The Internet of Things (IoT) has been slowly building for a decade, with m2m (machine to machine) communication being applied to more sectors and applications every year. But with the advent of Covid-19 and the unprecedented requirement for remote working, the need for smarter, faster technologies has accelerated the IoT beyond expectations. Providing not just new ways of working but new ways of managing a global crisis.
How has IoT evolved in the Covid-19 pandemic?
With the wholesale adoption of new working practices, the Covid-19 pandemic has driven IoT development like never before. Advances have occurred across sectors, from ecommerce to healthcare. With remote monitoring systems – for people as well as assets – reducing the reliance on field workers, providing new solutions to old problems, and helping to keep businesses working while significant restrictions have been in place.
While in other spheres, the tech has been developed and employed to help manage the pandemic.
How has smart tech and IoT been employed to fight Covid-19?
IoT has been fundamental to numerous parts of pandemic control. In the UK, it has been at the heart of the track and trace programme, directly reducing the spread of the disease. But both here and overseas, it has had far greater applications.
Smart monitoring for vaccine delivery and storage
One of the greatest challenges for vaccine delivery globally, but especially in developing countries, has been keeping the vaccines at the requisite temperature. Cold chain monitoring, using mobile tech and IoT, allows data loggers to transmit accurate information of conditions throughout the transportation and storage of the vaccine. Not only ensuring that the supply is safe, but providing continuous monitoring data for regulatory compliance.
This brings in additional benefits, with cold storage monitoring having the potential to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions, and minimise waste. While helping to enhance productivity and moderate costs through effective resource management.
In some areas, non-surgical robots connected to IoT are being employed to disinfect Covid hospital wards and other places of likely contamination, with a special UV light that has been shown to destroy the virus. While in other countries, smart monitoring is being used to ensure that cleaning is being adequately conducted, tracking which areas are being cleaned, how often, and in what way.
Where businesses have had to remain open with a core team of employees working in house, smart monitoring has helped create a safer working environment. Tracking the use of space and personnel density, ventilation, and hygiene management.
The potential future applications of IoT in the workplace
While smart monitoring has played an integral role within pandemic management, it also has significant potential in the future of the workplace and it is an area that is growing faster than almost any other business tech sector.
Right now, IoT sensors are being employed in business in a whole range of ways:
- Cleaning, as mentioned above. While computerised maintenance management systems (CMMS) and Integrated workplace management systems (IWMS) are already being widely used in business, IoT cleaning systems deliver the potential for enhanced efficiency, when coupled with occupancy monitoring and cleaning validation.
- Compliance monitoring. Every business has its own set of compliance issues to handle, but we can take legionella as an example. With the use of smart monitoring, legionella prevention compliance becomes easier, cheaper and a loss less wasteful, as sensors deliver water temperature and movement data, automatically alerting in areas where attention is needed and avoiding the full-scale system flushing that currently characterises legionella compliance.
- Buildings management. With smart monitoring, almost all areas of buildings management can be handled, from energy use and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), to building occupancy, structural maintenance, and workplace wellness.
- Supply chain and storage. Much like cold chain monitoring for vaccine supply, IoT tech is being employed throughout the supply chain and warehousing ecosystem, helping to prevent waste and create a streamlined delivery service.
- Smart city development. Smart cities, where everything from pollution levels to lighting and traffic control are being handled by IoT tech, are gradually becoming the norm.
All of these areas have benefitted from further development throughout the pandemic, as increased demand has enhanced functionality and accessibility, reducing the size of sensors – some are now the size of postage stamps – and the cost of the equipment. As well as simplifying the integration of these products with legacy systems. Every day is bringing new developments.
IoT has been in a permanent state of evolution since its conception in 2008. It has slowly developed as new uses have been identified and new potential explored. The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the need for smart technology. Never before has there been a greater need to reduce physical contact between people, to prevent widespread movement, or to facilitate an extensive remote workforce. These changes would not have been possible without the IoT. But equally, the Internet of Things would definitely not have evolved so rapidly in such a short space of time without the exigencies of the pandemic to drive it.