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How the Internet of Things Benefits Human and Social Welfare

Executive insights from 1NCE COO Kim Juchem

The Internet of Things (IoT) makes it possible to connect the unconnected, including devices no one ever expected to feature network connectivity. Indeed, as the IoT expands, nearly every industry has begun to discover its revolutionary power. In many cases, need drives the IoT into places and onto devices with no prior connectivity. The results of these IoT deployments produce results that offer transformative value to society and to individuals.

Smart agriculture forms an increasingly important IoT application, especially in developing countries. Overwatering washes away soil nutrients and wastes resources; underwatering kills crops. Where water is scarce, determining its use in agriculture requires either sending personnel to evaluate where to irrigate or making an estimate of soil conditions. Assessments cost money that a drought-stricken farmer doesn’t have. Estimates offer less accuracy than the farmer’s yields can withstand.

The power of IoT can ease both the financial and the environmental impact of this farmer’s dilemma. Connected remote sensors that measure soil moisture levels tell the farmer where and when the fields need water so scarce resources can be directed where need exists. Other sensors detect soil health and help determine where to apply fertilizer. These technologies constitute what has become known as “precision agriculture.”

Large-scale use of agricultural technology has become commonplace in corporate agribusiness, where the cost of expensive sensors pays off across the scale of the enterprise. On a farm with millions of acres, quantifying water use to reduce waste could save 10 percent of the irrigation cost and reduce an environmental burden in times of drought.

For small farms, however, these smart technologies have just begun to become affordable in recent years. The IoT makes it possible for small farms see a more-detailed picture of the state of their fields; plan, plant and harvest crops; and withstand the effects of drought. For farmers in developing countries, the stakes may be even higher and the results more dramatic. In these situations, inexpensive IoT implementations can increase agricultural output, mitigate famine and enable farmers to make better use of scant resources.

In urban areas, the IoT can address many concerns that relate to livability. For example, IoT-connected trash receptacles can signal when they need to be emptied, assuring that garbage does not overflow into the streets and that pickup routes only visit receptacles that need service. Promoting sanitation contributes materially to quality of life; planning for waste services reduces the costs of delivering them.

The true benefits of IoT devices relate directly to low-bandwidth applications that do not suffer when latency occurs. Latency consists of a delay between the transmission and the receipt of data. If a trash receptacle’s request for service takes a few minutes to reach the waste-management company, that service proceeds correctly nonetheless. IoT connections also offer high efficiency for applications that involve binary states, in which something either is on or off, full or empty, dry or wet, and so on.

IoT deployments typically aim to serve entire businesses or communities, but individuals also can use them for applications such as managing at-home use of resources. A solar panel installed on the garage of a single-family dwelling can signal its power generation and enable residents to decide which household devices to run using that amount of electricity. On a brightly sunny day, the panel could generate sufficient power to run a specific appliance. The solar panel, the appliance and the home’s power-management system would use IoT connectivity to report conditions directly to the resident, using a mobile app to make the information available even when the resident was away from home.

1NCE provides companies that deploy IoT devices with the convenience and savings of a long-term prepaid contract that eliminates monthly data allotments and resolves questions about connectivity costs. At the same time, 1NCE benefits society as a whole with an enhanced range of connected elements that can ease the collection of civic information. Nonetheless, IoT deployments require a commercial benefit for the organizations that deploy them. With a 10-year, 500MB, €10 contract from 1NCE, more commercial and governmental entities can deploy IoT solutions that yield benefits for individuals and society.