While many businesses are bringing their teams back to the workplace, there is still considerable risk in doing this full-scale, especially as experts are predicting a second wave of the virus in the near-future. Not to mention, organizations from across industries have realized the benefits that come from distributed teams, which include higher productivity levels and lower overhead costs. And workforces are on board too: This World Economic Forum survey found that an astounding 98% of respondents would now like the option to work remotely.
As more sectors explore the opportunities that remote work will bring both during and after the pandemic, it becomes increasingly evident that technology will play a key role. In comes the internet of things (IoT), which is expected to grow to 5.8 billion endpoints by the end of 2020. IoT technologies will be paramount in driving the remote work revolution forward in sectors including health care, supply chain, and manufacturing, amongst others.
Let’s dive deep into how IoT will power remote work, giving teams and employers the flexibility to deliver value on their own terms.
IoT powers MedTech
Medical technology has experienced an unprecedented demand for its devices and solutions since the advent of COVID-19, which has in turn accelerated levels of innovation and development. This uptick has been driven by the need to access medical services in remote areas, increase efficiency in networks of medical vehicles, and maintain physical separation due to epidemic risk.
Perhaps most notably, a number of new players offering technologies that allow health care professionals to deliver care remotely and safely have emerged. Doctors and nurses are able to remotely keep track of patients’ vital signs that would usually be monitored with bedside screens.
Health care professionals can access this information through remote IoT monitoring solutions that don’t require them to be within physical proximity to the patient. Not only is this vital when dealing with patients with COVID-19, but it also lets physicians deliver care while patients are at home, meaning they don’t have to go into often-overcrowded hospitals where risk of contracting illness is heightened.
One startup leading the way in this field is Flosonics Medical, which produces wireless, wearable ultrasound sensors that monitor vital signs and can be accessed using a secure IoT platform. This technology allows physicians to respond to changes in patients’ conditions in real-time, while all data is kept secure in a private environment.
Driving efficiencies in the supply chain
Integrating IoT devices into the supply chain allows teams to remotely access information that they need to track shipments, monitor their inventory, prevent theft or damage, and anticipate future inefficiencies. IoT sensors are able to deliver real time data to team members in distributed locations, enabling them to take immediate action to keep everything running smoothly.
For example, Montreal AI startup Canscan is leveraging IoT to allow supply chain workers to remotely scan containers located in shipyards. Before the pandemic, workers would ensure safety and operational efficiency by conducting in-person scanning, but inspection now has to be done remotely, making connected IoT devices a necessity to continue operating.
The company’s AI-powered technology can now be used from a distributed location, allowing teams to leverage all of the usual benefits they would from AI-enhanced scanning. By using AI-embedded tracking technology, teams can save time, be alerted of damages in real-time, keep inventory safe, and leverage predictive intelligence. IoT is allowing supply chain teams to do all of this from a separate location.
Remote manufacturing monitoring
IoT remote monitoring devices in manufacturing plants allow teams to monitor and manage the performance of their assets without being physically present. For example, IoT sensors that are connected to cloud platforms are able to record and deliver information on condition, usage, and even temperature of machines in real-time.
Getting a full picture of how certain machines are working means being able to predict maintenance and downtime, allowing companies to only send technicians to the plant when really necessary. IoT systems can detect, diagnose, and troubleshoot problems without the need for human presence, reducing the extra time and money spent on people travelling to and from work and minimizing any further spread of the virus.
A leading player in this space is Siemens, which has built solutions that provide worldwide remote access to industrial plants and machines through IoT devices, all within a secure cyber-environment. And as AI technology in this space becomes more capable, entire IoT systems will also be able to operate near-independently in the future, further driving efficiency and delivering more flexibility for employees.
Security must be paramount
As IoT usage continues to grow, organizations must accompany this with an increased focus on security. Connected IoT devices are vulnerable to malicious attacks, which are notoriously common during crises as hackers seek to capitalize on the uncertainty.
Organizations should develop enterprise-wide frameworks to minimize exposure to new attack vectors and implement end-to-end security. They should also implement security guidelines and standards, as well as staying on top of device updates and testing. Ultimately, businesses should make “Secure by Design” practices an organic part of their IoT system infrastructure in order to ensure security from day one.
Remote work is here to stay. The sooner organizations embrace the opportunities it brings for efficiency, productivity, worker satisfaction, and safety, the better equipped they will be for the future. With IoT playing a vital role in this shift across industries, businesses should explore the ways the technology can power their place in the remote work revolution.