, and the weekly shopping list can write a lot of itself based on what’s missing from the refrigerator.

There is a downside for anyone concerned over the security of personal data, in that these smart devices can collect – and disseminate – far more information about personal behavior.

Smart Cities

The ever-growing populations in most cities and concerns about resource management have led to more and more municipalities using IoT for numerous applications. They commonly include smart traffic management, waste collection, energy usage, and environmental monitoring.

Reaping the benefits of IoT in smart cities involves engaging residents in decision-making processes through platforms such as mobile applications or online portals, where they can voice their opinions or report issues directly related to their community’s wellbeing and development.

Smart traffic lights can be a hacker’s entry point to municipal systems. Image source: Ford Media Center

The collection of big data is a vital part of the process, largely through automated sensors though also through live reporting by the public. Citizen participation is essential for the successful evolution of a smart city: they must trust the systems. However, each data collection point, such as an everyday traffic light, could be an access point for a malevolent hack. A number of cities have been held hostage to ransomware. Strong cybersecurity is essential to maintain public trust in smart city technology.

In May 2023, the City of Dallas, Texas, was forced to shut down some of its IT systems, which disrupted a number of functional areas including the police and fire departments. Over 26,000 people had information stolen including names, addresses and medical records. Some city employees reported identity theft. In August, it was announced that the Dallas City Council approved $8.6 million in payments for services relating to the attack, including credit monitoring for potential identity theft victims.

Although top level security is a must-have, governments and their agencies unfortunately tend to often lag some way behind the leading edge. UK research findings published in May 2023 showed that 60% of a sample of 500 local authority councilors admitted their cybersecurity is outdated. As residents of Dallas found to their cost, hacks can be expensive due to ransom payments that are not spent on services or infrastructure, and also pose a perceived threat to personal data security.

Though let’s not overlook that the benefits of IoT can also include improving how cities are planned and built in the first place, with robust security as a requisite. Better urban planning with a more holistic approach, often through digital twinning, enhances the quality of life for city residents. Better management through IoT connectivity of the construction process itself, with greater use of recycled material, can reduce the industry’s carbon emissions and project construction times.

Industrial IoT (IIoT)

Welcome to industrial IoT applications, also known as IIoT applications, which integrate complex physical machinery with networked sensors and software.

Manufacturers are adopting IIoT to enhance operational efficiency. Sensors and devices can monitor machine performance, energy consumption, production output, and much more. This data is then analyzed to identify inefficiencies and bottlenecks, leading to process optimizations and improved overall efficiency.

Other data is collected for predictive maintenance. This helps reduce downtime and maintenance costs, optimize production processes, and extend equipment life.

Sensors can also monitor environmental conditions, and alert workers to potential hazards before they become critical.

Healthcare

IoT is making healthcare more patient-centric with wearable devices that track vital signs, medication adherence, and telemedicine solutions that connect patients with healthcare providers. The continuous monitoring of patients with chronic conditions using IoT devices has led to improved care, timely interventions, and reduced hospital readmissions, among other healthtech trends.

The benefits of IoT in healthcare include automated monitoring of the condition of medical devices which can predict potential failures, and thus preventing them to ensure uninterrupted patient care.

Retail

Amazon’s cashless Go Stores use IoT sensors and computer vision to enable a shopping experience without the need for checkout lines. Once customers have downloaded the app to their smartphone, they call up a barcode to gain entry and simply walk in, pick up items, and walk out with their accounts automatically charged.

Till-free shopping is one of the iot benefits in retailing
How to use the Aldi Shop & Go app

In 2022 the German supermarket chain Aldi began trialing its first till-free store in Europe near where I live in south east London, UK. I have downloaded the app and paired it with a bank debit card. I call up a QR code on my phone that is scanned each time I enter the store. Aldi makes a trial £1 transaction to quickly check I still have the means to pay in place.  Once I am in I simply choose my items, put them in a bag and leave the store without having to scan them to begin with or then queue to pay.

A multitude of cameras are visually tracking all customers in the store, there are no pressure pads on the shelves. Not having to queue to pay makes it faster than using a traditional supermarket. By the time I arrive home I have usually received an email receipt, and my spending details are also stored in the app. I used to check that I had not been charged for items I had considered buying and then put back, but these days there’s no reason to bother, the system works fine. However, there are sometimes confused looks on the faces of people unfamiliar with the concept who have not downloaded the app and cannot gain entry.

IoT Benefits in Agriculture

The same factors of increasing population and constrained supply of resources that drive adoption of smart city technology also put pressure on growing enough food. Agritech IoT involves using sensors and drones to monitor crop conditions, soil quality, and weather data. This enables farmers to make data-driven decisions.

Benefits of IoT in agriculture include precision control of crop spraying reduces the amounts of chemicals that are required, which costs farmers’ money and reduces toxicity levels in soil and water tables. IoT sensors in the soil can measure moisture levels and relay the information to an automated irrigation system. Sensors attached to livestock can monitor their health, location, and behavior in real time. This data helps farmers manage their herds more effectively, improves animal health, and increases productivity.

Some developments to watch for include blockchain enhancing traceability and transparency in food supply chains; more work completed by autonomous vehicles and robots equipped with IoT sensors; and digital twinning of crops or livestock to help farmers simulate various scenarios and make better informed decisions.

Conclusion

IoT is no longer a vision of the future; it’s a reality that is reshaping industries, improving daily life, and creating new possibilities for innovation. As IoT continues to evolve, it will connect more devices, collect more data, and unlock even greater potential. The future of IoT is not just about devices; it’s about the interconnectedness of our world and the data-driven insights that will drive progress in the digital age.

Wider adoption of IoT is not without challenges. These include issues around connectivity, interoperability, data security, and privacy. Even though in most cases the potential benefits far outweigh the risks, the risk levels need to be significantly reduced to maintain public support.

We believe there is also a social imperative to try and ensure that older, non-digital members of the public do not feel cut-off from what’s going on around them. This will require traditional, personal “customer service” skills to prevent their alienation. 

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Clive Reffell

Clive Reffell

Clive has worked with Crowdsourcing Week to source, create and publish content since May 2016. With knowledge and experience gained in a 30+ year marketing career based in London, UK, he helps SMEs and startups to run successful crowdfunding projects, and provides support across wider marketing issues.

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