IoT and Smart Places: Solutions for the New Normal
This year’s challenging business environment is driving interest in Internet-of-Things and Smart Places technology. There are a lot of long-term benefits to using these technologies as business recovers and reassesses the reality that we find ourselves in.
Focus is shifting away from innovation for innovation’s sake, towards stabilization and optimization – trimming costs, improving operational data and insights, and increasing operating capacity while prioritizing employee and customer health.
This blog post was created to help you uncover where you can optimize your operations using IoT solutions. We then provide you with key questions that you need to ask to make sure that these solutions make sense for your organization. Running proof-of-concept projects in order to test specific business cases for these applications has become simple, so we can validate their value as the world reopens.
Smart Building Technology
Smart Buildings is a term used for spaces that integrate a mix of individual sensors, devices and gateways – such as smart cameras, occupancy and environment sensors, asset tags, wearables, automated controls, and HVAC – networked into automated solutions in a connected environment.
Many new buildings are being designed with IoT integration, while numerous options are available to retrofit existing buildings. An emerging trend is towards extending Smart Building connectivity with external services, including metropolitan transport systems, Smart Vehicles and personal sensors, leading towards the concepts of Smart Cities. For example, connecting sensors in waste disposal bins to the local waste management service to enable just-in-time collection, driving more efficient service utilization and reducing costs.
Generally speaking, sensors, controls and retrofit Building Automation Systems (BAS) reduce energy consumption by 20-30% for small and medium-size commercial buildings. US Department of Energy estimates from 2015 showed a high of 46% savings using the best technology available at the time. Simply installing occupancy sensors in hotel rooms can provide 12-24% savings on HVAC and 16-22% on lighting. Cloud-based analytics overlaying existing “traditional” BAS can provide an additional 5-10% cost savings.
Smart buildings integrate discrete use cases into intersecting applications to provide added value in terms of efficiency and safety.
An integrated Smart Building solution also provides added value in such areas as security, traffic and occupancy analytics, emergency alerts and pathfinding, with novel applications emerging when use cases intersect. For example, energy-saving smart lighting controls can be used for emergency lighting, wayfinding and signage. Wearables and sensors used to automate building services can be used for access control, to provide occupancy/traffic analytics and simplify headcounts during emergency evacuations, and verify that specific spaces have been fully evacuated.
Healthcare IoT: Automating Hospital Services
IoT in healthcare has spawned a secondary definition for devices targeted at the industry – the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT). These devices can autonomously monitor personal health data such as temperature, blood pressure, pulse etc., with implantable ‘under the skin’ devices recently coming into their own. Many healthcare providers are now adopting video conferencing technology in combination with data from IoMT devices to enable social distancing between patient and provider.
While hospitals have similar use cases to Smart Buildings, recent events have led to healthcare executives and administrators having to balance unprecedented constraints as they struggle to increase productivity and keep staff from falling sick. Meeting the need for patient-provider separation and contactless solutions means leveraging advanced technologies such as autonomous robotics, remote data collection, and computer vision. Hospitals need robots to bring patients food and medicine, monitor their diagnostics, and disinfect hospital wards.
Solutions more often seen in the world of Industrial IoT can optimize healthcare operations. Predictive maintenance sensors and software can prevent shortages/outages of functional equipment, reduce operating costs, and automate ordering of consumables and spare parts. Using low-power Bluetooth sensors for asset tracking can save time in locating equipment and consumables in hospitals, as well as provide data throughout the supply chain, alerting vendors and administrators to bottlenecks, shortages, and delays.
Industrial IoT Solutions: Added Value During Disruptions
As mentioned above, a major application of IIoT is predictive maintenance solutions that use sensors and machine learning to remotely monitor equipment. For example, Luxoft worked with Vantage Power to develop a telemetry platform for electric buses that provides a real-time overview of each vehicle’s powertrain components, including batteries, control systems, engines, motors, and electric generators. This solution streamlined aftermarket support and reduced operating costs by 80%.
This use case has a wide range of applications, from manufacturing to logistics to urban transport. Industrial IoT companies also offer solutions for asset tracking and supply chain management. Low-cost, low-power sensors can efficiently track inventory and cargo. This has application both to goods at port and to mobile equipment and consumables in manufacturing, warehouse, and retail settings.
Geofencing, Wearables and Sensors: Real Solutions for Contact Tracing and Infection Control
As large employers restore operations, coronavirus-specific data collection and risk management come to the fore. Managing shift changeovers, maintaining social distance and occupancy limits, and contact tracing in case of infection can all be simplified using wearables, particularly ones that gather information on other wearables they come in close contact with. This can take place without location-tracking or gathering personal data, ensuring employee safety without compromising privacy.
А consistent trend in IoT-based coronavirus response has been in using cloud-connected thermal cameras to identify individuals with raised temperatures. Though they cannot prevent the spread of COVID-19 per se, these systems can provide employees and customers affirmation that a company is mitigating risks related to the spread of illness, as well as early indication that they should get tested or self-quarantine.
Smarter = Better?
Your specific IoT solution depends on your business case. Despite its cachet, IoT isn’t magic – it’s simply a pathway to data insights and automation. The first thing to ask is whether it applies to your industry – what kinds of insights IoT can provide and what you can do with them. If that can provide measurable benefits – for example, by letting you know when to proactively service expensive equipment, by shutting down building utilities in unoccupied spaces, or by tangibly improving employee health and safety, then it makes sense to start calculating ROI.
In order to evaluate the potential ROI from an IoT project, use the identified benefits and outline three scenarios – ideal, compromised and minimal, each representing different levels of cost savings resulting from the data, optimization, or automation.
For example, assume that an IoT system can identify inefficiencies 10% faster, saving the company X dollars in each instance. In the ideal scenario, the system would catch 95% of the inefficiencies, in the compromised scenario it would catch 90%, and in the minimal one it could catch 50%. This provides a range of the possible ROIs, creating a baseline for conversations about justifying the investment and calculating impact on operations.
Assuming the concept has already been proven – true for Smart Buildings, predictive maintenance, and a host of other IoT use cases, less so for more novel ones – a pilot project would then be the way to move forward.
Luxoft recommends inexpensive piloting using out-of-the-box kits that easily integrate with SaaS platforms to allow quick setup and intuitive management. Depending on your use case, a kit needs to allow teams to gather temperature, occupancy and activity data, include action buttons to trigger configurable alerts and automations, or provide easy-to-configure wearables and beacons. For example, Rigado’s recently released Presto Kit enables same-day on-site piloting of Smart Building concepts by creating a real-time data pipeline right out of the box.
The need to reassess IoT and data analytics programs is increasing as demand for better operational data and insights increases. In the same way that a successful IoT system can produce insights to improve operations, intermediate steps, like pilot IoT projects, can provide the data needed to construct the optimal IoT solution for your specific business needs. Successful IoT implementations depend on the hands-on expertise of a trusted technology partner. You can validate your ideas by speaking with an expert from our global IoT practice.
A critical reminder is that, as billions of connected devices proliferate across industries, there’s an ever-greater need for IoT security solutions that mitigate the inherent risk of sensors, gateways, networks, and personal information. When deploying systems that connect people and operational technology, we advise that attention be paid to security and privacy standards.
Alex Tilcock is the lead solution architect for Luxoft’s Big Data Practice. Alex has a passion for data-driven technology, technical innovation, information architecture and strategic solutions that work in today’s real-time data environments. Alex has 30+ years’ experience in large-scale systems integration and commercial software development, with a major emphasis on data. He has been a key contributor on a diverse set of solutions, from simple desktop applications for a few users to global government real-time intelligence systems. Alex also has extensive experience and certifications in open source and Hadoop stacks.