Our world of commerce is becoming more connected and there are lots of buzz words for this… the ‘Internet of Things’, the ‘Internet of Everything’ and ‘Industry 4.0’.
The reality behind all the hype is that whilst there’s fabulous potential for every electronic device and computer in the world to be connected, we’re actually a long way from seeing that connected world of commerce.
The world of consumer electronics is well established in IoT (Internet of Things), with many devices such as smart watches, internet televisions and robot vacuum cleaners all able to be connected and controlled through mobile devices.
But commercial use of IoT is the brave new world of technology that’s not yet been broadly adopted by industry.
I attended the IoT Festival conference in Melbourne last month and listened with interest to a range of speakers from around Australia. In most of the speeches IoT projects are still in proof of concept stage. The new technology still seems to be a solution looking for a problem.
The Australian French Chamber of Commerce also held an interesting event in the University of Adelaide’s ThincLab space last week, where we heard from a number of entrepreneurial companies about their work in the IoT space.
Device monitoring and M2M (machine to machine) has been around for many years in manufacturing. There are great benefits to careful analysis of data from sensors within factories, to predict when machines will need maintenance and to know when to stop machines before they fail. But this is not the Internet of Things, it’s monitoring of devices within a controlled environment.
I think the reason there hasn’t yet been broad adoption of IoT by industry is because the business case for investing in the new technology hasn’t stacked up. There’s still a high cost to solve the technical issues of dealing with the masses of data that is created by sensors. It’s not practical to send it all by the current data transmission technologies and there’s a high cost for installing computing power alongside the sensors. So unless there are really high returns, the high costs won’t be acceptable.
Sensors and devices that capture video feeds create vast amounts of data, too much to be transmitted and processed effectively by current data transmission technology.
Edge computing combined with artificial intelligence will reduce the amount of data needing to be communicated. However this is still very expensive, as its cutting edge technology. There’s a new buzz-word for this, which is edge fog computing. Read my blog post from August 2018 for more information about AI on the edge: https://www.wisertechnologyadvice.com.au/blog/artificial-intelligence-on-the-edge
The NBN has connected businesses into the cloud, but hasn’t solved the problem of connecting IoT devices. Telstra are betting on the 5G network as a platform that will solve the data transmission problems but 5G has been suffering image problems. There are perceived health and safety issues which Telstra insists have no basis in scientific fact. And 5G is not the only option for future high-speed data transmission.
Entrepreneurial companies based in Adelaide are launching fleets of low orbit nanosatellites, that are much smaller than conventional satellites, at about only the size of a shoebox, and much less expensive. These will replace the need for use of the phone networks and will (once the full fleets have been launched) provide data transmission abilities from anywhere in the world, including remote areas of the outback and on the high seas.
The price of technology always reduces over time, but we need prices to get much lower to really be able to scale up the Internet of Things, allowing us to put sensors on everything and be able to process the data in real-time.
IoT and blockchain
Blockchain is a transformative technology platform which is starting to be adopted by entrepreneurial businesses and has the potential to transform the way we do business in the future. I wrote about blockchain projects in my blog a couple of months ago, these initiatives of course rely on the Internet of Things to transmit data to and from the blockchain: https://www.wisertechnologyadvice.com.au/blog/blockchain-is-transformative-technology
What are the possibilities for your business?
If you’d like to talk further about the possibilities of the IoT and whether the business case stacks up for your business, get in contact with me today, I’m always happy to meet and have a chat over a coffee.
Further readingIf you want to read more about the world of IoT for your business, here are some more examples of projects that I’ve heard about recently:
- Transurban are replacing e-tags with number plate recognition on Melbourne’s toll roads: https://www.itnews.com.au/news/transurban-sends-bleeping-toll-road-etags-to-the-scrap-heap-524407
- Myriota have created a system that replaced need for 2 full-time bore-runners who were driving between bores to check water levels:
- SA Water won the Best Industrial IoT Project for 2019 at the Australian Internet of Things (IoT) Awards for their industry-leading
smart wastewater technology: https://www.sawater.com.au/news/sa-water-goes-back-to-back-at-australian-iot-awards
- Kennards Hire are overhauling their technology using IoT and nanosatellite communication technologies: https://www.kennards.com.au/blog/Kennards-Hire-deploys-Fleet-Space-Technologies-in-IoT-led-digital-overhaul/
- Escavox is an entrepreneurial company that started with a problem that needed to be solved, the owner was a mushroom grower who was
frustrated with being blamed for poor quality mushrooms on the supermarket shelf and needed to track his produce through the supply chain: https://www.escavox.com/
- Carwoola participated in a proof of concept project with Meat and Livestock Australia, but the experiment won’t be able to scale up until there’s better data transmission available: https://www.itnews.com.au/news/australian-farmers-are-battling-to-make-iot-work-516204