IOT as a game-changer

The Internet of things can unlock new powers and efficiencies for those equipped for the networked economy.

Read time 3min 50sec

Nowadays, people and companies are linked in more ways than ever before - with the Internet of things (IOT), social media and the use of mobile and cloud technology. But, what are the practical applications of IOT that are already reaping rewards for global industry sectors?

Here are six ways in which IOT applications are changing the way the world works.

1. The port of Hamburg, which operates 24 hours a day, is Germany's largest seaport. The Hamburg Port Authority (HPA) has the responsibility of managing up to 40 000 trucks daily, and ensuring cargo is shipped to and from the furthest corners of the earth. Following a partnership with SAP and Deutsche Telekom, the port undertook an IOT roll-out that enables all components in the harbour to communicate with each other, including ships, trucks, people, cranes, bridges and traffic control systems. The goal was to connect the port's various stakeholders through a mobile business cloud. Real-time information from the HPA, transport companies, parking providers, and other businesses across the port is gathered, consolidated, analysed and made available to those who need it. As a result, the HPA has achieved greater efficiency and driven economic value for all involved through smoother traffic and increased turnover capacity.

2. In the agriculture sector, farmers are increasingly turning to IOT, using sensors, drones, robotics and analytics to transform farming methods. Current developments point to a future where IOT will enable drones, driverless tractors and other machines to communicate with each other. Already, farmers can take advantage of IOT technologies to make more informed decisions. IBM, for example, offers products and services that allow for agricultural data gathering, such as its Deep Thunder service, which gives farmers a 36-hour head-start with a 90% accurate hyperlocal weather forecast.

IOT concepts can also be used to plan irrigation. Farmers have already been taking advantage of drones for almost a decade, and they are now starting to be used for imaging and as sensors. This enables 3D modelling of fields, and can provide information on questions such as levels of nitrite, conditions of the ground cover, and availability of water. Low-orbit satellites will, in future, also make it possible to identify harmful infestations.

3. In the food and beverage industry, IOT is having an impact on the life cycle of produce from "farm to fridge" or "field to fork". IOT technology, added to the supply chain, can help to optimise it, making food safer and the production of business more profitable. IOT solutions can help to optimise the food and beverage manufacturing and supply chain functions and improve the management of critical resources.

IOT applications are impacting all three stages of healthcare: prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

4. IOT is signalling a revolution in logistics and delivery services. Affordable IOT-related technologies like RFID tags can be embedded into parcels, enabling them to communicate with their surroundings. Consumers will be able to choose how, where and when to receive their parcels, while delivery systems will also become more intelligent, increasing logistics efficiency, with a range of value-added services also becoming possible for innovative courier companies.

5. The global number of devices being managed by utility companies is projected to grow from 485 million in 2013 to 1.53 billion in 2020. IOT technologies are able to optimise the flow of information, improve asset performance, increase energy efficiency and ensure supply. In the South African water sector, for example, mismanagement and inefficiencies are having a huge impact on the reliability of water supply into the future.

6. IOT applications are impacting all three stages of healthcare: prevention, diagnosis and treatment. In SA, where the improvement of rural healthcare is an imperative, IOT has the ability to enable new delivery models for healthcare at an affordable cost. IOT healthcare devices for developing economies include remote consulting, handheld diagnostic devices for detecting diseases, and other devices for enabling skilled individuals to provide diagnoses in the field.

Against a backdrop of enormous hype about IOT, these are just some of the most widespread possibilities around IOT-enabled environments. As the IOT ecosystem grows and develops, related technologies will help to resolve many industry-specific challenges. The results will be reduced costs, improved productivity and increased revenue.

Glen Ansell
founder and CEO of ThatThing.

Glen Ansell is a recognised thought leader in the world of technology. A serial entrepreneur, he founded his first company, i5 Technology, at 22. Within seven years, he grew it into a multinational business that employed more than 100 people. He joined the global entrepreneur network Endeavor in 2008. He is currently sales and marketing director at business intelligence company Young Blood Consultants, and co-founder and CEO of IOT specialist ThatThing. Ansell has a BCom degree in logistics management from Stellenbosch University, and an honour’s degree in psychology from the University of the Witwatersrand, where he is completing a master’s degree in the subject. His interests lie in neuropsychology, statistical analysis and the design of human machine interfaces. In his spare time, he builds robots and drones.

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