The Internet of Things (IoT) has been talked about for years with all kinds of claims that it will revolutionise healthcare, change city living and improve business operations.
These ideas are slowly being realised: smart cities are starting to come online, industrial internet systems are being wired up, and consumers are becoming comfortable with the idea of internet-connected devices such as thermostats.
However, there is a still a long way to go for such ideas to be realised, not least because visualising how the IoT can be used in various industries is not always obvious.
V3 visited Accenture’s IoT Innovation Lab in London to see how the company has brought together some of the IoT ideas and projects it is working on to show UK organisations what could be done with this burgeoning technology.
The connected home
The idea of a connected home has been around for yonks. The connected fridge is the most talked about, and least delivered, idea so far, but the connected home is slowly becoming a reality.
The Accenture IoT Lab contains a mock bedroom that incorporates a Nest thermostat and connected devices such as a smart switch that, if broken, sends an alert to a phone.
Accenture explained that this could be used as an addition to a door lock so that, if it is broken, an alert would be sent to the user. Or it could be set up so that the broken connection represents someone getting out of bed, so the kettle starts to boil.
Although what happens if you’re just going to the loo in the middle of the night? No doubt these are the sorts of IoT conundrums that we’ll have to get used to.
Smart hotel assistant
Another interesting insight Accenture gave us concerned smart assistants in a demonstration using Amazon's Echo device.
The companies have been working together to create an assistant called Alexa that could be installed in hotels to deal with simple guest queries such as booking a taxi, checking-out or ordering room service.
The work shows that, while smart voice assistants are mostly being pitched at the consumer market, there is clearly huge business potential that manufacturers, such as Amazon, are keen to exploit.
Farming from above
Farming is perhaps not the most obvious IoT environment, but the industry is rapidly embracing the benefits of sensors across huge crop fields to monitor soil temperature or moisture, for example.
Accenture is already involved in a major project in Australia with the National Farmers' Federation to provide an analytics platform that helps farmers make sense of the information IoT sensors can deliver.
Another aspect is the use of drones to monitor crops from the air, particularly using temperature-based visuals that can show how certain crops are growing and identify potential problems.
This technology is on display at the Accenture IoT Lab. A drone hovers above some (fake) crops and an infra-red image displayed on a tablet shows how a farmer could benefit from such a system.
The use of imagery from the sky and sensors to monitor crops is not new, but is now starting to become commonplace. It could have a huge impact on farmers the world over as the technology becomes more available, especially as growing populations will require food production to double by 2050.
Biometric train travel
One of the more futuristic ideas on display at the IoT labs is biometric train travel. An example shows a traveller buying a ticket through an account that contains a scan of their fingerprint pre-loaded into the system.
The traveller then simply presents their fingerprint at the station to open the gates. The red 'gate' (above) is a mini-mock up of how this would work, showing the gates sliding apart when the fingerprint is presented to the scanner on the left.
The Accenture team admitted that this is very much an idea they’ve been playing with rather than anything that’s likely to happen soon, but it underlines the sort of ideas that the rise in IoT, biometrics and mobility are conjuring up.
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