There is little doubt about the economic value of the Internet of things (IoT). Most analyst firms and industry participants put the economic value at somewhere between $1 trillion and $10 trillion over the next decade.
At Nokia, we think those estimates of economic value are conservative when considering the overall, broader value of the IoT. Considering only the economic value leaves out an important component of this broader value – the human possibilities that are enabled by the IoT.
Perhaps the most well-known of the IoT use cases is the zero-death road network that leverages both the sensors (e.g. LiDAR) in self-driving vehicles and fleets, the network (LTE, 5G) and road infrastructure (V2I). Since that use case is well-known, let’s look at a few other use cases that provide human value and possibility.
Natural Disaster Recovery
According to a U.N report, between 1995 and 2015 natural disasters have taken the life of 606,000 people and have left 4.1 billion injured or homeless. While we can’t necessarily eliminate natural disasters from occurring, lives can be saved by implementing the fastest possible response to find distressed people who have been impacted. Rapid rescue efforts can be challenging, especially when the disaster zone is large or has a challenging terrain that is not immediately accessible to emergency responders .The IoT can help overcome these challenges using connected (LTE, 5G) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), high definition video, video analytics, and infrared sensors. Specifically, UAVs that can fly autonomously in a well-formed search pattern while filming the terrain below and looking for heat sources can speed search and rescue efforts. The speed at which appropriately equipped UAVs can search a disaster area can help to target limited search and rescue resources and help reduce the loss of human life. This IoT capability has already been emonstrated.
Mitigating the Impact of Natural Disasters
While it is not possible to prevent any specific natural disaster from occurring, the IoT can help ensure that those who may be impacted are well prepared and safe.
The IoT Opens Up Human Possibility And Can Save Lives
One example of such a IoT solution is flood abatement. Floods occur more frequently (3,062 between 2005-2015 according to the U.N.) than any other form of disaster, and impact the greatest number of people (2.3 million between 2005-2015 – U.N.) In many cases of flooding, the impact is exaggerated by lack of drainage due to blockages or clogs in sewer drains. When this happens, the water rises even more rapidly and to a higher level than would have occurred naturally. This can increase the loss of property and of life.
The IoT can help alleviate this problem by monitoring the level of water in sewer and stormwater drains using ultra-sonic sensors that use the speed of sound in air to measure water levels. Use of this sensing technology, network connectivity, and water level analytics can identify clogged drains prior to the floods, enabling remediation that can save lives and property. This IoT solution has already been implemented in a few forward-looking cities and towns.
Environmental and Human Wellness
Environmental wellness and human wellness are inter-connected and global trends indicate a growing need to integrate the two. Let us look at population trends to see why. From 2000 to 2015, the percentage of the world’s population having 60 years of age or above and are living in urban areas, increased from 51 percent of the population to 58 percent. If you consider the most elderly group, the numbers are even higher – from 56 per cent in 2000 to almost 63 percent in 2015. That is just the global average; in some specific regions, the numbers are much higher than the average. For example, in Oceania, 90 percent of the older residents lived in urban areas in 2015 (all data courtesy of U.N.).
The people in this demographic are the most susceptible to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and at the same time, they are moving to urban areas where the air quality is the lowest. It is no surprise then that in United States, both the prevalence and mortality from COPD have increased, especially in those over 65 years of age (courtesy of CDC). Given the trends, the outlook is negative.
A combination of IoT apps and technology can help. First, environmental sensing and analytics can already track the pollution hot spots within a city, which can vary based on the day and the weather (especially wind direction).This IoT data can be cross-referenced against the addresses of the COPD patients in one or multiple health systems serving the area. With that knowledge, the health system can notify patients to stay indoors and can remotely monitor their oximetry through a simple wellness finger sensor. For those most at risk, an audio sensor the size of a quarter can listen for obstructed breathing. Analytics and pattern recognition across the environmental data, the patients’ levels of oxygen, and the sound of oncoming breathing obstruction can help predict and prevent the most serious COPD episodes and extend the lives of patients.
There is obviously a level of economic value when monitoring patients remotely. It is efficient and can reduce costly re-admission rates to the hospital for COPD episodes. But there is additional value in ensuring a longer and healthier life for each patient and their loved ones.
These are just three examples out of thousands that demonstrate that the full value of IoT is not realized by looking solely through the economic lens. The IoT opens up human possibility and can save lives. For organizations that focus on sustainability, including corporations such as ours, there is an opportunity to deliver IoT capabilities that not only address economic challenges and improve bottom-line, but they also have a positive impact on people’s lives.