10 Everyday Uses of the Internet of Things

It’s not just you that’s more connected than ever. . .

Technologists began to discuss the concept of connected devices in the 1980s, but it wasn’t until 1999 that this was described as the Internet of Things. Today, things and people are more connected than ever before. Through Internet connected sensors, your fridge can automatically order your groceries, your house can automatically adjust to your required heating levels, and your car can recognise back to back traffic on your usual route to work. But the Internet of Things isn’t all about smart cities and talking toasters – in fact, sometimes the simplest applications can be the most significant. Here are 10 ways that IoT technology is affecting enterprise for the better.

1. Ordering ink
It doesn’t sound like the most exciting use of IoT, but if you’ve ever needed to print an important document, you’ll know exactly why Brother has set up an automatic ink delivery service. Using predictive software, Brother Refresh sends ink cartridges to users before they run out. Although offices rely heavily on email and web based sharing, physically printing information remains an important task. Ensuring ink never runs out is vital to the efficiency of any office environment.

2. Monitoring soil
Agricultural machinery manufacturer John Deere is using IoT to monitor water levels in soil. Through the firm’s agricultural management solutions, farmers and contractors can measure soil saturation and apply this to irrigation decisions. The adoption of innovative technology within agriculture is known as ‘precision farming’ because it does exactly that, enabling farmers to take action based on precise metrics as well as track the results.

3. Waste management
In the UK, The William Tracey Group are pioneering ‘smart recycling’. Their strategy has involved putting RFID tags on wheelie bins and fitting collection trucks with onboard computers. By closely monitoring what waste materials are collected, the company can increase the volume of reusable and recyclable items. The leading recycling management firm hopes that this data will help to meet regulatory demands and protect the environment.

4. Claiming insurance
IoT has disrupted the traditional insurance business model, replacing reaction with anticipation. Connected devices can gather data about policy costs, but also predict when an accident could happen. When this prediction is made, devices can warn owners through notifications or actions. The Nest Thermostat, for example, makes the lights in a house flash to alert customers of an emergency. This has encouraged a more customer centric approach to insurance that favours prevention over cure.

5. Tracking deliveries
Through the development of smart labels, tags and codes, IoT is encompassing much more than just appliances. Through smart packaging, companies like EVRYTHNG have enabled smarter supply chains and established a medium for digital consumer interactions. By fitting packages with codes, labels or tags that can be read by an RFID reader or smartphone, businesses can gather information about the delivery process as well as the people they deliver to. This real time information can be used to improve delivery services, and customer-to-brand engagement.

6. Tracking delivery vans
As well as making sure that customers receive their deliveries, IoT can be applied to delivery vehicles themselves to check mileage, speed and engine health. Connected vans essentially act as a computer on wheels, coordinating operations. Ocado, for example, has equipped their vans with sensors that gather data about location, engine revs, braking, and fuel consumption. This influences the routes that are chosen for future delivery journeys, saving time and fuel.

7. Improving sales
Retail companies are using the Internet of Things to work out which customers are in store, and which products they are most likely to buy. According to Zebra’s 2017 Retail Vision Study, 79 per cent of retailers will be able to do this by 2021. Another example of IoT within retail is beacon technology, which allows businesses to send offers, promotions and coupons to consumers’ smartphones when they are physically close to the store.

8. Collecting flight data
Last year, Virgin Atlantic began to develop a fleet of IoT connected Boeing 787 planes and cargo equipment. The aim is to recognise and respond to mechanical issues before they even happen, improving flight safety and drastically reducing the cost of repairs. Each plane is predicted to produce more than half a terabyte of data per flight – in other words, a lot. This information will also be instrumental in the development of fully autonomous planes.

9. Making energy more efficient
IoT connected energy grids, also known as smart grids, analyse the behaviour of consumers and suppliers to improve the efficiency of electricity use. Failing to provide enough energy, or providing more than is needed, can be damaging to both a company’s image and revenues. Through predictive software, smart grids can harmonise supply and demand. Sensors track the entire plant, sending updates and alerts. Utility companies can set up their own systems, or go to providers like Tendril and Siemens.

10. Following cows
Yes, you read that right. The National Trust has teamed up with BT to create ‘The Internet of Cows’ to log the whereabouts of bovine herds. By tracking the location of the farmyard animals, the project hopes to combat cattle rustlers. In the UK a full grown cow can be worth around £2,000, so they’re worth keeping an eye on. If a cow is stolen, the platform can reveal exactly where they are taken.

While most of the hype around IoT has focused on the creation of smart cities, the technology is already used in countless sectors today. The Internet of Things has brought connectivity and simplicity to businesses, reducing operational costs and encouraging smooth procedures. Often, these applications are far less exciting than connected homes, but are proving to be lucrative investments. As the number of IoT connected devices grows, so will the number of businesses taking advantage of their capabilities. The companies in this list, then, have a considerable head start.