From firefighters to retailers: Internet of Things outside the home

As I mentioned earlier when covering the Tiny Connected Home, Intel is betting big on the Internet of Things (IoT). With technology that tracks vitals becoming so cheap, one of the biggest barriers to mass adoption now is our own creativity. You’ll quite frequently hear IoT-style devices discussed in vague terms with specifics pretty light on the ground: so much data can be quite intimidating.

From firefighters to retailers: Internet of Things outside the home

But at Intel’s IoT day in San Francisco, there were a number of simple real-world case studies on hand to demonstrate the potential. Here are some of the most memorable.

Keeping firefighters safe and accounted forkeeping_firefighters_safe

With any kind of dangerous work, the potential benefits of technology are great. Honeywell was on hand to demonstrate their proof-of-concept wearable that provides crucial data for those brave enough to throw themselves into dangerous environments, like firefighters.

With a number of sensors attached to the workers’ bodies, location, heart rate and stance (crouching, running, downed) can be monitored remotely, alongside temperature and carbon-monoxide levels, ensuring appropriate action can be taken. It’s rare that a wearable can be described as “potentially life saving”, but this is definitely one of those times.

Ensuring crops have the perfect environment to thrive

From human to plant health: agriculture is an area that really could benefit from IoT sensors, as the proof-of-concept display above proves. The miniature greenhouse has a number of sensors in place, ensuring that the plants inside – if they were real – would get just the right amount of light, water and heat they need to thrive.

If a sensor detects an irregularity, there’s no need to trouble a farmer: the windows can automatically pop open, a fan can whirr into life, or a light misting can be sprayed from above to ensure the crops remain in tip-top condition.

Checking clothes don’t go walkaboutslevis_map

Currently being trialed in San Francisco’s flagship Levi Strauss store not too far from the presentation was another interesting IoT case study. Every item of clothing has an RFID chip in place, and this combined with sensors placed throughout the store, quickly informs staff when items are in the wrong place, ensuring that lost sales are recovered without forcing customers to search high and low for their illusive clothing.

Making sure children don’t stray too far awaychild_angel

Like clothes, children also have a habit of wandering off if not kept under a watchful eye, and Child Angel is looking to ensure that every parent’s worst fear is never realised. A wearable for kids aged 3-11, the colourful device sits on the child’s wrist and comes with an array of sensors to ensure they don’t stray beyond perimetres specified by the parents. The battery lasts for around two days, and parents are notified if the band is removed. The faceplate is changeable, with designs focus-grouped on children, to ensure that the Child Angel doesn’t present a child-sized fashion faux pas.

Saving (and raising) money for cities

Towns and cities can also benefit from the low cost of sensors, and at a round-table discussion two excellent examples came up: one to save money, and one to reclaim lost city funds.

The first involves street lights: necessary for public safety, but hugely wasteful in their own way. Most streets don’t require illumination for the majority of the night, but are on anyway, wasting electricity, and costing both taxpayers and the planet. TVILight fixes this problem, detecting nearby walkers and increasing the brightness only when necessary, ensuring that streetlights last longer, burn through less electricity and reduce costs by up to 80%.

Slightly more underhand are the parking sensors being used in Melbourne, Australia. Sensors buried underneath parking spaces register when a car is parked above them, and are linked to the ticket machines nearby. After a predetermined grace period, parking metre readers are alerted to vehicles overstaying without paying, letting them zone in on fee-dodgers, rather than checking vehicles on the off chance.

This is just the tip of the iceberg for city planning. Google already provides times when stores are busy based on smartphone data, so the potential for building a city from scratch with everything we know about human behaviour is immense. But as with most IoT tech, more often than not the solution is adapting the tech to fit our older “dumb” devices than to throw everything out and start again.

READ THIS NEXT: Welcome to Intel’s tiny connected home of the future

Lead image: Intel Free Press

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