The Internet of Things (IoT) Social Benefits
Did you ever think why biometric sensors are installed on entry points of industrial set ups, schools, government offices and hospitals to monitor human behavior. Technologies are being developed beyond the local but to global; to extract information from the network of such billions of installed non-computer sensor devices anywhere in the world. This simply explained phenomenon is termed as Internet of Things (IoT) which is an emerging topic of technical, social, and economic significance. Consumer products, durable goods, vehicles, industrial and utility components, sensors, and other everyday objects are being combined with Internet connectivity and powerful data analytic capabilities that promise to transform the human behavior. According to new report from BI Intelligence, there will be 34 billion devices connected to the internet by 2020, up from 10 billion in 2015. IoT devices will account for 24 billion, while traditional computing devices (e.g. smartphones, tablets, smart watches, etc.) will comprise 10 billion. Nearly $6 trillion will be spent on IoT solutions over the next five years (follow to read full report). Among all areas of impacts, the social aspects including, sustainable agriculture, healthcare, industrialization, water quality and use, and environmental management, among others of IoT in present and future will be briefly discussed in this article.
Sustainable agriculture: The use of sensor and other technology to improve agricultural production, involving all fertile land available, and automating as many tasks as possible to analyze and implement technology is termed as precision agriculture. By using IoT, farmers can save time, energy and money by hiring less number of farmhands at planting and harvest seasons. Big-data analytics can review weather forecasts and patterns to predict optimal periods for seeding and harvest. There are four key areas for precision agriculture: Productivity, pest control, water conservation, and continual value. There are many startups already working in this area of IoT which can be studied as examples by future start up aspirants like Topcon Precision Agriculture, Pessl Instruments, Blue River Technology and Naio Technologies. IDTechEx predicts the precision agriculture market will increase to $10 billion by 2022. Other market research firms have similar forecasts. Marketsandmarkets.com this year said the “smart agriculture” market will be worth $18.45 billion in 2022, enjoying a compound annual growth rate of 13.8% over seven years. WinterGreen Research estimated the worldwide market for agricultural drones is $494 million at present, growing to $3.69 billion by 2022. Susan Eustis, lead author of the drone study, said in a statement, “Transparency is one of the benefits of IoT that drones bring to digital farming. In conclusion, digital farming will employ the use of GPS enabled tractors, drones, robotic tools, sensor enabled tracking devices for farming and dairy animals to achieve the rapid growth in agriculture so that growing population might be fed in future in an efficient manner.
Healthcare: Efficient and accurate health monitoring of patients and healthy humans is prime and emerging area for health professionals, technologists and health industries. Inventions and employment of monitoring devices to measure different parameters related to heart rate, electrocardiograms, breathing patterns, sleep disorders, blood sugar levels and temperature are really vital for some patients. Many of these measures require follow-up interaction with a healthcare professional. This creates an opening for smarter devices to deliver more valuable data, lessening the need for direct patient-physician interaction. The new concepts of "smart beds" have been developed that can detect the occupancy and when a patient is attempting to get up. It can also adjust itself to ensure appropriate pressure and support needed to the patient without the manual interaction of nurses. Another area where smart technology could be an asset is coupled with home medication dispensers to automatically upload data to the cloud when medication isn't taken or any other indicators for which the care team should be alerted. In a nut shell, IoT will help health sector to serve the patients in more efficient and precise manner.
Industrialization: The 4th industrial revolution will be facilitated by Industrial IoT by inventing and employing the robotic and sensory devices in industrial set ups to efficiently produce and manufacture the good for humans. These devices will also reduce the need of human hands directly affecting the running costs and risks to workers from accidents and hazards. Altran’s Internet of Things Solutions Director, Jean-Jacques Caraco, says his vision of the future is one where data saves the health of workers – and money. “All workers that work in difficult environments either outside on construction or in a plant or wherever, all workers that are submitted to potential dangerous situations in the long run need to see their movement supervised so as to anticipate problems… but it’s also, let’s call a spade a spade, an important source of cost. So if we want to reduce those costs we can do that by preventing difficult postures,” Caraco said.
Water quality and environmental management: The safe supply of the drinking water, the quality needs to be monitor in real time. Development and employment of low cost system for real time monitoring of the water quality consist of several sensors used to measure physical and chemical parameters of the water. The parameters such as temperature, PH, turbidity, conductivity, dissolved oxygen of the water can be measured. The measured values from the sensors can be processed by the core controller. Finally, the sensor data can be viewed on internet using cloud computing. This way, the continuous supply of potable water may be ensured without employing any man power.
Harmonious co-existence of human with its environment and other species is the love term goal for the whole world and 5th June is celebrated as World Environment Day. The Iberian Lynx, a preservation success story in Spain is one of the clearest examples of how to save a species on the verge of extinction through technology. Lynxes are tracked with location collars that geo-references them the same way other IoT asset management systems would. Scientists can study behavioral uses of space and territories by these lynx in the wild. Connected drones, less invasive than humans, also help monitor them and see how well they are doing from a distance. Researchers are considering the use of weightless subcutaneous sensors that would remain under the lynx’s skin it whole lifetime as a sort of ID.
The quality of air, water and soil where we smell, breath, drink and walk is equally important. The quality of these environmental elements is being measured by using different kind of sensors to monitor the environmental pollution. Inaccessible, polluted or uninhabitable spaces can be accessed without risking the health of technicians. Parents of infants with breathing problems and asthma affected citizens could also receive precise information in real time. Of course workers that need to operate in hazardous conditions (like mines or workplaces exposed to radiation), can benefit from this real time environmental data more than anyone.
Energy requirement and efficiency is a global need for industrialization in developing economies and to positively regulate the climate change. A Boston Consulting Group report determined that IoT-enables climate mitigation strategies could reduce global climate change 16.5% by 2020 compared to current efforts. No other climate mitigation strategy is expected to be as effective. These improvements include Smart Home and Smart Building energy management, efficient use of home appliances, smart grid devices, asset tracking applied to logistics and smart industrial motors that adapt speed variably to illustrate with only some examples. IoT is planning to reduce global energy consumption by using ubiquitous low-power sensors which will be able to work under conditions that surpass current IoT capabilities.
Limitations and challenges: Despite of so many enlisted social benefits of IoT, there are several limitations and challenges to use this emerging technology. The first big issue is credibility of sensor devices. The users are still concerned for their privacy and security because these sensor devices fetch the personal information of all users which can be theft and misused. Another issue is regulation and global policy framework under which these devices should be designed and used. The analysis of enormous data needs highly skilled manpower and upgraded computers which can project these raw data in to a presentable and understandable form and can be utilized in a good and efficient manner. If these issues are addressed globally in a well coordinated way, IoT will revolutionize the change of social behavior for good of mankind.