In this final Article we’ll be discussing a few uncommon fields of applications of the Internet of things, i.e. applications that motivate us to implement IoT to develop good solutions. This article won’t be discussing about the very common applications of Internet of Things like Agriculture Control & management, or Home Automation etc. So, let’s get started with a few advanced applications of Internet of Things.
CARGO TRACKING: These days, tracking Cargo/Shipment is a major requirement for Shipping Companies, to ensure timely delivery and also the conditions of the cargo inside. The simple thought that enters into our head is, that it is as simple as using a GPS tag to track a shipment, regardless of the transport vehicle it is on. But is it that simple? The answer is NO. GPS always requires a clear view of the Sky, to receive GPS Signals. But that’s not always possible, it is possible that our vehicle is going through a long tunnel, or it is parked inside a garage. In such cases GPS isn’t able to provide a proper location. Also, if our vehicle is climbing up the mountains and is inside a long tunnel, the monitoring of altitude might also be vital. In such situations one might take help of other techniques to track the path that the vehicle is traversing. Let’s discuss one of such ways, that employs hall sensor & IMUs (Inertial Measurement Units) to track the vehicle path.
Hall sensors may be put onto the body of a car, right in front of a wheel (whose diameter is known to us). On this wheel we may put a magnet on its rim, such that it passes from the front of the hall sensor as the wheel rotates. Now, whenever a wheel completes a rotation, the magnet passes from the front of the Hall Sensor, and thus we can count the amount of rotations of the wheel.
Using the number of rotations, we can have a rough idea of the distance covered by the vehicle (using C=2*pi*radius of wheel). But the vehicle may also take turns on its way, in such a case we might not only need the distance it covers, but also, it’s orientation. Vehicle’s orientation can be measured easily by an IMU, which will give information regarding the direction of its travel. It also may be possible that the vehicle is a two-wheeler, and is parked at some location and some passer by is fiddling with its handle. In such a case our IMU (placed on the handle) might send out false data regarding direction of motion. Thus, we might need to design smart algorithms to avoid such situations, for example, In this case, we can accept IMU readings only if the Hall sensor also gives some readings, else discard any IMU data. Along with these, we can also have Pressure Sensors, that can localize the altitude of the vehicle using Pressure.
Now, using the last co-ordinate we had from GPS (before entering the tunnel) , when we have direction & distance from sensors, we are be able to predict the path the vehicle might be following and thus, roughly calculate its co-ordinates using some algorithms. These co-ordinates can be now sent via Internet or GSM to the monitoring authority or even plot them onto google maps. We also can use temperature & humidity sensors to monitor the conditions of a cargo, if needed, for example, it contains frozen food.
Inventory Management & Easy Shopping: In shops and stores, many-a-times it gets difficult to find a particular product, not only for customers but also the shopkeepers. Also, for the shopkeepers it gets difficult to keep a count of the units of a particular item. Sometimes, customers tend to misplace items form their shelves or racks and it gets difficult for the shopkeeper to keep track of such things. IoT motivates us to solve such problems. Let’s discuss a way to solve this problem.
All the products in a store can have certain RFID tags, so whenever a new set of good is unloaded, we can have a system that reads those tags and keeps a count of each kind of product, much like the existing barcode scan. The problem with such an approach is that we will face a difficulty in differentiating tags with the types of goods, so to keep a record of such things a lot of human intervention is required and people will prefer inventorying the goods themselves instead of such a solution. Also, the shopkeeper might be interested in finding the location of a misplaced item.
Instead of the above approach, we can use low-power beacons to tag the items. By doing so customers can be provided an application to improve shopping experience. Whenever a customer enters the store, with Bluetooth on, the application can provide details about the items in particular corridors of a store, as the customer would move towards a rack, it can provide details about items on a rack as the customer moves closer to it. It can also be used to tell if any offers are associated with those items.
Apart from that, we can also use this approach for better inventorying. After the shopkeeper closes his store for the day & leaves, there can pick and place robots which have a localized map of the store. Such robots can find misplaced items by just checking whether the beacon signals they receive match those of items on that rack or not and based upon that information they can arrange the misplaced items back on their correct rack. Along with that, they can also take a round of the entire store and count the items on every rack & update the main inventory using E-mails or something. Therefore, the shopkeeper won’t need to do tedious tasks and customers will have a better shopping experience.
Air Quality Index Monitoring: Many cities, especially in India, face the problems pertaining to poor air quality. Authorities aren’t exactly able to figure out the amount of pollution caused in a specific area, suppose that one small area in a city has 90% of the city’s cars, it may cause heavy air pollution not only in that particular area but also in neighbouring areas. If we are able to find such areas, it would be easier for authorities to regulate the air quality, not only of that area but the entire city. For monitoring air quality, we can deploy sensors that measure gases and particulate matter in the air on a sensor node. These sensor nodes can be made to cover a large geographic area by networking them using Multi-hop technique. In such a technique, one sensor node sends it data to its neighbour and then the neighbour forwards its own data and previous node’s data to the next node and so on. This is a favourable technique as if a node fails, the data can be forwarded using other neighbouring nodes. Thus, by doing this, we can have an entire City’s Map of Air Quality. This map can help authorities to reach root causes of poor air qualities of different areas and suggest necessary steps to improve it.
Speech to Text Processing: Most of us must have noticed, that Google isn’t always able to understand whatever a person says in their native language such as Gujarati, despite having support for that language. The reason for this is huge variations in dialects of the same language. A person from Ahmedabad may speak a different dialect of gujarati than a person from Saurashtra side of Gujarat. IoT can help us solve this problem. Mobiles may record the voices/commands their owners give them in their native language. Connecting such mobiles and comparing the recordings they have done can be used to identify a particular dialect of their native language along with the geographical region till where that dialect exists. Thus, using IoT we can have a knowledge of different dialects of a native language and thus provide better user support. Such an application may also be useful for tourists to interact with native people who can’t speak a foreign language.
Apart from these, there are many more applications of IoT and problems waiting to solved by IoT, the list is endless, even one particular application may have furthermore specialized applications. Problems are enough, just take a walk around you’ll see many and it’s up to us how many problems are we able to solve. In the upcoming years, The Internet of Things will be proposed to solve many more problems with security of devices still hanging around. I hope the series of these articles provided you a good foundational understanding of The Internet of Things. There are just so many things to explore and learn when it comes to IoT and I hope with such a foundation you will be able to explore those things. Learn, Build Explore, See you in the journey! 😊
Pranjal is an Electronics & Communications Engineering Student, completed 3rd Year at Institute of Technology, Nirma University, Ahmedabad .I n the initial years, he was in the Robocon Team of college where he got interested into Robotics , mainly concerning Robotic Drives , Motion & Path planning. Along with that currently his fields of interests are Internet of Things, Embedded Systems & Re-configurable Hardware. He has done few projects as Mini Projects in college & currently working to publish a paper on one of those projects.