IoT devices can include smartphones and smartwatches, but the term usually refers to technology such as smart home devices and industrial sensors. IoT devices constantly communicate with other devices. An IoT sensor, for example, does not just collect data; it autonomously and wirelessly reports gathered data back to an IoT gateway.
IoT devices may also report data to other sensors and automation tools. An employee could monitor how an automated assembly line performs in real time without visiting the factory floor.
As the IoT industry continues to mature, the world is sure to see new use cases for this communications technology and expanded functionality for current devices. Knowing specifics of IoT devices and their use cases can help IT admins use the best-suited software and policies to ensure IoT device deployments run smoothly, easily integrate with older infrastructure and are secure.
1. Smart home devices
Smart home devices are the most common consumer IoT products. AI assistant speakers, smart locks and connected appliances are just some smart home device examples that help people live more efficient, connected lives.
An IoT-connected fridge can tell homeowners when they have low stock of specific groceries. Similarly, an IoT doorbell could sense when someone approaches the front door, even before they ring the bell.
Smart home devices have faced some controversy regarding security. Hackers have strategies to take advantage of these devices and gain access to homes. Smart locks are particularly infamous for smart home hacking. These devices can be easy to hack because anyone can access a smart home device with a simple passcode or the tap of a button in a smartphone app.
2. Industrial sensors
Industrial IoT (IIoT) supports use cases in automation, safety and data collection. With industrial sensors, companies can gain valuable insights and capabilities in the workplace, warehouses, manufacturing plants and construction sites.
Industrial vehicles and machinery can have IIoT sensors that track performance and output. Such sensors also enable predictive maintenance, which prevents expensive breakdowns, costly repairs and downtime.
IoT sensors also monitor various processes, such as inventory management in warehouses. Organizations of any size can implement digitized inventory management with IoT sensors that monitor item status and condition. The most tech-literate companies have been known to double their earnings per employee compared to companies without much tech buy-in.
3. Industrial robots
Industrial organizations also use IoT technology in robots. For example, many warehouses use autonomous courier robots. These robots have IoT sensors that report their location and performance on the warehouse floor. IoT sensors help with navigation and can scan QR codes throughout the warehouse to guide their route.
In industrial fields, IoT robots can fill in labor gaps and improve operational efficiency. Managers must train employees on how to safely work alongside these robots. Inadequate training may lead to accidents or misuse of the robots, even though they can largely function autonomously.
Managers must ensure they choose the right connectivity option. Large facilities like warehouses may require a specialized approach to achieve reliable connectivity throughout. Because Ethernet, Wi-Fi, low-power WAN, satellites and cellular networks can all support IoT devices, organizations must research what option is best for their robotic deployment.
4. Healthcare devices
In healthcare facilities, IoT devices are crucial to patient care. IoT medical devices help nurses remotely monitor patient vitals so that nursing teams can provide better care to their departments.
Healthcare IoT technology can also monitor patient health outside the doctor's office. Remote at-home monitoring helps protect patients and avoid repetitive, costly hospital visits. Even smartwatches have become valuable medical IoT tools that provide electrocardiograms and accurately track vital signs, such as heart rate and blood glucose.
Reliability and security are the main challenges of IoT healthcare devices. Like any IoT device, the convenience of connectivity leaves these medical devices vulnerable to hacking. Additionally, if the device loses its connection or malfunctions, it must have strong safeguards in place to prevent patient harm.
Healthcare providers must have strong cybersecurity protocols to protect the sensitive patient data that IoT medical devices collect.
5. Connected cars
IoT has continuously evolved in the automotive industry. The technology is in vehicle entertainment, navigation and maintenance monitoring systems.
Adoption of IoT for automotive use cases will only grow as autonomous vehicles become more advanced and commonplace; many consumers now have advanced driver assistance systems that sense nearby cars or can even help parallel park the car.
IoT makes life easier for both drivers and vehicle manufacturers. With IoT, a car's entertainment or driver assistance system can receive remote updates without any need for the driver to take the car to the dealership.
Over-the-air software updates also enable car manufacturers to stay ahead of potential security risks. Unfortunately, IoT-enabled vehicles have been hacked, including rare instances while on the road.