On 5th of May I had an opportunity to attend the Internet of Things (IoT) summit in Lisbon. Along with the Big Data, it is another trendy buzzword in the technology world, and not without a reason:
The Internet of everything will have 5 to 10 times the impact on society as the Internet itself
— CEO John Chambers, Cisco.
[..] Experts estimate that the IoT will consist of almost 50 billion objects by 2020.
— Wikipedia – Internet of Things
So what is IoT?
According to Wikipedia:
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects—devices, vehicles, buildings and other items—embedded with electronics, software,sensors, and network connectivity that enables these objects to collect and exchange data. The IoT allows objects to be sensed and controlled remotely across existing network infrastructure, creating opportunities for more direct integration of the physical world into computer-based systems, and resulting in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit. [..] Experts estimate that the IoT will consist of almost 50 billion objects by 2020.
— Wikipedia – Internet of Things
These types of networks are already finding applications in different domains, for instance, in environmental monitoring (for air or water quality, soil conditions or even in earthquake or tsunami early-warning systems by emergency services), in infrastructure management like bridges, railways etc to signal on any changes in these structures that might compromise safety and increase risk, in manufacturing to track and manage equipment and assets, in energy management to optimize the energy consumption in general, in medical and healthcare systems for remote health monitoring and emergency notification systems, in transportation for smarter traffic control and parking, and many, many more applications. Connectivity to the global Internet though is not a required condition, IoT systems can also operate in local networks.
The advance of IoT is related to advances of low energy consumption devices and network technologies, as well as to the decreasing costs of the implementations.
IoT Summit demos and presentations
During the summit participants had a chance not only to attend interesting presentations, but also to get acquainted with the Portuguese startups and their IoT technologies and solutions.
One of the interesting discoveries for me was the biomimicry design approach – “an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies” (Source: Biomimicry Institute) presented by Carlos Rego, Design Manager and Biomimicry specialist from Logoplaste Innovation Lab. They used biomimicry to design the Ecover bottle package, which is also the ocean plastic project cooperating with fishermen to clean the seas and the oceans from plastics.
Other interesting applications were:
- CleenBeen that reinvents the hand-hygiene compliance system – based on sensor information it provides real-time feedback on hand-hygiene status, currently, it is being tested in a hospital with the aim to reduce casualties related to hospital induced infections
- Sensefinity are running several IoT projects among which is Smart Farm to correlate the sheep milk quality with their feeding grounds
- CoolFarm that improves and empowers the indoor farming
- Primelayer that specializes in geographic information systems implemented in open source cloud architectures, focusing on education, social, demographic studies, sport facilities, civil protection. Two open-source technologies are under development being in pilot stage: RISE (Remote Intelligent Sensor for Environment and Civil Protection), and SOUL Platform (Sensor Observation of Urban Life)
- Optishower – solution to optimize shower water and energy consumption, which reminded me about another project to save the water – fishbowl faucet for the sink to wash hands
- and many others.
The ‘dark side’ of IoT
But as any other technological novelty that is rapidly spreading it gets criticism, as well as thought leaders are drawing attention to the need of regulations behind it to facilitate its good impact and reduce its potential harms.
For instance, Philip N. Howard, a professor and author, writes that the IoT offers immense potential for empowering citizens, making government transparent, and broadening information access. Howard cautions, however, that privacy threats are enormous, as is the potential for social control and political manipulation.[Source] The security considerations and the challenges of relevant regulations are being discussed, too, as well as the environmental impact of IoT deployment since most of the relevant electronics contains heavy and rare-earth metals, as well as toxic synthetic chemicals, and an effective, straight forward recycling is not yet in place.
IoT for Social Good
Nevertheless there are ideas being developed and further implemented into IoT projects that strive for the good social impact, for instance, a group of Cisco France employees developed the smart stick for blind people taking advantage of different deployed sensors across the cities.
The Young Innovators Competition have calls for topic specific innovations to harness Big Data and also IoT technologies for good. For instance, here is the shortlist for ideas in the health sector.
More about IoT:
- Internet of Things Summit 2016 in Lisbon, Portugal
- Young Innovators Competition – for gifted young entrepreneurs with ideas for innovative social enterprises
- #IoT Awards – some of the best companies and products in the last year from the emerging Internet of Things
- Internet of Everything for Social Good by Cisco
- How Internet of Things can be used for Social Good
Photos (c): Main Hub – Innovation