Top 8 IoT applications and examples in business
IoT use cases can vary greatly based on the industry and organization, but several business applications of the technology are gaining momentum.
Enterprise spending on IoT projects is expected to ramp up this year.
Research firm IDC, in its "Worldwide Internet of Things Spending Guide," predicted a double-digit growth rate in 2021, with a compound annual growth rate of 11.3% from 2020 to 2024. IDC cited healthcare, insurance and education as leaders in IoT spending.
Researchers at Statista predicted similarly high growth, saying the global IoT market for end-user offerings was expected to grow from $212 billion in 2019 to $1.6 trillion by 2025.
Statista also predicted there will be 75 billion IoT devices in use by 2023, generating 79.4 zettabytes of data.
Those IoT connections are spanning across the globe and throughout industries, as well as permeating individual homes, offices and vehicles, with the most prominent applications of IoT technologies falling into the following categories.
1. Connected vehicles
Autonomous vehicles are one of the most notable examples of IoT in action. Self-driving cars and trucks use a slew of connected devices to safely navigate roadways in all sorts of traffic and weather conditions. The technologies in use include artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled cameras, motion sensors and onboard computers.
IoT connections also exist on conventional vehicles, with manufacturers installing connected devices to monitor performance and manage computerized systems.
Commercial fleets such as municipal buses and corporate delivery trucks are often fitted with additional IoT technologies, such as connected systems to monitor for safety issues. Personal cars and trucks can be fitted with similar technology, which frequently comes from insurance companies, that collects and transmits telemetry data to verify good driving habits.
2. Traffic management
Roadway infrastructure has become more connected in the past decade as well, with cameras, sensors, traffic light controls, parking meters and even smartphone traffic apps transmitting data that's then used to help avert traffic jams, prevent accidents and ensure smooth travel.
For example, cameras detect and transmit data about traffic volume to central management groups that can then analyze the information to determine whether, what and when mitigation steps must be taken.
Sensors on traffic signals can detect varying levels of light in the sky and adjust the brightness of the signals, helping ensure they're always visible to drivers.
Connected devices can be used to detect open parking spaces and transmit that information to kiosks or apps to alert drivers.
Monitors on bridges collect and transmit data for analysis about their structural health, alerting authorities to maintenance needs before there's any sort of failure or issue.
3. Smart grids
Utilities are also using IoT to bring efficiency and resiliency to their energy grids.
Historically, energy flowed one way along the grid: from the generation site to the customer. However, connected devices now enable two-way communication along the entire energy supply chain: from generation through distribution to use, thereby improving the utilities' ability to move and manage it.
Utilities can take and analyze real-time data transmitted by connected devices to detect blackouts and redirect distribution, as well as respond to changes in energy demand and load.
Meanwhile, smart meters installed at individual homes and businesses provide information about both real-time use and historical usage patterns that customers and the utilities can analyze to identify ways to improve efficiency.
4. Environmental monitoring
Connected devices can collect IoT data that indicates the health and quality of air, water and soil, as well as fisheries, forests and other natural habitats. They can also collect weather and other environmental data.
As such, IoT delivers the ability to not only access significantly more real-time data about the environment at any given time and place, but it also enables a range of organizations in various industries to use that data to glean actionable insights.
Such information can help government agencies better monitor and even predict natural disasters, such as tornados, as well as better manage and protect land and wildlife populations. Companies can use this data to better limit their carbon footprint, more effectively document compliance with environmental regulations and/or more efficiently plan around weather conditions that affect their business.
5. Smart buildings and smart homes
Property owners are using the power of IoT to make all sorts of buildings smarter, meaning they're more energy-efficient, comfortable and convenient, as well as healthier and possibly safer, too.
An IoT ecosystem in a commercial building could include monitoring of the HVAC infrastructure that uses real-time data and automation technologies to constantly measure and adjust the temperature for optimum energy efficiency and comfort. Meanwhile, cameras using AI could aid in crowd management to ensure public safety at events such as sold-out concerts.
On the homefront, consumers can install smart technologies, such as door locks, appliances, thermostats and smoke detectors, that help them with their everyday needs by, for example, coordinating temperature controls to the owners' schedules.
6. Smart cities
Smart cities are consolidating IoT deployments across many facets to give them a holistic view of what's happening in their jurisdictions.
As such, smart cities generally incorporate connected traffic management systems and their own smart buildings. They might incorporate private smart buildings, too. Smart cities might also tie into smart grids and use environmental monitoring to create an even larger IoT ecosystem that provides real-time views of the various elements that affect life in their municipalities.
Similar to smaller, more confined IoT deployments, the objective with smart cities is to collect real-time data for analysis that provides insights that municipal officials can then use for better decision-making and/or automated controls to yield more efficient, effective, resilient and safer communities. Case in point: Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, is using IoT technologies to reach its goal of being a carbon-neutral city by 2025.
7. Supply chain management
Supply chain management has been undergoing a modernization, thanks to low-power sensors, GPS and other tracking technologies that pinpoint assets as they move along a supply chain. Such information lets managers both more effectively plan and more confidently reassure stakeholders about the location of items shipped or received.
That visibility is beneficial, but it's only the start of the value proposition that IoT brings to this discipline. IoT technologies can also monitor and manage delivery requirements, for example, measuring and maintaining a specified temperature throughout transport to ensure quality and safety controls. Additionally, back-end analytics capabilities can use IoT-generated data to determine supply chain improvements, such as more efficient routes or shipping times.
8. Industrial, agricultural and commercial management
IoT has numerous applications in industrial and commercial settings, enabling everything from predictive maintenance to improved security at facilities to smart agriculture. These wide-ranging use cases employ an equally expansive list of IoT technologies.
A manufacturer might use machine-to-machine connected devices as part of an industrial IoT deployment to more accurately map workloads. A factory could track wear and tear on equipment to schedule preventive maintenance at an optimal time. Companies can use employee badges or wearable devices embedded with RFID chips to manage and control physical access to their facilities. And farmers can opt for locational technologies integrated with environmental monitors and their field equipment to both automate and maximize their seed allocations.
Although there are some industry-specific IoT use cases, many of the most common deployments involving connected technologies transcend any particular vertical and can be found across a wide range of organizations.
The benefits that come with those deployments similarly cross industries. Typical ROI includes the following:
- lower operational costs;
- enhanced productivity;
- optimized output;
- increased security;
- improved safety;
- better quality control; and
- heightened understanding and visibility into real-world activities.