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How the Internet of Things is making the world a better place

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When Ericsson’s former CEO, Hans Vestburg, said in a 2010 presentation that the world would have 50 billion connected devices by 2020 (you can find a great list of the best 50 here), we all kinda knew The Internet of Things was headed somewhere beyond kettles that self boil. Already, millions of devices are connected to the internet and the ubiquity of the IoT is such that the way we live and interact with physical objects around us is on the cusp of changing forever.

Soon, a way of life in which every object is embedded with a stripe or sensor that tracks and analyses our data, won’t be a dystopian fantasy. This information will then provide opportunities for multiple industries to gain knowledge with which they’ll be able to optimise products, services and operations for consumers. Estimates from the McKinsey Global Institute suggest the IoT economy could be worth as much as $6.2 trillion by 2025.

As the scope of our IoT futures becomes more transparent, there have been many concerned questions raised about the implications of its growth: How much our data is worth? How exactly it will be used? Why do we need to have this level of interconnectedness control surrounding us?

Today, we’re ignoring the slightly more hair-brained gadgets currently joining the IoT arena (check out this Twitter timeline of a man’s 11 hour battle to make a cup of tea with a wifi enabled kettle) and focusing instead on the developments that have pushed the IoT to deliver forces of good across environmental, healthcare and city planning services. With the IoT, a sustainable future could be just around the corner for all of us, here’s how....

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Healthcare

By embedding IoT-enabled devices in medical equipment, healthcare professionals will be able to monitor patients more effectively and prescribe and dispatch medications quicker in the future. The NHS has begun trialing this in its Test Bed Programme where connected tools have helped treat a variety of illness including diabetes, allowing patients to more effectively self-manage their conditions from home.

Aiding these developments are companies such as Feelit which makes flexible sensing patches with tactile capabilities that match, and even exceed, human fingertip touch sensation, and Qualcomm Life which developed a suite of connected medication dispensers, biosensors and self-care glucose meters. These developments are the precursors to the ‘doctor assistants’ of the future, where AI systems built into our homes will be able to read our bodily data and dispense advice and medication within an instant.

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The IoT is revolutionising healthcare by allowing consumers to take control of their own health as and when suits them. Quick to facilitate this growth area was the Babylon app which recently acquired $25 million in investment funding. Babylon allows users to talk with a wide range of trained professionals, from therapists to doctors, immediately, using a chatbot-style talk function. It’s ease of use means we envisage many more apps like this will pop up in the coming months.

Smart Cities

Promising to combine a city’s physical infrastructure with the latest technological offerings, the IoT has slowly but surely shaped the concept of the smart city into an idea that’s ever more prominent in everyday life. Fujisawa in Japan was built from the bottom upwards and the town management company responsible takes residents' views into consideration, incorporates new services and technologies according to them, and continuously supports the sustainable evolution of the town. Lifestyle-based innovation systems bring safety to every aspect of people’s lives in terms of energy, security, mobility, wellness, community and also in emergencies.

The world’s first ‘Smart Nation’ title looks set to go to Singapore though, a city which is already well underway with its plans to put residents at the forefront of the digital age. A fiber network already stretches the length and breadth of the island, bringing high-speed internet access to every home and office and the government is now installing a network of sensors across the island which it hopes will help officials solve Singapore's issues with high-density living.

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Services such as relayr build connectors between any service, any sensor, any software, and any hardware and allow for governments and industry leaders to build the infrastructure to support high density populations. More than 80 percent of residents (3.2 million people) live in affordable apartments maintained by the country's Housing and Development Board and for the past two years the government has been testing an 'Elderly Monitoring System' (EMS). This noninvasive program senses movement and warns caregivers if there’s something to worry about.

Keep an eye on Florida and Colorado in 2017, both have smart city concepts in the pipeline with plans to develop a community from scratch.

Environment

Real-time readings from fields, forests, oceans, and cities about pollution levels, soil moisture, and resource extraction have allowed for closer monitoring of the environment and this data is being used to help prevent problems such as droughts and flooding. With the data collected, drones are deployed to implement precision farming techniques in high-risk areas which protects crops, fields and livestock in ways that would have previously used up time and human labour costs.

SUNRISE is a gargantuan project connecting sensors, robots, and underwater vehicles which enable seas, lakes, rivers and oceans to be monitored in ways which will revolutionise our understanding and enable us to protect over 70% of the planet’s surface.

In Australia, honey bees have been fitted with tiny micro-sensors to help scientists understand and improve their pollination and productivity, as well as understanding the contributing factors of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) which destroys bee populations worldwide. Over in Spain the Iberian Lynx species was saved from extinction through location tracking and drone monitoring that led to successful breeding and reintroduction into the wild.

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The fight against deforestation has also been aided by the IoT. Earth Observation monitors the planet’s forests and has developed an infrared, GPS-based system that creates records for individual, authorised trees which then links to a smartphone app and tracking system. Drones are also firing biodegradable seed pods in areas of reforestation to create a precision planting technique which promotes healthy tree growth.

These are just a few of the ways the IoT has already helped revolutionise our planet’s trajectory. Stay tuned here at Creativepool throughout 2017 and we’ll bring you the latest developments across these sectors to keep you updated.

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