IoT and the Sixth Sense

Our senses enable us to experience and learn from a variety of stimuli in our surroundings. We use our senses to avoid danger as well as to observe, study and make sense of ourselves and our environment. We experience the pleasures of the world through taste, smell, sound, sight and touch.Those who are able to sense what is to come are said to possess ‘the sixth sense’, however some scientists posit we have as many as 21 senses.

These are said to include our ability to sense differences in pressure, passive detection of numbers of things around us, and our sensitivity to the emotions of others. Combining two or more of these senses gives us a more acute awareness of our environment.

We learn from the experiences we gather through our senses and our memory keeps track of how the things that we experience affect us. Learning from our experiences allows us to make better informed decisions, improving the quality of our lives. But what do our senses have to do with the Internet of Things (IoT)?

Deep learning, anyone?
IoT is basically the effort to import some or many of these senses with machine precision into a specific realm or process, connected through the Internet with other similar or different processes to serve one or more purposes in one or more industries with the aim of making our lives better, easier and more productive.

The principle can be simplified this way: a sensor detects a certain measure, such as temperature, and sends a signal if it reaches a threshold so action can be taken by an administrator, which can be a human or a process.

Picture arrays of sensors measuring pressure, temperatures, humidity levels, distances and 3D objects with the addition of Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) and other high precision sensors. These sensors continuously detect and compute other measurements and continuously send huge sets of collected data to a central location where it is combined with other data coming from other arrays of sensors. The data is analyzed and processed to reach certain decisions, greatly reducing costs and input requirements while maximizing revenue, and reducing the need for human intervention.

Now imagine that this central processor integrates deep learning and artificial intelligence (AI) with enhanced recognition of people, animals and objects and even emotions.

Getting a glimpse into how people may feel in a community at a given time is data of immense value to researchers and authorities alike. Units that detect such a wide range of data could be placed across communities and smart cities in order to gather relevant data which authorities can use to monitor everything, from weather conditions and air quality, to traffic safety and power grid status. The technology would aid in crime fighting and would enhance the quality of life for residents of these cities.

Countless use cases
Traffic safety will be significantly enhanced with the help of IoT. Stopping potential accidents before they happen or reducing their numbers is a major objective for the authorities, and can be achieved with the help of IoT based sensors that detect drivers’ behavior. Detecting distracted drivers by processing on-the-road behavior patterns that indicate reckless driving enables the concerned authorities to make swift decisions to address potential threats on the road.

Drone technology, aided by 360 degree cameras and sensors such as LiDAR can provide precision surveys, whether for construction, agriculture or security monitoring purposes, saving time, money and, in the case of security applications, lives.

It is hard to conceive of the myriad uses of IoT and what the results will show, but we are already seeing successful trials with autonomous cars. Furthermore, new experiments in the Internet of Nano Things (IoNT) whereby very small sensors are introduced in people, animals and objects are opening the door for further innovation in connected nanotechnology.

Experimentation with nano-biotechnology, the application of nanotechnology in the human body for healthcare and treatment purposes, has risen tremendously since the early 2000s. Among the numerous advantages of connected nano-biotechnology are improved human and animal health real-time monitoring and enhanced accuracy in machine-led surgery.

As scientists, physicians and lawmakers continue to see the benefits of this technological integration, service providers and technology companies will inevitably realize the surmount ting need to collaborate to bring these technologies to the mass market.

The telecommunication companies’ challenge
Telecommunications companies, service providers in particular, now make their revenue by selling data plans to their customers. That model is already under pressure, and is likely to continue to struggle as more and more data offering players enter the market. These new entrants are not telecommunications companies and they do not intend to profit off selling data; they can afford to offer data at little to no cost to the consumer.

Their revenue stream will come from what’s riding on the ‘data highways’ by way of IoT technology, which has been introduced into nearly every industry, estate and establishment. Advertisements, too, will create significant revenue as they will now have a much wider audience due to the continued expected growth in the global Internet reach.

So, just what are telecommunications service providers to do? The solution is clear: join them. Lead the way in IoT and help define its course. Telecom companies already have some unique advantages on their side: their infrastructure and existing customer reach. Unfortunately, if they do not act swiftly to innovate, they will lose their ground in an evolving and increasingly sophisticated market. Many will be forced to fold or desperately catch up when they begin to experience the pains of market irrelevance and a rapidly reducing customer base amid growing competition.

The satellite industry stands to benefit from IoT
IoT’s success requires connectivity which will provide a further catalyst to connect our world and will necessarily provide more opportunities for telecommunication companies as well as satellite operators where terrestrial connectivity is not feasible. To explain the relation between connectivity requirement for IoT and the impact on increased global access to the Internet, consider the field of security.

More IoT based solutions will be in demand and these solutions will be systems that utilize sensors to detect border intrusion detection, motion detection, 3D image detection, and other information that could give signal to security breaches. Given that vast sections of international borders are not covered by the Internet, there will be a need to provide this coverage whether through terrestrial networks or through the use of satellite communication.

How do satellite operators, system integrators (SI’s) and very small aperture terminal (VSAT) companies take advantage of the impending explosive growth of IoT? They have to be part of this revolution, or risk missing the boat. One use case that demonstrates this is with the insurance industry. Fraudulent claims cost insurance companies tens of billions of dollars annually. Insurance companies who cover the global food trade transported on large cargo ships across oceans have to regularly investigate claims of spoiled food items during ocean travel. These investigations are rather costly and in many cases do not conclusively identify fraud.

Connected sensor systems that measure ideal food conditions from the moment foods are loaded into a container to the moment they are off loaded constantly monitor and communicate data in real time to control centers. This alerts the control center of any changes in the conditions of the food, allowing for timely intervention ensuring transparency in reports of spoilage. This requires continuous connectivity which can only be provided with the help of satellite communication in addition to seamless roaming with various GSM networks installed at container ports.

Satellite operators and system integrators will have to take the initiative to develop their own innovative IoT solutions that integrate with their existing service offering to better serve their customers and ensure they reserve their spot in an IoT world.

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