Here We Goooo…
Welcome back to the second article in the “Beginners’ Guide to IoT”! This week, we’re taking a look at IoT and the Home. We will avoid specific bits of home automation and IoT kit you’ll no doubt have stumbled upon while browsing Amazon (other retailers are available), and instead we will inspect the broader implications for these technologies on the cities and communities our homes are a part of.
If you haven’t had an opportunity to read our first article, check it out here!
After our last article, we had really positive feedback, but one of the key questions that kept cropping up was “ok, I get that IoT is useful, but how exactly is it going to make people healthier and happier?”. This is a fantastic question but unfortunately not one that has a short or straightforward answer. We’re never ones to shy from a challenge, so by the end of this series, we hope to have put forward an understandable and genuinely convincing case for how IoT is going to rock our world (for the better…)!
Through looking at a standard home and how it uses energy and resources from the environment, we can break down IoT use cases into four key areas (we’ll consider each in turn):
1) Energy 💡
The applications of IoT in relation to energy and its usage are vast. Ranging from a small connected temperature sensor for your home to complex devices capable of monitoring a whole power grid.
The premise of using IoT devices in this context is that they can help us better understand our energy usage and subsequently make saving energy a lot easier. Imagine having a network of sensors in your house allowing you to monitor and control everything from the lighting to temperature. With this level of understanding, we become able to optimise our usage of energy, resulting in energy savings, but with no visible change to the operation of the home. Furthermore, in the future we may never actually have to optimise the system manually. All of our appliances may adapt automatically for the most efficient energy consumption, passing on energy savings to the consumer without them having to do anything at all.
A fantastic example of this was given on the IoT Podcast, which if you haven’t listened to, definitely check it out! In this example, an energy company was paying a homeowner to install a smart controller in their house to control their heating. What this then allowed the company to do, was control the house central-heating so that the house could be pre-heated before the arrival of the owner during the day. The primary benefit of this being that the energy used to heat the house was largely generated from solar panels and at a time when demand on the power grid was relatively low. As a result, the cost of energy and subsequently heating the house was able to be reduced and so was the cost to the house owner.
2) The Internet of Trash (Waste and Recycling) 🗑
Through implementing networks of sensors throughout a city (on bins for example), it’s possible to optimise the collection routes taken by waste collection services as well as analyse the types of waste being generated. This technology isn’t theoretical either, Barcelona (arguably the smartest city on the planet) has implemented such a system and as a result is on track to save approximately $4 billion over the next ten years in waste collection services.
With the widespread usage of IoT in this context, we become better able to understand how cities produce, move and treat their waste. By doing so, we can start looking at how to reduce the amount of waste generated and maximise the amount we recycle.
3) Building Sensors 🏢
Building sensors represent a significant category for IoT in the home and can essentially represent anything from sensors that allow you to detect leakages in your pipes, to determining whether or not a building is safe after an earthquake. In the case of the former, commercial devices actually exist and is recommended by some insurers as a way of reducing the price of home insurance.
In the case of earthquakes, there are commercially available small, low-cost alert devices that start to show the power of a distributed network of sensors. While some of these devices are more targeted at businesses, they still demonstrate the potential for deploying a large number of accelerometers (sensors that can detect vibration) over a large area of earthquake-prone land, such that the occurrence and progression of earthquakes can be tracked and predicted. With this in mind, being able to provide people in their homes with an early warning earthquake alert could potentially save many lives. Furthermore, integrating building sensors that allow homeowners to determine the structural safety of their home goes further in protecting people from collapsing buildings as a result of earthquakes or other causes.
4) Water and Sewage 🚰
The consumer-facing benefits of implementing IoT into the home for monitoring water usage are very similar to that discussed above for energy. Installing sensors into a home to monitor the usage of water by various appliances allows homeowners to determine which appliances have exceptionally high-water usage and so may be areas where savings can be made.
The detection of leaks as touched upon above also offers an area where IoT can have a significant impact. In particular, being able to detect leakages in mains water supplies could massively reduce the quantity of water wasted. It is estimated that around 60% of all water wastage globally can be attributed to leakage from water mains. Through deploying leakage sensors across a water network, leaks can be detected and repaired sooner, resulting in a reduction in the amount of water wasted.
On the other side of the equation, the impact IoT can have on the handling of sewage is a little more complicated and less focused on the use of sensors at the house. Instead, companies like IBM have worked with Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP) companies in deploying connected sensor networks across the plant to optimise the environmental conditions for processing sewage. This use case is a little outside of the scope of this article, but if you’re interested, definitely check this article out.
Is That It?!
We could honestly write an entire book on the various applications of IoT in the home, especially once we start considering the applications of IoT in the cities within which our homes reside. But, as this series is about providing an overview of IoT and its applications, we’ll hold off on that one.
We hope you’ve found this article interesting and that you walk away with a great understanding of how IoT might revolutionise our homes (both in a local and a city sense). As usual, we’d love to hear from you!! If you have any thoughts or comments, please leave them below! All advice, encouragement and words of wisdom are appreciated!
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With lots of ❤,