The term 'Internet of Things' describes a 10-year old idea of remote control over any machine whatever it makes, coffee or industrial products.
The technology, however, has a much older history, dating back to the 1950s, when large manufacturers used custom systems to take readings from industrial machinery in order to assess their performance. The examples are ample. Grain elevators were covered with sensors to ensure occupational safety in Soviet times. Sensors were used to monitor ambient humidity and temperature, thus helping control grain storage conditions and avoid explosions from grain dust accumulation. Such IoT devices to collect data were either experimental or extremely few, as they used to fail at work a lot. Above all else, spare parts came with a luxurious price.
As time went by, the technology matured and spread widely. Then the moment finally came, when lower silicon chip costs formed the background to the IoT mass market. International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates the current worldwide spending on the IoT to be $646 billion. The market is expected to grow by tens of percent year to year. The core value of industrial IoT that generally benefits economy is a boost to efficiency and competitive performance enabled by prompt production reports and a breakthrough in data analysis powered by neural networks. IoT is the key to faster decision-making, lower costs, and new sources of income. The Internet of Things and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) are becoming an iconic duo of technologies driving the digital transformation.
According to some analysts, IoT is on a faster development track in Russia, and just as our peers abroad, we apply it to multiple industries. Remote monitoring, for instance, helps logistics keep track of vehicle routes, fuel consumption, and even check drivers' health – all in real time. The IoT empowers manufacturers to monitor climate parameters at restricted areas (e.g. data centers), where temperature consistency has to be maintained to avoid overheating of expensive equipment. Sensors can also be installed along the entire perimeter of a bridge, for example, to ensure facility security or easily prevent emergencies. We have a successful project completed at CROC's data centers, where multiple smart devices monitor temperature and humidity in the server rooms.
Skepticism of some market players with traditional vision slows down wider IoT expansion as their management finds it easier to hire a worker to check a critical facility (e.g. bridge) with an ultrasonic scanner, instead. However, the times are changing. The growing demand for mass market IoT is stimulated by the need for better and up-to-date information based on big data and machine learning. The era of connected devices and tough competition make it impossible for companies to develop without such knowledge. In addition, Russia is literally a fertile ground for IoT to evolve. Russia's vast expanse of territory implies expensive administration of remote sites, increasing transportation costs, and other overheads. Then, there is IoT, reducing operating costs.
Agriculture seems to have more ways of unleashing the power of IoT than the manufacturing sector, as there are no strict requirements for automated systems or standard list of IT vendors. Agribusiness shows a steady growth and notable achievements, whatever the weather: Russia has been the world's leading grain exporter in the recent years. Speaking of weather, climatic conditions could give a strong impetus for IoT to thrive in the agribusiness. Much of territory are zones of risky agriculture, where exact measure of temperature, humidity, and soil condition, as well as instant response to relevant changes, are of paramount importance.
We could learn from the Finland's experience of simplifying swamp berries harvest, streamlining farming and reducing the risk of harvest loss – all thanks to climate control sensors. Finnish farmers used to literally spend nights restlessly trying to predict a perfect berry-picking day – wait for too long, and the cold would kill berries. Now, they can have a good night's sleep, while an automated system is on watch. The functionality of systems based on the Internet of Things is likely to increase soon. Cost-effective control over planting of each grain will increase yields and overall profitability of agricultural companies of the future.
At last, where are they going to store data from myriads of sensors?
The reality is that cloud data storage and processing are already a standard that enables easy handling of distributed data streams from different sources. Although the amount of data coming from IoT devices is actually not that big compared to the one coming from video analytics systems, storing such data locally appears unreasonable. It is not only because of data itself, as you also need a resource-intensive analytical system that generates actionable reports, builds heat maps to track poor climate parameters, and helps make predictions. Since this system is used from time to time, it causes surges in resource consumption, and therefore cloud hosting would provide for a cost-effective IoT system performance. You pay for the consumed resources only, thus avoiding underutilization of your own capacity, as well as capital expenditures and inevitable administration costs.