The Internet of Things | Past, Present, and Future Applications


In 1982, a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon modified a Coca-Cola vending machine to ensure his Coke would remain cold as he trekked the long-distance across campus to his office. David Nichols then reached out to some friends to implement an inventory tracking system so the coldest Coke on campus would always be available to students. The vending machine was connected to the internet to monitor the temperature and track inventory, becoming the first Internet of Things, IoT, device.


Embedded in our lives are IoT devices, services, and products. They continue to keep food and beverages cold, advance energy conservation, identify real-time equipment malfunctions, and facilitate business efficiency.



First Connected Coke Machine Carnegie Mellon University


Defining the Internet of Things

IoT, the Internet of Things, includes multiple connected "things" that transmit information to one another via the internet. The daily consumer of IoT products knows these as "Smart" products. Connected doorbells, virtual assistances, thermostats, vacuum cleaners, security devices, lighting, and locks all fall under the IoT umbrella.


IoT is not only on campuses and in our homes, but businesses are leveraging IoT to improve service to customers.


Current Application

"Walmart manages more than 7 million unique IoT data points across our U.S. stores. Every day, this network of connected devices sends almost 1.5 billion messages regarding temperature, operating functions, and energy use," Sanjay Radhakrishnan, Vice President, Global Tech, Walmart, stated.


Walmart uses IoT to maintain quality by keeping food at the proper temperatures according to quality standards and guidelines. Monitoring equipment by connected technology, Walmart can anticipate maintenance issues, diagnose problems quickly, or diminish the time equipment is down and its associated cost.


Walmart is monitoring their store energy systems remotely. "Demand Response we can reduce energy consumption to any of our U.S. stores for a set amount of time and then have systems in place to automatically return our equipment back to the normal operating standards,” Radhakrishan said. Walmart can now monitor their energy usage, consumption, and issues on a mass scale by utilizing IoT. Additionally, Walmart can use this technology to manage usage at regional or local levels. Managing their energy sources makes Walmart a better community partner as they can reduce their energy usage in situations such as blackouts.


Some companies, like Microsoft, are applying IoT and technology to impact the entertainment industry. The Raven, an immersive theatre experience, uses technology to get the audience involved in the storytelling. With sensors, beacons, and AR glasses, audience members become active participants in the theatre production. Think of it as an escape room merged with a theatre production surround by IoT interactions.


Source: Microsoft In Culture

An audience member uses her AR glasses to examine her surroundings with the help of her IoT lantern


The fashion industry uses technology to improve garments' quality by tracking and monitoring fibers woven during the production process. Additionally, the industry is creating consumer branding experiences to follow the life of clothing.


Eon, an NYC tech startup, is constructing connected fashion products to create a digital identity for garments. "Eon’s leading IoT platform powered by Azure generates this digital identity for each garment, enabling brands to build long-lasting relationships with customers through data and insights on new consumer demands. It also gives them the systems they need to adopt new business models and offerings, like rental, resale, digital wardrobe apps, peer-to-peer exchanges, styling services, reuse, and recycling," according to the Microsoft In Culture publication.


More and more corporations are learning how integrating IoT into their businesses and push them past the competitive edge to serve their customers better.


In February, J.B. Hunt and Google announced a strategic alliance to expand J.B. Hunt's 360-degree platform. "By leveraging Google’s Data Cloud, J.B. Hunt 360 will better predict outcomes, empower users, and make informed decisions. Using advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) tools from Google Cloud, J.B. Hunt will develop new services to digitally transform the shipping and logistics experience for shippers, carriers, and service providers," Google said.


Working with Google will allow J.B. Hunt to develop and expand on their 360 platform to create a centralized data system rather than relying on a patchwork of networks across the nation.



Small Businesses and IoT

Small businesses, SMBs, can utilize IoT to operate efficiently and cost-effectively while reducing energy waste and promoting productivity. Smart thermostats can reduce energy waste, RFID tags can streamline warehouse tracking, virtual assistance or scheduling services can prevent time sucks, and maintenance monitoring can intercept or minimize mechanical breakdowns. Challenges small businesses face when blending IoT into their processes is cost and scalability. Identifying where IoT technology can improve current business functions or reduce waste is the first stage of integrating IoT into an SMB. IoT integration does not have to happen all at once but rather solves a current and immediate need with a scalability plan.



RFID Tag


What is next...after next?

Continuing to connect to the world around us with the infusion of technology in our lives will be a reoccurring theme throughout the coming generations. Streamlining technology adaptation will rely on the standardization of connected products. This standardization process will enable more connected devices to talk and share information easily with one another. Having more products that can interconnect or business processes that can rapidly share information in an expanding network will increase efficiency and reduce time waste.


With the standardization of information sharing across networks comes the critical task of protecting and securing the data. Manufacturers need to ensure that their standards encompass the ability to protect their consumer's data and ensure privacy. Transparent and consumer-focused regulations on how the collected data is used, stored and shared by manufacturers, partnered companies, and third-parties should be top of mind for manufactures as they develop their new networking technologies.


Technology moves at a rapid pace. Standardization, regulation, and security should move in conjunction with our technological advances and assed frequently.


End Game

No matter what industry you are in, the top priority is seeing a need and creating a product or service to fill a particular void. Generally, providing a product or service is born after an issue arises. For example, the pipes burst, you call the plumber. What if, before the pipes burst, your plumber is already aware of the problem and is taking proactive measures, remotely, from their connected devices? Or what if an IoT alert system triggers a notification before a burst pipe or a way to remotely shut off a water value to reduce damage. While I am not sure if this technology exists yet, it is easy to see how connected technology could jettison us into the fourth industrial revolution. We would transition out of the reactive mindset and into a connected, real-time, proactive product or service provider.


The uses for IoT are endless. IoT will continue to grow and it is exciting to see how this will continue to integrate into our lives, businesses, and products.

Sources:

Walmart: https://corporate.walmart.com/newsroom/2021/01/14/how-walmart-leverages-iot-to-keep-your-ice-cream-frozen

Press Release Google and J.B. Hunt:https://cloud.google.com/press-releases/2020/0217/google-jbhunt-strategicalliance-transform-transportation


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