The most important characteristic of humans is that we can work with each other as a team and gain knowledge from each other. What if this was true for machines as well? What if they could interact with each other and share information and data. That would lead to a truly connected world! And that is the central concept of the Internet of Things. This concept just means a connected network of various devices that can collect data and share it with each other to obtain meaningful insights from the data. There are various applications of IoT in the modern world and these are so diverse that you cannot imagine.
There are endless possibilities for having an interconnected web of “things” that can interact with each other over the internet. IoT can be used for all types of applications ranging from connecting all the devices in your house to create a smart home or even connecting all the government and civic services in a city to create a smart city! Who knows, we may even have a smart world one day!
So let’s see all these applications of IoT in different facets and industries of the world.
1. Smart Agriculture
Food is an integral part of life without which we cannot survive. However, it is an unfortunate fact that a lot of food is wasted in developed countries like America while people starve in poorer countries like Chad, Sudan, etc. One way to feed everyone is better agricultural practices which can be enhanced using IoT. This can be done by first collecting data for a farm such as soil quality, sunlight levels, seed type, rainfall density from various sources like farm sensors, satellites, local weather stations, etc. and then using this data with Machine Learning and IoT to create custom recommendations for each farm that will optimize the planting procedure, irrigation levels required, fertilizer amount, etc. All this will result in better yield or crops with a focus on reducing world hunger in the future. This is done very efficiently by SunCulture, which is an initiative by Microsoft AI for Earth.
2. Smart Vehicles
Smart vehicles or self-driving cars as they can be called are pretty dependent on IoT. These cars have a lot of features that are integrated with each other and need to communicate such as the sensors that handle navigation, various antennas, controls for speeding or slowing down, etc. Here the Internet of Things technology is critical especially in the sense that self-driving cars need to be extremely accurate and all the parts need to communicate with each other in milliseconds on the road. Tesla Cars are quite popular and working on their self-driving cars. Tesla Motors’ cars use the latest advancements in Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things. And they are quite popular as well!!! Tesla Model 3 was the most sold plug-in electric car in the U.S. in 2018 with a total yearly sales of around 140,000 cars.
3. Smart Home
Maybe the most famous application of IoT is in Smart Homes. After all, who hasn’t heard about connecting all the home applications like lighting, air conditioners, locks, thermostat, etc. into a single system that can be controlled from your smartphone! These IoT devices are becoming more and more popular these days because they allow you complete freedom to personalize your home as you want. In fact, these IoT devices are so popular that every second there are 127 new devices connected to the internet. Some popular ones that you might have heard have, or even have in your home, include Google Home, Amazon Echo Plus, Philips Hue Lighting System, etc. There are also all sorts of other inventions that you can install in your home including Nest Smoke Alarm and Thermostat, Foobot Air Quality Monitor, August Smart Lock, etc.
4. Smart Pollution Control
Pollution is one of the biggest problems in most of the cities in the world. Sometimes it’s not clear if we are inhaling oxygen or smog! In such a situation, IoT can be a big help in controlling the pollution levels to more breathable standards. This can be done by collecting the data related to city pollution like emissions from vehicles, pollen levels, airflow direction, weather, traffic levels, etc using various sensors in combination with IoT. Using this data, Machine Learning algorithms can calculate pollution forecasts in different areas of the city that inform city officials beforehand where the problems are going to occur. Then they can try to control the pollution levels till it’s much safer. An example of this is the Green Horizons project created by IBM’s China Research Lab.
5. Smart Healthcare
There are many applications of IoT in the Healthcare Industry where doctors can monitor patients remotely through a web of interconnected devices and machines without needing to be in direct contact with them. This is very useful if the patients don’t have any serious problems or if they have any infectious diseases like COVID-19 these days. One of the most common uses of IoT in healthcare is using robots. These include surgical robots that can help doctors in performing surgeries more efficiently with higher precision and control. There are also disinfectant robots that can clean surfaces quickly and thoroughly using high-intensity ultraviolet light (which is pretty useful these days!) Other types of robots also include nursing robots that can handle the monotonous tasks that nurses have to perform for many patients day in and day out where there is little risk to the patients.
6. Smart Cities
Cities can be made more efficient so that they require fewer resources and are more energy-efficient. This can be done with a combination of sensors in different capacities all over the city that can be used for various tasks ranging from managing the traffic, controlling handling waste management, creating smart buildings, optimizing streetlights, etc. There are many cities in the world that are working on incorporating IoT and becoming smarter such as Singapore, Geneva, Zurich, Oslo, etc. One example of creating smart cities is the Smart Nation Sensor Platform used by Singapore which is believed to be the smartest city in the world. This platform integrates various facets of transportation, streetlights, public safety, urban planning, etc. using sensors in conjugation with IoT.
7. Smart Retail
There is a way to make shopping even more exciting for customers and that’s to use the latest tech like IoT of course! Retail stores can make use of IoT in a wide range of operations to make shopping a much smoother experience for customers and also easier for the employees. IoT can be used to handle the inventory, improve store operations, reduce shoplifting and theft, and prevent long queues at the cashiers. A prime example of this is the Amazon Go stores which provide an IoT enabled shopping experience. These stores monitor all their products using IoT so that customers can pick up any products and just walk out of the store without stopping at the cashier’s queue. The total bill amount is automatically deducted from the card associated with the customer’s Amazon account after they leave the store.
These are only some applications of IoT in the world that are the most popular. Actually, there is no limit to the application of IoT, especially when it is combined with other technologies like Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. This is especially true because the declining hardware costs make it feasible to embed sensors in just about any device imaginable thereby creating a connected IoT network. IoT has many applications in smart energy creation, manufacturing, supply chain management, wildlife conservation, etc. And maybe this expanding list of applications for IoT will lead to a smart world after all!