Labelled as hyperbole for a long time, the Internet of Things (IoT) has transformed into a real success factor across industries. Even in agriculture - in areas such as animal husbandry and dairy plants - IoT enables the creation of innovative solutions. Indeed, some farming businesses are already using sensors implanted in cows’ necks to gain important actionable insights, vital for improving business operations. The sensors are perfectly safe. They are the size of two Euro coin and send their location to receivers several times per second. This enables farmers to track and locate single animals in real-time, making it simpler to bring them to the milking parlour as well as examine, nurse or tend them.
IoT solutions are delivering entirely new visibility to livestock farming. From the location, data farmers gain relevant insights on every single animal, including movement patterns, milking results or eating behaviour. This visibility of the entire herd enables farmers to act quickly when necessary or to monitor specific animals more closely. And it helps farmers provide the best care for their cattle, while ensuring seamless production processes.
IoT solutions such as this are already serving multiple purposes in all kinds of industries. According to IDC, the number of connected devices will increase by almost 70 per cent between 2015 and 2020 – from 12 billion to over 30 billion IoT devices. Data generated from these “things” is collected and analysed automatically by computers, helping humans – and increasingly self-learning machines – make better decisions based on actionable insights.
IoT: A growing force
Thousands of new use cases are in development right now; innovative ideas that can deliver a real added value to businesses. According to IDC, although most companies are still in the planning and evaluation phases of their IoT projects, 37 per cent have already implemented IoT projects and have thus already taken a big step toward the digitisation of their businesses.
This sort of evolution is essential since technological progress is fast and irreversible. To many companies, it even feels threatening. Yet, the digitisation and IoT hold enormous opportunities and if companies don’t want to fall behind, they need to act. A connected, “intelligent” enterprise connects the physical with the digital world, increasing productivity, efficiency, growth and innovation. Any industry can benefit from the IoT.
The logistics industry
Many logistics businesses use the capacities of their trucks insufficiently, which has a negative impact on their efficiency. With the help of 3D-cameras on the loading docks and suitable analytics software, companies can collect and analyse a variety of data about the loading process and gain valuable information on metrics such as loading density and speed, fill-rate and employees’ loading techniques. When the system detects mistakes or inefficiencies in the loading process, it sends a notification to the dock manager who supervises the process with a tablet or from his desktop. Based on these insights, the manager can intervene if necessary, improve employee training and thus the loading quality.
Other logistics solutions use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons to signal employees whether they are loading parcels into the right truck. Correct loading and improved efficiency helps deliver parcels faster and increase customer satisfaction while reducing costs for fuel and maintenance as well as reducing companies’ environmental impact.
The retail industry
Approximately four per cent of potential revenue is lost every year because stores can’t satisfy customer demand for specific products in their inventories. Fashion retailers are particularly affected by this problem with items often being left or forgotten in the changing rooms or restored in the wrong places. If items were equipped with radio frequency identification tags (RFID), staff would be able to locate items anywhere and at any time, access inventory information in real-time and improve the availability of items on the sales floor. In addition, tagging items helps prevent theft as tagged products can set off an alarm when they are brought near the exit without having passed the checkout first – a theft prevention method that is especially relevant in the luxury sector. Leveraging this technology, retailers can significantly reduce lost merchandise and revenues due to out-of-stocks.
The healthcare industry
The complex network of individual players – doctors, nurses, hospitals, insurance companies – makes consolidating, sharing, and analysing medical data extremely challenging. But the IoT and data analysis can improve information gathering and processing to ensure better care for patients. The Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) in the Netherlands uses an IoT-based time tracking solution for acute myocardial infarction patients. Internet-enabled patient wristbands send heart rate data to doctors, who track the crucial “door-to-balloon” time of a patient with a heart blockage. This covers the period between entering the hospital and surgically removing the blockage. By analysing that data, healthcare providers hope to better understand how quickly patients receive treatment, inform staff planning procedures and provide critical information more accurately to physicians in real-time.
What’s next: An intelligent connected future
These are just a few examples of how the IoT works in today’s connected enterprise. The abundance of available data, thoroughly analysed, enables companies to develop a deeper understanding of their business processes, improve planning and discover new sales opportunities or even business models. IoT solutions create real-time visibility, fostering innovative developments that bring enterprises closer to an intelligent connected future.
Daniel Dombach, EMEA Director for Industry Solutions, Zebra Technologies
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