As South Africans become increasingly tech savvy, they are looking at ways to make their homes smarter, to increase convenience and enhance safety by using a wide variety of DIY Internet-of-things (IoT) sensors that can be easily connected, and their data viewed remotely.
Sensors are becoming smaller and cheaper, but with increased capability, lower power usage and durability. It is predicted that there could be 22 billion connected devices by 2025. Although the industrial IoT market is well established, an increase of sensors and solutions in the consumer market is expected — to enhance safety and for cost savings and convenience.
A further enhancement to the above is the availability of IoT-specific networks such as the Sigfox network that is operated by Sqwidnet, which provides coverage across 93% of the South African population. The availability of these networks eliminates the installation of home or business networks. Combine this with low-powered, user-replaceable batteries and power issues are eliminated and the user can view the IoT devices without any restrictions.
The sensors that are available vary in complexity to suit all requirements, which can be for industrial, commercial or residential use. Using an IoT mobile application or Web app, the user has the ability to change certain measurable parameters or conditions on the sensors, via the IoT network. The information received from the sensors can be viewed and analysed and can trigger an alarm to assist the user to react to a condition and react, if necessary.
These easy-to-install sensors provide users with flexibility in that sensors can be moved around to suit changing conditions or requirements. Some basic sensors that are available to the consumer market include smoke detection, water leak detection, door open/closed sensors, AC power on/off, temperature sensors with a minimum and maximum setting, vibration sensors, and GPS-tracking sensors.
Consumer IoT as a service
At its most basic level, an IoT solution comprises three main components: sensors, a data transmission network, and a platform to analyse and view the information. More complex IoT solutions are also available, with a level of artificial intelligence that integrates with other automated components to achieve the desired outcome, such as automated switching on of lights when dark or temperature control.
Although IoT is still in its infancy, the use of the technology was predicted many years ago and can be associated with the following statements:
- 1926: Nikola Tesla said: “When wireless¹ is perfectly applied, the whole Earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole … and the instruments through which we shall be able to do this will be amazingly simple compared to our present telephone. A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket.” (¹Not the 802.11 version.)
- 1950: Alan Turing wrote in an article: “It can also be maintained that it is best to provide the machine with the best sense organs that money can buy, and then teach it to understand and speak English. This process could follow the normal teaching of a child.”
We live in a connected world, and people are looking for ways to use IoT and other smart devices to increase convenience and safety, improve energy efficiency and even save on costs. Given the way in which these sensors work, they can be used for multiple purposes across the home. The use cases are numerous and are only limited by the user’s imagination.
- The author, Poena van Heerden, is senior product manager for IoT at Vox