We live in an ever increasing digital society with an always on mentality. Cities and governments have the social responsibility to bridge the digital divide that’s occuring and ensure internet access to all their citizens. The private sector focuses on delivering a return for investors while citizens are expecting improvements in their quality of life.
To achieve these goals, we have to come up with a new way of doing business. We need ‘Uber-like’ innovation to completely rethink and disrupt the current status quo and the business-as-usual methodology. Let’s look at four examples of how IoT can drive innovations in our society when put to the task:
Government. Many cities are rolling out digital governmental services. For example, Dubai enables citizens to attend traffic court using a video call on a smartphone. This makes the process more efficient because people don’t have to wait for their turn in the courtroom and it also eliminates the journey to the court building, which can reduce traffic congestion.
Healthcare. The convenience of online doctor consultations, sometimes referred to as telemedicine, not only extends medical care to more people around the globe in a faster, more efficient way, but also better utilizes the resources of healthcare specialists. Personal IoT devices, such as smart watches, can now track health statistics 24/7, alert users to abnormalities, and signals early warning signs to users and healthcare providers. There are several documented cases of smart watches notifying users of a medical condition that saved the person’s life.
Education. The digital education experience allows users to tailor their classroom setting and content delivery to best suit their needs and provide them with instant access to the best resources on a global scale. Without having to travel, students can learn from the best minds around the world starting in grade school all the way through higher education. O f all students in the U.S. taking at least one online class, 48% were taking only online classes, according to a study conducted by Allen and Seaman.
Hospitality. Hotels are rolling out an IoT-based, automated digital experience for customers to get room access, control lighting and HVAC, and access entertainment through their smartphones. This not only improves the user experience, but also the retention rate and customer loyalty.
The “prevailing drivers of smart hospitality building deployments appear to revolve around making the experience within hospitality buildings more convenient for guests and improving the operational efficiency of the hospitality building with respect to those using the building either as a guest or third-party business,” according to a recent iGR report.
How do we get there?
IoT depends on reliable, high-speed communications infrastructure. If we have reached the point where customers expect ubiquitous broadband services, we need to leverage all technologies to deliver a seamless experience. This means converging wireless and wireline networks and ensuring that these networks are available wherever needed.
For example, the next generation 5G millimeter wave network will require a tremendous amount of backhaul fiber, and we cannot build this network the same way we deployed the 3G, 4G or LTE networks of the past. Due to the densification requirements — predicted at roughly 100 times that of 3G networks — we need to rethink the way we will deploy these networks. Shared infrastructure, such assmart poles, digital street furniture and existing utility and cable company access, all need to be part of the discussion.
As we start preparing for the electrical vehicle evolution, we need to use this as an opportunity to be smart about preparing our streets for the next generation of IoT applications. Most of the world’s leading car manufacturers have already started rolling out plans to convert their automobile offerings from internal combustion to battery-operated vehicles.
The EV charging infrastructure required to put these vehicles on our roads will be of epic proportions, and a lot of new construction will offer us the opportunity to leverage this work and prepare for a connected future. Think of the city street where you park your car every day: What upgrades need to take place to build charging stations or even future inductive charging infrastructure there?
When digging up the streets, we can add extra capacity by adding conduit and fiber to the shared infrastructure and incorporate these charging stations to smart poles or digital kiosks.
Another requirement will be incorporating AI technology into new applications. AI can use data from existing or multiple new sensors and combine these inputs to derive more insightful outcomes.
For example, some companies use the public Wi-Fi network in Metro stations to gather crowed heatmapping to better understand commuters’ habits and improve train schedules without the privacy concerns associated with video analytics.
Another example of shared infrastructure for IoT is vapor detection sensors inside Wi-Fi access points in school bathrooms to address the vaping epidemic without infringing on privacy rights.
From the above examples, it’s clear that our lives are becoming more digitally connected and this trend will increase exponentially as we ramp hypoconnectivity technologies, such as 5G, IoT and private networks. Connectivity is the key foundation that will enable all these efforts, and society needs to start viewing connectivity through the same lenses as we do our other utilities, such as water, electricity and gas.
Little by little, we are building an always on future and layering on applications that improve peoples lives, but we need to remember that it starts with putting infrastructure in the right places.
Although we haven’t yet seen an ‘Uber-like’ innovation in infrastructure, don’t be surprised if the new demands from IoT applications bring disruption and innovation.
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