At last month’s Sigfox Connect, Benjamin Mazet, Product Management Director at Sigfox presented on “Key trends that will drive IoT technology development.”
He believes that the key challenge for the next 18-24 months is to improve IoT technology in order to fully benefit from the digital transformation provided by this new industrial revolution.
The IoT is considered part of the fourth, or new, industrial revolution by connecting the physical and the digital Worlds. By offering more visibility of the field, it is an entirely new market in its own right, but it also delivers enhanced efficiencies to many existing concerns, allows better use of business and finite resources, and can protect against business and environmental risks.
In his presentation he examined trends in IoT, illustrated by use cases that uncover how IoT devices and technology are developing to meet these industrial, logistical, and environmental needs.
Asset tracking and tracing
IoT and connected geolocation devices offer various benefits and use cases for many different industries. As IoT technology matures, smarter devices are being developed to match customer and business needs: Use case specific devices are emerging and being refined, some of these deliver complex requirements, such as analyzing the details of industrial workflows and supporting their optimization. Other, simpler IoT products are being developed to serve industries which require lower cost and disposable devices to track shipments where packaging is unlikely to ever be returned to its originating destination.
The IoT facilitates the tracking and tracing of assets from originating point to final destination. This is applicable to the movement of owned assets as well as to goods that are sold and shipped from supplier to end buyer. IoT enabled tracking devices combining several location services give complete visibility during an asset’s journey inside and outside customer locations. Should an issue arise, say the asset deviates from its expected route, stakeholders are immediately aware of where the asset is and can work on a retrieval or rectification solution instead of spending time locating the asset. The focus is on the solution rather than the problem.
Transportation losses are minimized, and customer experience is improved. The growth of simple, disposable devices is applicable here as IoT will be used not just to track large assets, but now for smaller and multiple deliveries, even so far as being used for postal deliveries. Single-use sensors can also be used to record and notify of a delivery acknowledgement, ensuring customer and seller are aware of safe receipt.
In industries like the automotive sector, returnable industrial packaging will be more commonly used and reusable IoT-enabled trackers can be more frequently deployed: In addition, to prevent any leakage in the production, trackers will provide a deeper visibility on packaging usage. Data from IoT devices will optimize the rotation rate of packaging between suppliers and car makers, ultimately reducing wastage and any related investment.
Environmental monitoring of transported goods
A step further within asset movement and logistics is the use, not just of location tracking, but of environmental sensors. IoT devices can monitor temperature and humidity in real time, protecting environmentally sensitive shipments. Single use IoT sensors can be integrated into pallets of milk, for example, ensuring correct storage and providing a limited number of relevant messages to stakeholders. This environmental monitoring use-case may be particularly relevant to 2021 as vaccine makers begin to ship valuable, temperature sensitive, COVID-19 vaccines.
IoT for environmental monitoring also extends to stationary devices such as smoke detectors and carbon monoxide monitors. Users can receive recurring messages to confirm a device is working appropriately as well as alerts to their devices should environmental changes be detected. Unlike conventional devices, users can receive notifications even if they are away from home, or the sensor location.
Smart energy grids
IoT also has a role to play in the transformation and improvement of our energy grids. IoT enabled smart metering can manage flows of energy into and from power grids efficiently in real time. IoT can prevent grid failure, protect against energy theft, and enable homeowners to send excess renewable energy from their solar panels back to the grid. It can also enable the effective charging of smart vehicles.
Lifecycle and use specific devices
One trend that will solidify in 2021 is the development of IoT devices that are more use-specific, devices that will have life cycles and capabilities specific to their deployment. Single-use sensors will be simpler, with limited functionality and will be programmed to transmit only the messages required for their purpose directly impacting the lifetime of devices as well.
In this race to simplification, IoT devices could be simpler by limiting or preventing the integration of sensors. This could be possible by using simple assets in key places broadcasting contextual information such as the temperature to devices nearby. This “edge approach” could drastically simplify device design and reducing its cost.
IoT security and fleet monitoring
Chipset and device makers are already pushing the limits of new IoT devices to circa 10 years of life duration and enabling greater intelligence in devices for better environmental monitoring functionality and higher security.
Indeed, in 2021 the security of IoT devices will be paramount in their development to prevent cyber attacks and misuse. There are three elements of security that must be considered, the authentication of the device, its overall integrity, and the privacy of the data that is being transferred. Payload encryption will be needed across infrastructure in an end to end approach from the device to the customer application to ensure data confidentiality.
Alongside device development, software and management dashboards will improve as well as diagnostic tools to ensure abnormal events and trends are effectively recorded, notified, and managed. The long-term challenge will be to maintain those large fleets of devices in optimized operational conditions for years so that they continue to retrieve information. Being able to adapt the behaviour of hundreds of thousands devices in a few days will be the kind of massive operations required to fully benefit from the power of the IoT.
Sigfox is one of the world’s leading service providers for IoT. As well as IoT devices it is creating a single global 0G network to connect the physical world with the digital universe in order to power industrial transformation. Sigfox is already involved in projects to protect rhinos in Africa, to monitor seismic activity in Mexico, in a forest fire protection system, and in a project in Latin America to improve solar power generation, to name just a few.
The near future for IoT will see simplified devices, such as those developed by Sigfox partners, which will optimize the total cost of ownership (TCO) for customers. Simplified and disposable devices will be designed specifically to accommodate the number of messages a device needs to transmit during its life cycle. The use of such technology to track business assets as they are transported or transferred will accelerate rapidly as the benefits are enjoyed by businesses and their customers. Finally, IoT manufacturers will be working diligently on device security to protect against misuse and cyber-attacks, and to ensure device optimal operational use as millions of IoT enables machines and trackers begin to be deployed.