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A Tale of Smart Cities – Internet of Things

A Tale of Smart Cities – Internet of Things
October 28, 2030
6:45 am

The city of Technopolis is asleep.

Bob’s alarm clock starts ringing, its volume steadily rising. Even after an entire minute of relentless buzzing, Bob hasn’t budged. The clock then sends out signals to the thermostat, the drapes and the overhead lights. The room suddenly becomes chilly, the drapes open up and the lights shine bright.

Bob groans, “Shut up, you stupid thing”

The alarm is still blaring.

Shivering and agitated, Bob turns off the alarm clock. The noise stops, but it’s only after Bob gets out of bed and steps  onto the travellator, that everything else goes back to normal.

There’s a panel on the wall where Bob chooses his destination as ‘Bathroom 1’. Just before he steps into the bathroom, the lights in his bedroom go off and the lights in the bathroom go on. Every small thing contributes to energy saving.

He brushes, flosses and quickly checks his dental health rating. 8/10. Nice.

As is his habit, he steps on to the body analyzer. His heart rate is a little high, so soothing music starts playing in the bathroom. Due to his high BMI, the scale starts suggesting exercise and dietary changes. As usual, Bob cuts it off midway with a gesture. He’s turned off the ‘Report to Doctor’ feature permanently. Who cares about getting fat?
Now that the scale has measured his body temperature, Bob steps into the shower and taps a few buttons. A few minutes later, he’s soaped, shampooed and dried off. An efficient showering mechanism to reduce time and conserve water. Not to forget, the water is at exactly the right temperature. Brilliant, isn’t it?

He walks over to his wardrobe. It dispenses clothes according to the weather.

All dressed up, Bob goes to his kitchen. He gets his coffee from the machine and eats his toast in silence. He’s been living in Technopolis for so long that his previous lifestyle seems impossible now. Just last week, his toaster had detected a problem and sent a diagnostic report to the service center. Bob had received a message on his smartphone asking if he was willing to spend 20$ to fix the toaster. All he did was tap on ‘Yes’ and the payment was made, the toaster was fixed and Bob continued getting his toast every morning.

Cutting through his thoughts, an alarm starts ringing again. Time to go to work.

7:45 am

Hurriedly, he steps out of the house and activates the burglar alarm system. The thermostat, the lights and all other smart devices shut off. Quickly he gets into the backseat of his car, selects his destination and lies down. Bob’s always hated driving. Self-driving cars and traffic flow optimization are a boon. While wondering about why his clock woke him up early, Bob dozes off. He is oblivious to a different and longer route- a route that takes 15 minutes extra- taken by his car due to a faulty bridge on his usual route. Suddenly makes sense, doesn’t it? Anticipatory computing making life easy.

8:30 am

Bob reaches his office building and steps out of the car. His watch tells him the air quality is great. Reduced greenhouse gas emissions, low vehicular pollution and proper waste management for households and industries has resulted in a healthy environment. But due to advanced healthcare and increased life expectancy, the problem of overpopulation remained unsolved.

Bob enters the office building and notices everyone around him is wearing cotton shirts and shorts. “Darned global warming”, he mutters under his breath.

Quickly scanning his fingerprints, he takes the elevator up to his office and gets to work. Bob’s a builder. He and fellow architects spend the entire day working on their newest project- a 300 storied building. It’s in the final stages of completion. Using the HoloLens, the architects explain to him the exact structure of the building and the placement of all the sensors in the infrastructure integrity monitoring system. Every building is made keeping in mind that energy saving and water conservation are crucial.

7 pm

Bob’s ready to leave from work when his phone pings. It reminds him that his wife Betty is coming back in town tonight. Panicking for a moment, he checks his text messages. His phone has already sent Betty a sweet and loving message. Phew. Romance automated.

He goes to the airport to pick her up. She’s already waiting. The trakdot has made tracking luggage so easy. They go out for dinner and then head home.

10 pm

The house has pre-cooled to the right temperature.

Betty goes to bed and Bob plays on his Oculus Rift. Meanwhile, Bob’s car goes to the maintenance center for its monthly servicing.

11 pm

Oculus stops working when it senses that Bob’s eyes are getting strained. Quickly putting his phone on charge, Bob sleeps off.

That, folks, is just another day in the life of a smart city dweller.

Would you want to live like this? Which other IoT gadgets would you want to use? Comment below to let me know!

Note: This is a purely fictional (and perhaps a little far-fetched) story set in the future. The hyperlinks are only to show that similar devices exist in today’s world.

A Tale of Smart Cities – Internet of Things

Internet of Things: A Business Case

The Internet of things has an amazing potential to transform every industry, both locally and globally. Being the CEO or CFO of a business, you must have asked yourself about the prospect of investing in the internet of things at one point or another. Today, I hope you get your questions answered. Being responsible for smooth functioning of an organisation, you must take every decision objectively based on various factors like cost reduction, increase in efficiency, feasibility and return on investment.

After spending countless hours perusing a number of articles and case studies on IoT and thinking about IoT investment pitches, I have compiled a comprehensive list that tells you the need to move to a connected ecosystem. Whether you are a small business owner or the owner of a multi-billion dollar brand, I am positive that you will be able to find something in here that will make you think about an investment in IoT.

Small Businesses
Small Businesses typically range from 15 to 50 employees. Now the big question: Why would a small and medium size business owner need connected solutions?
Take for example a store that sells a variety of clothes. The business relies heavily on supply and demand. If for some reason, the sales of a product ‘A’ fall and that of product ‘B’ increase, the manager has to inform the supplier to maintain the inventory accordingly. The manual solution to this situation will unnecessarily draw in time resources and need a lot of paper work and never-ending phone calls at both ends. How about getting rid of all this hassle for once and for all? Imagine if the sensor placed on the sales register was able to deliver real-time updates to the supplier’s computer, the demands would be adjusted automatically. The supplier will come to know that he has to deliver 30 units of product ‘A’ and 60 units of product ‘B’ in the coming week. This automation eliminates the repeated phone calls to the supplier and reduces the risk of misinformation due to human error.

Heavy industries
Being the CEO or CFO of, say, a heavy industry comprising thousands of employees, you have to factor in several things like feasibility, cost-benefit ratio, return on investment, shareholder sentiment, employee orientation and more before planning to invest in IoT.
In such an industry, IoT can fuel growth by reducing complexity and making daily tasks automated. For example, if you are the CEO of a power company, you could make use of a smart grid to manage the supply. The use of a smart grid can enable easy bi-directional flow of electricity. You could tap into the electricity generated by a solar cell when in need. The use of self-healing networks will reduce pressure on electricians as you can roll-out sophisticated updates to remove a fault. Lastly, when the meters are online, demand management can be done in a more subtle way. Currently, if a client ‘A’ needs more power, you have to fire up the reserve generators to meet the requirement. There is a considerable time lag in this case.  But, if the meters of all your clients are online, you could flash a message on their television sets asking them to reduce consumption for a while or you could control it at your end and meet the requirement of client ‘A’ with no time lag.

Take the example of a car manufacturing company. Car makers like Tesla are proposing to make smart cars which will be made up of connected parts. Such connected parts would be easy to maintain and repair. If the air pressure in one tire is critically low, the driver gets an alert as it is connected before it bursts and leads to an accident. One major criteria in this business is the time spent by the car in the garage for repairs. If the car is made up of connected parts, a majority of its functions will be governed by software rather than hardware. So, for certain ‘repairs’, you could just send a software update to the car over the air and voila! This saves your cost of manual labor and retains customers better.
A certain car maker was able to achieve high standards of security while keeping costs at bay in its attempt to deliver connected devices. The connected car now costs 3-4 times less than that of ICEs to make.​

Another example can be the manufacturing industry where a lot still depends on manual labor. If the machines on the shop floor are not connected, it is difficult to contain losses due to failure or non-performance of a single machine. Before you come to know that a certain machine has malfunctioned, it is too late. On the shop floor, every second counts! Imagine a scenario where machines are connected to each other using sensors. Suppose a machine in middle malfunctions, it can relay the message to the machines immediately after it to stop or slow down work until it is back online. This saves precious money and reduces the risk of sub-standard products. Moreover, maintenance of connected machines is simpler than that or offline ones.
A reputed manufacturing firm was able to achieve over 5% efficiency improvements saving over $200,000 per year by adopting Internet of Things approach.

Infrastructure industry stands to benefit a lot from the internet of things. Think of a scenario where the roads are connected to traffic signals and cars. The sensors attached on the roads will be able to relay information to the cars that run on it, thus providing the driver with real-time updates of possible speed-breakers or potholes on the road. Drivers can also be alerted about possible accidents or sudden halts on the freeway that will reduce accidents and save costs (maybe save lives!). If roads are able to identify the number of cars on the road, they would be able to relay it to the traffic signals. Hence, traffic signal duration can be monitored dynamically rather than in a static fashion.
A similar ideology can be applied to structures like offshore oil drilling platforms where certain loose parts can cause the structure to dismantle and result in casualties. If the same structure was constructed using connected parts, the parts that became loose could communicate with the manufacturer or the operator relaying a distress signal for the same. A recent study assumed certain savings and penetration level for the Internet of Things to estimate around $500 billion in cost savings!

Apart from the above mentioned businesses, I think the government of a country has a role to play here too. The government will be able to lower production costs, increase citizen safety and maintain systematic logs for the same if the businesses go the IoT way. The government can make provisions to provide for certain incentives for businesses adopting the connected approach in their daily running.

In conclusion, I would like to say that investing in the Internet of Things is a safe bet. Like every other new avenue, internet of things also has a heavy investment cost associated with it. But, the benefits from the same can be realized in the long term. To give you further incentive, a recent study predicted that almost 82% of companies will have IoT applications implemented in some way or the other by 2017! (Source  )

So, this can be your opportunity to be a pioneer rather than becoming a follower!

I think I have been able to cover several scenarios to make you think about moving your business to a connected paradigm. If I have missed out any business or any aspect, or if you have any feedback/suggestions, please leave me a comment below.