IoT – The incredible innovations changing the world around us

11th September 2019

When it comes to digital technologies, the Internet of Things (IoT) is surely the one that’s on everyone’s lips right now. Having already made one of the most impressive leaps in uptake that we’re likely to witness for some time, today it’s assumed that if you’re doing business, running a city, saving lives or the environment, somewhere behind the scenes there’s an IoT strategy – or a plan for one –  that’s driving a significant element of its success. Today we’re exploring IoT – the incredible innovations changing the world around us.

A rapid ascent driven by the growing availability of IoT-enablement platforms and increasingly cost-effective connectivity options, the Internet of Things could never be accused of standing still. From IKEAs announcement last week that it’s to  “invest significantly” in developing its Home Smart range, to behemoth winery Bodegas Emilio Moro’s super-innovative use of IoT to optimally manage their vineyard, to the smart mirrors, smart cat-litter trays and smart yoga mats coming to a smart home in a smart city near you (phew!), if you’ve not got a close eye on the rise and rise of IoT, you’re missing out … 

  • New revenue streams
  • Big data – and lots of it
  • Streamlined logistics
  • Enhanced customer service and support
  • and reduced operational costs

… are just a few of the advantages of IoT implemented at the heart of a business model. According to research by Forrester, enterprise is leading the surge in IoT adoption, with 85% of businesses implementing – or planning – IoT deployments across their business this year alone – and it’s not for show. Most digital leaders today, whatever their field, expect their IoT projects to be delivering results rather than generating headlines – and the results are in. A whopping 87% of the ‘most sophisticated’ enterprises are already reporting significant returns through their adoption of IoT.

But it’s not all about business. IoT technology and the world of connected smart devices has serious potential to drive lasting, positive change across areas as diverse as health, communities, the environment, energy, education, and transport – and that’s just for starters. Here, we’ve picked our favourite IoT innovations and emerging industries – the ones that got us talking at WHQ, and the ones which we think demonstrate the potential to make a real difference to the world around us … jump in, be inspired, and imagine where IoT could take your business!

Smart Contact Lenses 

Advancements in wearables never cease to astound the Waracle team – those that measure oxygen levels in the bloodstream, which monitor glucose levels, and that can tell you how much UV exposure is hitting your skin are a few of our favourites – but it’s smart contacts that have got us really excited when it comes to IoT applications. 

Sitting on the surface of the eye and containing micro-versions of existing technology,  smart contact lenses already have the ability to deliver real-time medical diagnostics, collecting data and identifying deviations in the eyes and providing medical professionals with the information to treat all manner of eye conditions. So far, so interesting, but there’s a whole lot more to smart lenses than meets the … eye. What if we told you that at some point in the not too distant future, smart contact lenses will contain micro-versions of technologies like data storage, Bluetooth, radio, and task-specific sensors? 

Google, Samsung and Sony are already well down the smart lens R&D road, making strides that will see smart lenses diagnosing diabetes, generating energy through nano solar panels (yes, really), or sending information to – well, whoever, or whatever we want to. Once we’re in this territory, it’s not such a gigantic leap to imagining the humble eye as the dashboard to the world around us. Samsung, for example, is currently looking at developing a way to project visual information directly into the eye retina and altering the field of vision. And Sony has submitted its patent application for its smart contact lens which will convert eye movement into electrical power, controlled through blinking. And wait for it … the lens can also record and store images or video. 

If all this sounds a little Blade Runner, that’s because it is –  but there are also very practical applications for this kind of technology … think better vision and real-time feedback for surgeons, self-diagnosis of disease for patients, and military and security safety – to name just a few. We’ll be following the development of smart lenses closely – so watch this space!

Environmental sustainability – saving the bees

When we think of IoT devices, the beehive probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, and yet this IoT innovation has been creating a huge buzz (groan). 

Bees play an essential role in the world’s ecosystems, with one third of our food depending on bee pollination. Without pollinators, food production would suffer catastrophically. From a purely economic point of view, protecting bees is a no-brainer, with the value of bee pollination estimated at around €265bn per year. Step up to the plate ApisProtect, an IoT-driven innovation that uses sensors to monitor the health of honey bee colonies, helping beekeepers to “reduce losses and improve the productivity of their hives.”

“We collect temperature, humidity, CO2, sound and movement data from a single sensor unit installed inside the hive, called the ApisMonitor.”

Currently monitoring over 9 million honey bees across 200 hives in 20 locations, the ApisProtect hardware contains a box of five IoT sensors which reside in each beehive and which measure environmental conditions like humidity, temperature and sound – and then share that data back to the company. Using another of our top technologies, machine learning, ApisProtect then takes the data and converts it into actionable insights and early warnings. For example, informing the beekeeper that the hive needs an increase or decrease in temperature, or that the colony is ready to swarm, or even that the queen bee has died. Beekeepers can then take the required actions to ensure healthy hives, and healthy bees. 

The solar road – the future of transport?

Our roads and motorways are in constant transition, either through upgrades and improvements, or repairs. They might not be the obvious choice when it comes to making our lives easier, but our roads are now a major focus of innovators looking to make them smarter, safer and more driver-friendly – and of taking us places we never imagined they would. 

Our favourite? The much-lauded Solar Roadways project, the innovation using smart solar panels to … well, do pretty much almost anything when it comes to the surface of the earth and movement. Depending on who you talk to, or what you read, the solar roadway is either the greatest thing ever, or a complete waste of time and money. We’re erring with the former, for now. From highways to playgrounds, driveways to pavements, parking lots to helipads and every other kind of public space you can think of, the smart solar panel has something to contribute. According to one of their (well-worth-a-watch) promo videos, the smart solar panels roadway has the potential to:

  • Charge EVs
  • Provide emergency warning systems
  • Keep roads snow and ice-free
  • Keep animals safe (the moose is a particular favourite of the venture)
  • Creates lines and signage without the need for paint
  • Are self-fixing
  • Are impervious to potholes (send em on up to my house!)
  • Deliver an impressive ROI

We’re impressed. But there’s still some way to go with the smart solar roadway. A couple of years ago, France implemented a 1km stretch of solar road at a huge cost, but little success. More recently, China too has built a 1km solar highway capable of sending 1GWh every year to the grid – enough energy to power around 800 homes. If we imagine what an entire stretch of motorway could generate in terms of energy, we’re looking at something pretty special. The upshot? With a great deal of interest around the smart road, expect significant advances to be made across this developing industry – and a buoyant moose population way into the future.

The Smart Pill

When it comes to IoT innovations, the area we’re seeing truly life-changing advancements has to be healthcare. We’ve already mentioned a few of these applications above, but there’s more … a lot more. A very recent report by DataBridge tells us that the global IoT healthcare market is now expected to reach an eye-watering $371,441.20m, with a CAGR of 35.2% between now and 2025.  That’s some growth, but when we take a deeper dive into just what IoT technologies can bring to the healthcare sphere, it’s small wonder there’s a big focus on how we can all capitalise on the benefits.

One of these stand-out innovations has to be the smart-pill, or Tracked Ingestible Sensors. Back in 2003, WHO ran a study which discovered that around 50% of prescription medicines are either taken incorrectly or not taken at all.  The downside to this fact is that patients remain sick for longer, with knock-on effects ranging from longer-term compromised health, higher costs to their healthcare providers, and an increased number of sick days, the ripple effects of which are manifold. 

Smart-pill developers, Proteus, have produced the Proteus Discover, an IoT-driven smart-pill that, as well as medicine, contains tiny sensors which can relay a signal to a receiving device upon absorption in the stomach – saving healthcare providers a potentially staggering number of resources, and associated costs – costs usually wasted on unopened, or half-finished prescription medicines. The  Proteus Discover contains the all-important ingestible IoT sensors, a wearable sensor patch, a mobile app and a provider portal. When activated, the smart pill provides detailed insights around patient health and the effectiveness of the treatments being provided. The result? Finely-tuned health solutions that are as individual as the patient.

What next for IoT innovations?

In the not so distant future, the phrase Internet of Things will look old – it will simply be a fact that we live in a world in which objects, our homes, our cities, countries and dare we say people, are connected. IoT  is already well on its way to being ‘the norm’ – the fundamental building block of a growing number of businesses, critical to a vast array of existing healthcare initiatives, and powering city infrastructures, connecting each of us to each other across a vast network and generating an unfathomable amount of information. We might not know it yet, but the IoT is all around us, right here, right now. Everyone’s invited – and if you’re compelled to find out how IoT technology can support your enterprise, there’s never been a better time. Tell us about your ideas, and let’s get the conversation started!

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