At a recent event I was asked two very different IoT (Internet of Things) questions. There didn’t seem to be any connection but they got me thinking more deeply about what is happening in the world around us. Einstein came to mind, when he once said. “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
The first one was a rhetorical question: “What’s the big deal with IoT, we have had sensors in concrete for 20 years—smart concrete wouldn’t you call it?” It is true, various technologies have been used to monitor the performance of concrete materials and structures. These include the measurements related to stress, strain and vibration as well as changes in material characteristics such as temperature and humidity, and even monitoring the chloride penetration and corrosion of rebar in concrete.
The second question was more direct. “What IoT implementation has been the greatest surprise to you?”
The big deal with concrete relates to solving the challenges presented by collection and analysis of data with an integration of the results in order to optimise various processes both during early-age construction and later while in service. The recent advancements in the IoT today include the developments of smart wireless sensors, mobile apps, and cloud-based solutions with significantly improved sensor-based technologies in use in the construction sector. Recent work on connectivity, communications and mobile-based concrete testing technologies means companies are bringing a complete IoT package to the concrete industry. Ready-mix producers can monetise their proprietary data on concrete materials while improving the speed and efficiency for contractors on-site who can obtain real-time concrete strength and realise a step change in the efficiency of critical tasks such as NDT (non destructive testing).
The standout answer to the second question has to be a “connected chicken hut”. It is a normal wooden chicken hut, with a twist—It is automated and Internet-enabled. It includes a nightvision camera giving a real-time glimpse of the chickens whilst connecting from the hut to a mobile-based app providing the ability to open and close the door, letting the chickens out to roam and securing them at night. Furthermore, sensors in the hut send updated temperature and humidity numbers from the hut to the app, not forgetting the historical data and important visibility of eggs laid.
Do more, do it better
Behind both questions was legacy thinking, the subtext being ‘why do we need IoT?’, or ‘what difference does it make to me?’.
There are four drivers that connect both questions and provide linkage in the answers: Expanding and improved Internet connectivity; high mobile adoption; low-cost sensors; and large IoT investments. The motive behind the investments is simple. The involved companies are creating actionable analytics that give positive, dramatic and measurable outcomes for their customers.
Thomas Edison had something in common with Einstein, persistence. His persistent pursuit of a durable filament set his light bulb apart from earlier prototypes.
Even he would have had difficulty predicting the consequences of his invention. It stimulated a lighting industry that quickly spread through cities and towns across the US and the world.
Over the course of the next half-century two especially significant social effects became clear. Firstly, we gained control over light in homes and offices, independent of the time of day. Secondly, the electric light brought networks of wires into homes and offices, making it relatively easy to add appliances and other machines. Low cost lighting and nationwide electrification became fundamental parts of the twentieth century.
If history has taught us anything, it’s that things of great value never happen overnight. But they start with a simple objective—doing more and doing it better.
With all the IoT buzz about interconnecting devices it is difficult to see how precisely IoT can give you a competitive advantage. In reality, it’s an iterative but easily initiated strategy for using devices, connectivity and sensors to increase the breadth and depth of data to equip you or your customers to make better business decisions.
You might be amused by this advert, “Use Your Electricity For More Than Light.” (Sears catalog, Spring 1917, p. 856.), and then consider a fast-forward jump of 100 years and update the slogan “Use your Internet for more than Broadband”
You can join our eco-system, and we will make the jump easier for you.