The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the most exciting technologies in the market today. As CTO of Vodafone, the global leader in IoT, I’ve seen the benefits first hand.
Across the UK, in sectors ranging from agriculture to utilities, automotive to healthcare, IoT is helping transform the way businesses operate. But if you’re unsure what IoT is, how it works, or what it can do for you, read on.
What is the Internet of Things?
The Internet of Things (sometimes called smart technology) refers to a network of devices that become smart when they’re connected to the internet. Examples include smart fridges, smart lorries and smart pallets. Embedding sensors and SIMs in these objects enables them to send and receive data, so they can be monitored and controlled remotely. This can be useful for both the end user, and the company servicing or managing the item.
How long has IoT been around?
The first person to use the term ‘Internet of Things’ was British inventor Kevin Ashton, in a 1999 lecture about the future of communications in the internet age. However, machines have been connecting and communicating with each other since the dawn of the internet, so technically IoT existed long before that.
At Vodafone, we’ve been involved with IoT since the early days. It’s clear that IoT is about to fundamentally change the world around us. It may not be a new technology, but the potential benefits to business are just beginning to be realised.
Where is IoT being used?
You can already find IoT in action in a huge variety of settings, from smart shelves in shops and production lines in manufacturing, to heart monitoring in healthcare. There are some industries – automotive for instance – that are moving into the ‘massive adopter phase’, but most industries are in the early adopter phase, looking at where IoT sits within their overall strategy and running trials to see what works.
Nine ways businesses are using IoT today
Making building surveillance more efficient and effective
Controlling energy management in buildings
Tracking assets through the supply chain
Remote metering and smart billing
Keeping tabs on fleet vehicles
Developing usage-based motor insurance
Enabling theft and crash alerts in vehicles
Checking stock levels in retail cabinets
Monitoring temperatures in retail chillers
We recently launched a range of IoT solutions to make the benefits more accessible to businesses of all sizes and levels of digital sophistication. For example, our Smart Hub helps logistics companies track vehicles or cargo on the move – even in remote locations where normal services aren’t feasible. It gives a WiFi-strength connection just about anywhere in the UK. The emergency services could use this in rural areas to communicate with other blue-light colleagues and coordinate speedy responses in even the most hostile environments.
What’s next in IoT?
One exciting application for the Internet of Things is smart cities. For example, if all the rubbish bins in a city were connected, refuse collectors could use an app or console to see which were full and ready for emptying. We’re also seeing applications in traffic management – IoT can help recognise where there’s congestion and either change signalling as appropriate or help consumers avoid bottlenecks by sending real-time route information directly to their vehicles.
IoT may feel like a new technology, but the fact is we’ve been helping businesses large and small make use of IoT for the last 25 years, and across a wide variety of industries – including retail, healthcare, manufacturing, logistics, finance and automotive. What’s new is the sheer number and range of things we can help businesses connect, manage and monitor, thanks to advances in connectivity and sensors.