What is IoT?

A child’s toy, your car, streetlights and even your coffee machine! There isn’t much out there that doesn’t fall under the umbrella of IoT in one form or another. But, with its unbridled influence, the inevitable question for many of us arises “what is IoT?”.

Electronics Solutions

What is IoT?

IoT has long been touted as the way of the future but what does it mean and how does it work? If we were to take a shortcut and consult the google gods, as most of us do, you would be presented with this:

“The Internet of things describes physical objects that are embedded with sensors, processing ability, software, and other technologies that connect and exchange data with other devices and systems over the Internet or other communications networks…”

– overly complex google definition

And, like many google definitions, we find ourselves looking like this corgi. More confused than when we started.

In this article, we will break down this unnecessarily complex topic into plain English and provide you with real-life examples of its utilisation in our daily lives.

What you will get from this article

  1. What is IoT?
  2. How does it work?
  3. Why IoT is so popular?
  4. Examples of its use in industry

What is IoT - Explained simply

For a more concise definition, I asked our director and computer engineer Cameron for his response:

“IoT refers to all of the physical devices out there that are connected to the internet.”

– Cameron | Director SAPHI

IoT encompasses just about anything with electronic components – the smartwatch on your wrist, the phone in your pocket, and the TV in your living room are all things that can be connected to the internet. Hence the name Internet of Things. But at SAPHI, we like to refer to these things as ‘Ground-to-Cloud devices‘.

What do you mean by 'Ground-to-Cloud'?

We can conceptualise IoT devices as those things that capture data from the real world (the ground) and make it available to users anywhere, globally, via some medium (the cloud).

Aside from just collecting and transmitting data, Ground-to-Cloud devices can be customised to manipulate their environment based on that shared data. For example, using the right equipment, we could trigger a mining vehicle to stop when a technician or another vehicle is detected within its exclusion zone. It goes without saying what value this would provide in terms of safety.

How Hot Is IoT Right Now?

As of this writing, it is prolific. In 2021, the number of IoT devices globally surpassed 12.3 BILLION! And it is not showing any signs of slowing down, with estimates predicting this number to explode to more than 27 billion by 2030!

Why is IoT so popular?

There is no single reason. It comes down to a multitude of factors. However, a key driver of its proliferation is its ability to facilitate sweeping improvements cross-industry. You may have heard that “Data is the new gold”, and right now, we are experiencing a gold rush of global proportions, and we have only just scratched the surface in terms of its potential. 

IoT facilitates data-based decision making, providing managers with the raw facts required to make sensible business decisions that will have an impact.

So, it is as simple as buying some sensors and plugging them in?

Unfortunately, no. 

There is a bit of effort required in setting up an effective IoT network that will provide you with actionable information. IoT devices are, at their very core, blank slates of potential. They require the right configurations, deployment conditions and management to produce consistent results.  

Beware The Claims of IoT Companies

You cannot have an industry boom without encountering your fair share of snake oil salespeople, and this goes doubly for the world of IoT. A quick google search of IoT devices will throw you millions of results, all claiming to be the be-all and end-all. The problem is that these devices are rife with inflated claims of capability. Put simply; the real-world results don’t match the claims on the box. 

Don't be deterred though!

The fact that there exist poor quality IoT products in a world where everyone is trying to make a quick buck should come as no surprise, but with a few nifty tips and tricks, you can quickly learn to sift through the noise and find the right fit for you. You can find these tips in our previous blog post, ‘What to consider when choosing a sensor‘.

Is IoT Worth It?

Well, that depends. IoT can be either a bringer of joy or stress. It depends on your use case, sensor selection and technical capabilities on-hand to oversee its deployment.

When done right, IoT has a multitude of benefits that can see improvements in process efficiencies, safety and the bottom line. Below are just a few of the most common benefits we see when deploying networks for our clients.

Improved Asset Utilisation

Relatively inexpensive integrated IoT systems can provide your management team with tangible insights into the organisation’s heartbeat. We can garner insights into the downtime of machinery, their performance, health, frequency of use, etc.

With your finger on the pulse of your assets, it becomes easy to make informed data-based decisions that improve workplace efficiency and view their impact in real-time.

Improved Labour Utilisation

If assets are the heartbeat, your staff are the veins and arteries keeping everything alive and moving. With some unique smarts integrated into existing business practices, we can accurately monitor the flow of activities within the organisation to identify bottlenecks.

Are our forklift operators struggling to find pallets? Do our trucking fleets take the most efficient routes to clients? Are parts and systems remaining idle for too long? 

In parallel with asset tracking, these insights provide holistic insights into the overall efficiency of your company. With the guesswork removed, your team will have the data required to improve practices and keep your competitors at bay.

Predictive Maintenance

By integrating proven industrial machine learning systems into your machinery, your team will receive notifications of impending errors days in advance, giving you plenty of time to address issues before they become catastrophes. 

Having spent a lifetime working with large scale mining machinery and manufacturers, we understand all too well that when assets are down, money is burning. This is why we have invested heavily in procuring, assessing and integrating the most advanced machine learning systems from around the world to give our industrial client’s the benefits of bleeding-edge technology to maximise labour and asset utilisation. 

Strategic Advantage

The most successful companies in the world are the ones with the most actionable data in-front of them for continuously improving practices, products, and systems. With the implementation of targeted IoT initiatives (we can help to develop these), the strategic conversations move away from “What should we do?” to “This is what we need to do to improve”.

Key Take Aways

IoT is not a panacea in and of itself; it requires key use case development, vetted systems and a dedicated team to deploy and manage it for long-term success. Whilst this sounds like a lot of effort, the advantages provided for many industries greatly outweigh the investment. 

Furthermore, you don’t have to do it yourself! We have a team of expert engineers available to guide your journey into this space to ensure investment is maximised and outcomes are plentiful. 

Thank you for reading!

Thank you for reading this article. We hope it gave you some valuable insights into IoT.

Need support?

To see if your team can benefit from the implementation of IoT systems, reach out to our experienced engineers at contact@saphi.com.au for a quick chat. 

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