Why now is the right time to take IoT seriously

Guest blog by Alan Nunn – Communications Subject Matter Expert at CGI.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been the subject of countless forecasts that predict exponential growth of devices and data generated. What has been missing is the “so what?” and real use cases showing how the technology will make a difference to businesses and citizens.

To quote some of the figures – Statista predicts that there will be over 25 Billion connected devices by 2025, IDC predicts more devices (41.6 Billion) and that these will generate 79.4 ZB of data. A Zettabyte (ZB) is a one followed by 21 zeroes, or a thousand million Terabytes to translate it into something we might actually have in our homes. A Grand View Research report predicts that the device management market will be worth $5.1 billion in 2025. That’s three reports with very big numbers in them, but let’s look at why these trends might be real now.

What will all these devices be doing for us? Most readers will own a health tracker of some sort – possibly a smart watch or fitness tracker. These are great examples of how we can gather data and use it to change our behaviour – get a bit more exercise, eat a bit less, lose some weight, get the resting heart rate down. In exchange for this data, the companies collecting it know a lot about us and can offer us relevant products related to our goals. This is the ecosystem in action. The devices are widely available, and range from very low-cost devices to highly complex accessories with capability on a par with mobile phones and prices to match. Most devices operate using a local connection to a phone, while a few have a direct mobile connection with a SIM card (or more likely e-SIM). Some rely on a specific wireless access network such as LoRa (a long range, low power wide-area network optimised for devices where long battery life is important).

Moving beyond our individual lives, local authorities are starting to experiment with IoT. Some are deploying parking sensors to know whether places are occupied or available. Some are deploying air quality sensors to be able to understand the impact of traffic and industry on the environment, which in turn has an impact on citizen health. Some are deploying “smart bins”. These typically rely on mobile networks, although some use dedicated IoT communications networks deployed in a local area to provide guaranteed coverage. For most city-based applications, mobile coverage is good enough today, and the operators are already addressing poor coverage areas. This means that in most cases the infrastructure is already in place to enable IoT deployment.

For some applications where very high data rates (e.g. Video Surveillance) or very low latency (e.g. autonomous vehicles) 5G rollout will be a key enabler, but that’s for another blog.

So what exactly is a “smart bin”? Companies have started putting sensors in bin lids which can detect the fill level, the tilt angle (has the bin fallen over, or was it pushed), and even temperature (did someone just set a fire in the bin?). Fill level enables the collection agency to know when to schedule emptying, rather than the usual weekly or two-weekly regular collection. This means that low-usage areas can go longer between collections, and high usage areas (shops, restaurants etc.) can be emptied more frequently. Overall this can reduce the number of bin-collection journeys and therefore the cost, and environmental impact.

These are just a couple of examples which we are working on in CGI, we have an extensive catalogue of other use cases ranging from agriculture, manufacturing and tourism. While a single use case may not be cost effective, bringing multiple use cases together gives an economy of scale by re-using the central data system and the communications infrastructure needed to collect data and send information out to consumers. If you want to find out more, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

For more information, email enquiry.uk@cgi.com and quote ‘CGI/Dynamo’.

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