The internet of things, or IoT, as it is known, refers to the vast number of items, both tangible and virtual, that use sensors, software, soundwaves and microwaves, electronics, and other sophisticated technologies to communicate with each other for the purpose of swapping data and acting upon information received. IoT devices do not necessarily need the internet to interact—communication can exist between two items in any form to be regarded as IoT.
IoT technologies in our home environments include security systems, thermostats on heaters, televisions, and many appliances that can be managed using remote control devices or smartphones.
On a larger scale, IoT is being used across the globe to facilitate communications, monitor operations, control the generation and distribution of power, and generally improve efficiency. From relatively simple solutions, such as the use of drones to monitor remote installations, to the more complex and highly sophisticated satellite technology, the IoT is set to improve the situation we find ourselves in as inhabitants of planet Earth.
Our world and the challenges
We hear daily reports on global warming, pollution, and animal extinction, to mention but a few of the problems that face our world today. As these issues are discussed around the dinner table, in offices, and in classrooms, we cannot ignore the human factor in the gradual destruction of the planet. Unsustainable manufacturing and agricultural processes continue to take their toll on the environment, and people’s excessive lifestyles take precedence over saving forests and wildlife.
Technology is advancing at an exponential rate, bringing with it a glimmer of hope that there may still be a sustainable future for generations to come. The numerous disciplines within the computer science arena are providing insights into possibilities that were unimaginable two decades ago that can help improve the health of the planet going forward.
With advanced education, you can explore the realm of IoT starting with the question ‘What is the IoT?’ and equip yourself with the necessary skills to harness its potential to facilitate faster and safer ways to save our planet. Baylor University’s Master of Computer Science program offers a software engineering track designed to provide students with greater software skills that are intrinsic to IoT and shape them into experts who can make a significant and positive impact on the world.
How IoT can help
Thanks to the ease of connectivity, more and more people are working from home, reducing transport congestion in large cities and resulting in lower carbon emissions. Many processes that previously would have taken lots of time and energy have been automated now allowing them to run cleanly and smoothly. With the advent of IoT, industry and agriculture are now more efficient. Power generation and water supplies have also become more sophisticated, and hopefully, in time, we will become less dependent on fossil fuels and other contaminants in our air and water systems. The introduction of the IoT allows for a positive change of mindset.
Air and water pollution
In cities and towns, IoT technology has improved traffic monitoring, resulting in reduced vehicle speeds and a reduction of excessive vehicle emissions. For example, fleets of trucks can be monitored from a central point, plotting the best routes and controlling their speeds, thus contributing to reduced emissions.
Electric vehicles (EVs) are another development that can improve the health of the planet. EVs are environmentally friendly with zero tailpipe emissions. The IoT can play a role in maintaining these vehicles to ensure they are sustainable and long-lasting. For example, IoT technology can help monitor brake fluid, transmission fluid, and coolant levels.
In forests and other vulnerable areas, IoT sensors can send out early warnings of fire or the release of noxious gasses into the atmosphere, enabling officials to react promptly to prevent disastrous events that have a detrimental effect on our air quality. Smoke and chemical emissions in the air are also monitored, with factories being severely reprimanded when guilty of excessive air pollution.
IoT technologies in factories monitor machinery, detecting potential malfunctions and predicting the need for servicing. Keeping machinery in good condition cuts down on chemicals and oil used in the running process, reducing both waste and unnecessary emissions.
Furthermore, local governments are able to use IoT technology to monitor chemical levels and toxicity in the main waterways and detect excessive substances entering the water system. With a bit of investigation, excess water pollution can be monitored and stopped.
Large tracts of agricultural land can also be monitored using satellite-based georeferencing, remote sensors, and cloud technology. Farmers can measure the water content of the soil and control the watering of their crops accordingly, reducing wastage and eliminating root rot or fungus due to overwatering. IoT technology monitors crops for disease or pests, and doses of chemicals or insecticides are administered based on carefully calculated algorithms, reducing both air pollution and contamination of underground water supplies.
After the initial manufacture of wind and solar farms has been completed, their carbon footprint is minimal, with the windmills and solar panels producing electricity as the weather permits. Wind turbines are expensive machines that include sophisticated components that need constant monitoring. IoT technology is used to schedule maintenance and repairs and monitor the speed and possible changes in structural conditions that can be a safety risk.
Solar panels are monitored for dust and grime, current, voltage, temperature, or damage. In large organizations, the information is fed to a management system for intervention where necessary. Efficiently run solar and wind farms contribute enormously to the sustainability of electricity generation and ultimately help in our quest to halt global warming.
Hydroelectric energy is produced by harnessing the power that running water produces as it turns the wheels of a turbine to produce electricity. Expensive to set up, this form of power generation becomes inexpensive in the long term and can meet the needs of large, heavily populated areas during peak times. IoT technology enables the reduction of water usage when the demand for power is low and increases usage as demand peaks. It uses electronics and sensors to monitor dam safety and promote the management of safety interventions.
Smart technology for a sustainable future
Technology is set to improve our lives, whether on a small scale in our homes or massive installations at a government level. By embracing the internet of things, we can affect the changes necessary for a more hopeful future.