The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming global business operations across diverse industry sectors. Data gathered by this ecosystem of connected machine to machine (M2M) devices and sensors can feed real-time business intelligence systems that assist with making fast and more informed decisions. Propelled by a mix of technological, social and political factors, and offering far reaching results that include the better use and protection of resources, increased business efficiencies and improved experiences, IoT is adoption is growing rapidly. In an increasingly IoT supported world, we look at some applications used or in conception stage in Australia.
South Australian viticulture is a prime example of the use of IoT in the growing of grapes. Sensors measure elements such as wind speed, temperature, light, humidity and soil moisture providing information for analysis to optimise plant growth and prevent crop loss through climatic factors such as excessive heat, light or frost. In the fermentation and production process they are used to measure and monitor gases, acids and tannins that affect the final product. Sensors are also deployed to monitor the environmental conditions of the storage and distribution facilities such as cellars and freight vehicles.
Environmental sensor networks have been deployed to provide accurate, detailed, and up-to-date information about changing environment inputs critical to decision making, both during and in preparing for a natural disaster. A wireless sensor network of 100 nodes was deployed over a 1km square region of forest in the Dandenong Ranges, Victoria. The network monitors in real-time, a range of environmental parameters, including soil moisture, humidity, solar radiation, temperature, wind speed and direction. This information can improve situational awareness in a range of important disaster preparedness and response applications, such as the event of bush fire in the bush fire prone Australian continent.
UN figures indicate that about one-fifth of the world’s population is challenged by water scarcity. A Lux Research report in 2013 suggests that almost one-quarter of all the new start-up companies targeting the water industry are focussed on monitoring, forecasts and process controls through sensors and IoT applications. While Australia is fortunate to have quality potable water, it is not inexhaustible. Leaks are not only costly, but increase pressure on stretched water resources and raise the likelihood of pollutants infiltrating supplies. Smart monitoring initiatives have been applied in Melbourne and Sydney. Networks of sensors spot the sudden drop in water pressure, trace its location and alert engineers to fix the leak before damage spreads.
There has been growing interest in the IoT for realising smart cities in order to maximise the productivity and reliability of urban infrastructure. The days of circling blocks to find an available parking spot in Australian cities are numbered. Councils in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth are trialing parking sensor technologies that utilise ground sensors to indicate where open parking is located on city streets. These solutions ensure that motorists find vacant car parking spaces thereby reducing traffic congestion, decreasing vehicle emissions, lowering enforcement costs and reducing driver stress. The sensor networks further serve to provide comprehensive data enabling profitable future town planning for the councils.
In 2012, Melbourne City Council and ARUP partnered with the University of Melbourne on a three year Australian Research Council Linkage Grant for Creating a Smart City through Internet of Things. The aim of the research was to develop new systems that can help City administrators remotely monitor and interpret real time information on urban environments. Innovative ways to combat noise pollution was undertaken where wireless sensor networks measure sound across the central business district. Data collected from the sensors help to create a noise map of the city and can be used to manage noisy areas. The noise issues examined by the council include barking dogs, loud music, industrial machines and trucks. The Melbourne project was reported to be one of the first in the world to monitor and map city sounds over such a large area. In the future, the sensor network can also be adapted to monitor other parameters such as air quality and weather conditions with results easily distributed over the internet. As part of its planning process, the council already uses sensors to monitor the amount of pedestrian traffic at busy locations.
A result of the Smart Cities research, three month real-time data collection and testing trials were conducted in the City of Melbourne. An example – the environmental sensors, measuring light levels, humidity and temperature, that have been deployed at Fitzroy Gardens and at the Docklands. The data collected will assist the Urban Landscapes branch to better understand and communicate the impact of canopy cover for urban cooling. This pilot project publishing real-time environmental data for the City of Melbourne was implemented using Libelium’s Meshlium automated environment sensors.
On a macro and micro scale, information derived from sensing and monitoring is increasingly pervasive in many aspects of day-to-day life and is being used to drive changes in sectors such as food, environment, resources and more. Information gathered from M2M sources is being analysed and disseminated more than ever before.
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