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Keeping profitability, efficiency, safety and security of assets, people, the IOT way

Quentin Daffarn, MD, UC Wireless.
Quentin Daffarn, MD, UC Wireless.

IOT offers businesses the ability to keep people and assets productive, efficient and safe to mention a few key benefits, across a wide range of sectors. But to effectively visualise the data to gain insight, you need the right IOT platform. 

The tracking and monitoring of assets, goods, processes and people, for safety reasons, security purposes, process and profitability objectives, has always been important and core for businesses. However, the rise of the tangible complete solutions and platforms for the internet of things (IOT) has made such tracking and monitoring a much simpler affair.

Sensors enable moveable assets like stock, vehicles and production items to be tracked at all times, so the organisation is always aware of where these are and who is using them, when, moreover, these sensors can deliver greater insight than merely telling you where something is. The sensors communicate valuable data parameters wirelessly. These parameters range from temperature, humidity, vibration, location, movement, acceleration, proximity, flow, state, etc, to any number of key variables that are available that provide the much-needed insight and monitoring required.

The same goes if you are tracking people for safety, security or productivity reasons – for example, during mining or manufacturing operations. It is not only knowing where they are, but whether they are safe. IOT sensors can even deliver alerts should something go wrong, meaning that these sensors can provide tracking from multiple points of view.

According to Quentin Daffarn, MD of UC Wireless, the use of a multi-purpose, open systems IOT platform and sensors allows a business to answer the critical questions of ‘what, where, when and why’. 

“Of course, beyond the sensors, it is vital to ensure that you have the right platform to aid in the analysis and visualisation of the data received. This is crucial. If you take the mine safety example, having a visual map of where the employee is and where he has been, is necessary to clearly understand whether their safety is at risk or not, based on indicators from the person, but also from their location and the environment, for example, since these can put people in danger without them knowing,” he explains.

Daffarn compares the sensors to being like a person’s hands, “which might feel a sudden change in temperature in the form of pain, whereas the platform is similar to the brain, which instantly has to make sense of the signals sent by the hands”, he explains.

“The right platform could be described as being the Swiss army knife of IOT, in that it is versatile enough to be able to talk to virtually any sensor, for any application and requirement, anywhere in the world.”

He adds that you should also choose a platform that allows you to receive or send data to third-party applications and solutions. In other words, it should be built on open systems, rather than being proprietary.

“A good example for how individual sensors and third-party apps can be tailored to work together to provide a complete solution is found in agriculture. The farmer may need to know where his cattle are, whether the gate to the field is closed, if there is enough water in the drinking area, whether there are any adverse weather conditions on the way and much more. So, accessing third-party applications like the farm’s security provider or the weather app are obviously quite crucial.”

“And there are many potential industries where IOT platforms and sensors will offer enormous benefits. In healthcare, it could ensure that doctors and nurses know where all the hospital’s critical equipment is, so it can be accessed quickly in an emergency; in retail, it can help with trolley tracking, checking high value stock and even in the transport and logistics field; in mining, it can protect both assets and personnel; in education, it might assist with keeping track of both students and assets; and in manufacturing, it could monitor temperatures, vibrations and pumps, while in the security industry, knowing where security personnel are and including inbound and outbound doors with automatic alerting of duress, for example. The list of applications and industries that a platform solution like this, with a wide range of sensors and protocols supported, are practically endless.”

The real value of utilising the right IOT platform here is that it enables you to effectively visualise the information and deliver actionable outcomes and alerts, so it is not merely data you are trying to interpret. Thus, if you want to check the productivity of individual employees, it is easy to visualise where they have been, what they are doing and how productive they are being.

“It is important to make businesses aware of the many tangible benefits offered by choosing the right IOT platform, the biggest of which is flexibility. This requires choosing a platform with a rules engine that allows you to set conditions, and one that offers a single pane of glass view of all the sensors, provides visualised detail of what is happening with them, and even allows you to add analytics into the mix, to derive even more granular depth, while being able to customise the solution to specific requirements.

“From my perspective, it is important for businesses to realise that whatever industry they are in, ignoring the importance of IOT will lead to them losing out on efficiency improvements, cost savings, better safety and potentially suffering other losses that could be mitigated. In other words, if you are not implementing IOT solutions yet, you need to get started – and if you do, make sure you choose a platform that positions you for the present, and that will serve you well into the future,” concludes Daffarn.

* Article first published on www.itweb.co.za

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