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IoT is already making our everyday lives smarter

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a logical consequence of the progress of digitalization. Many things could still be a long way off, but some applications are already standard today.

The Internet of Things networks physical devices with virtual systems. It’s a catch-all term covering an extraordinary range of ideas, and we’re still not even close to achieving its full potential. Opportunities are arising in sectors like medicine, transport, agriculture and even energy management. The IoT is turning your own four walls into a smart home. Attributes like “smart” and “intelligent” are commonly used when talking about the IoT, emphasizing what it’s really all about: helping us in our everyday lives.

Lasers measure mountains of salt for winter maintenance: data-based silo management

Describing silos as “full”, “empty” or “somewhere in between” is too vague. In Rapperswil, Switzerland, lasers precisely measure the salt reserves for winter maintenance work at the city’s road maintenance depot. The primary challenge in gauging salt reserves is the uneven surface, since they form mountains and valleys rather than a flat surface when stored in silos.

This is why several lasers are used in the silos to measure the surface and determine how full they are as accurately as possible. A transmitter transfers the data to an IoT platform that the municipal utilities can access as required – also using mobile devices. Users can configure notifications on the platform. If stocks of salt are running low and a repeat order is required, the system triggers an alarm and notifies the competent authorities.

Like a fitness tracker for sheep: the smart way to track livestock on mountain pastures

The future began a long time ago in the Swiss Alps. The IoT is connecting shepherds and their flocks – anytime and anywhere. Trackers on the animals’ collars collect data about their location and even activity in the herd. This enables shepherds to find their sheep quicker, even when visibility is poor. Alert functions, meanwhile, provide information if an animal decides to make a break for it. Devices designed for use on mountain pastures must offer low power consumption and a wide reach, so that shepherds can check their herd’s position and activity around the clock.

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On the one hand, the data can be retrieved in real time using a computer, notebook or smartphone. On the other, it can also be used so that the system detects and reports unusual behavior automatically. Unrest within the herd at night could indicate that wolves are prowling around, for example, and cattle running off might point to a fence needing to be fixed.

A stoplight against an unpleasant atmosphere: smart CO2 sensors

You can often really smell the concentration in the room after a long meeting. The air quality can vary a great deal depending on how long the meeting lasts, how big the room is and how many people are in the group. When it comes to ambient air, large amounts of CO2 are a problem. It has a detrimental impact on people’s concentration, and they get drowsy and careless. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, aerosols and the quality of room air have been a recurring topic of discussion. After all, if the air’s stuffy, we’re more likely to end up with an infection.

Good ventilation remains essential. But new IoT solutions do more than just remind you to open windows. Devices with CO2, temperature and humidity sensors constantly measure the air quality and visualize the results. Solutions incorporating traffic lights that indicate the air quality in the room, for example, are available for this very purpose. The data collected can also be used to optimize room planning and ventilation intervals in the long term, allowing everyone to keep their cool in the meeting room.

Intelligent trash cans keep cleaners in the loop: smart waste management

Each year, 40,000 tons of trash are produced at Swiss railway stations – with an irregular distribution depending on the location, time or weather. Although dedicated trash cans for paper, PET, aluminum, and general waste make recycling much easier, Swiss Federal Railways wants to go a step further.

In 2018, as part of a pilot project, two of the recycling points in Zurich Central Station were fit with sensors that transmit data about the fill levels to the facility management team. This enables them to improve planning of their rounds to empty the trash cans. In future, Swiss Federal Railways wants to fit selected points with sensors and, in doing so, develop a machine learning model that will help improve coordination of waste disposal operations.