3 ways IoT is tackling the effects of political unrest, climate change and energy insecurity

IoT Analyst Insights by Robin Duke-Woolley, Founder & CEO of Beecham Research
This month we take a look at areas attracting particular attention in mid-year 2022, where the Internet of Things can help solve problems that are becoming more urgent. Recent global events of note include global supply chain disruption due to war, political unrest and lingering effects of the pandemic, and the life-threatening effects of climate change.

1.  Challenges in key sectors

  • Logistics and supply chain disruption

Political unrest is causing supply chain problems worldwide.  Global food supplies are also being disrupted due to the war in Europe. 

Since the start of the Covid pandemic in 2020, cargo theft has increased by around 25 percent.  In addition to theft, there is a growing problem of individuals stowing away in shipments, seeking a better life in new destinations.  This increases insurance costs and can result in spoilage of goods for the shippers.

A third of all food produced globally is lost or wasted – temperature sensitivity accounts for a good portion of this.  The pandemic has necessitated the safe transportation of vaccines over long distances.

In the Spring of 2022, the price of fuel has escalated.  How to avoid all types of waste is important to saving costs and time – wasting fuel, energy and journey times. 

  • Climate change manifestations

The first half of 2022 has seen extreme dryness and wildfires in the US and Europe.  There were unprecedented fires in urban areas in Europe and US caused by the extreme hot weather.  

The outlook is concerning:  A recent report (February 2022) from the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) states that climate change is already going beyond the ability of many societies to cope.  A July 2022 study has found that human-caused climate change will increase the likelihood and severity of heatwaves faster than predicted.

Water shortages are threatened worldwide, and water scarcity and flooding threats require urgent attention.  Climate change increases the risk of extreme weather, while water supply infrastructures in the developed world are ageing.  Climate change makes landslides and rising sea levels more likely to happen.  It also increases the risk of coastal erosion, damage to pipelines, cracks in bridges and other structures.

  • Energy and the Grid under pressure

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has highlighted the dangers of energy insecurity.  The industry is under pressure to reduce cost and find new supplies.  Power utilities are also being tasked with integrating increasing levels of new, renewable, energy assets, as well as adapting to changing demands and low carbon processes. While incorporating renewables will help secure long-term supplies, these are intermittent and decentralised.  The ongoing replacement of petrol cars with electric vehicles will put additional demands on power supplies and bring about new patterns of electricity usage.

2.  How IoT is helping to address these challenges

  • Mitigating supply chain uncertainties
    Logistics operations are moving towards greater automation.  This will fulfil several necessary goals for the industry, including timeliness, efficiency, rapid turnaround of goodsand worker safety.  This goes with the digitisation of manual processes and the integration of data, to connect with upstream and downstream processes. 
    • In the warehouse: the use of autonomous self-guiding vehicles, robotics for moving heavy goods, automating stacking, retrieval, and loading goods for transportation.  Operational equipment monitoring in real time together with predictive maintenance reduces machine downtime.

      Lone worker protection in the warehouse reduces the risk of injury.  Environment monitoring in the warehouse or container will detect changes in air quality.  

      Drones are used for inspection inside the warehouse and outdoors in stockyards.
    • In transit: Predictive maintenance for delivery vehicles and other machinery.  Monitoring wear and tear on fleets, rail and maritime transportation and predictive maintenance detects imminent breakdowns. 

      Optimising vehicle operations through connected vehicle telematics.  These services include fleet management, best route finding, reducing wasted trips, optimising vehicle use by drivers, monitoring fuel usage to avoid waste etc.

      Cold chain for transporting pharmaceuticals, vaccines and refrigerated foods; in-vehicle remote monitoring of temperature with alarm notification if the temperature is raised to unsafe levels. 

      Ensuring safety and dependability of railways depends on early detection and warnings to avoid accidents, including IoT for monitoring tracks and rolling stock.  5G will enable all this data to be connected in real-time.  When combined with analytics, operators will be able to carry out better preventive maintenance, predict failures and avoid accidents. 
    • Asset tracking:  Options to set up connectivity to obtain the needed data include cellular, RFID, Bluetooth LE, Wi-Fi, Cellular, and for long distance tracking LoRaWAN, satellite or a mix (hybrid).  Satellite-based solutions can be tailored to consider speed, latency, bandwidth, and importantly, cost.

      Cellular tracking can utilise public and private cellular networks.  5G in conjunction with private cellular networks would fulfil the need for immediacy and reliability of data collection needed for operations and decision making.

  • Mitigating climate change
    IoT enables leak detection in underground pipes using high-tech acoustic loggers and electronic sensors to pick up vibrations. 
    • Water metering offers visibility into water usage, supply and demand and assists in forecasting.
    • Monitoring of flood defences utilise RFID, low power networks and cellular among other things. IoT can help mitigate threats to infrastructures, built and natural; examples include monitoring erosion, landslides, cracks in bridges, pipelines etc.  Airborne drones may be used to detect landslides and inspect sites after an incident.
    • Remote forest fire sensing and detection systems have been implemented around the Mediterranean, delivering early warning before fire does too much damage.  Sensors monitor temperature and dangerous gases, and if some of these parameters go above a set threshold, the system sends an alarm to firefighters.
    • Environmental Monitoring: There are sensors to detect and measure all manner of environmental parameters – solutes, gases and particulates.
    • Air quality in cities necessitates monitoring particulate matter, as well as gases carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and ground-level ozone.  Analysing the origin of local air pollution allows city authorities to put in place protective measures.
  • Energy Solutions
    The power infrastructure of tomorrow needs smart, connected energy networks comprising generation, transmission and distribution operations. The IoT enables organisations to capture more granular data and perform sophisticated analytics, optimising resource usage and supporting decision-making.

    This parallels the ongoing digitisation of the energy industries, which also involves gathering and transferring of information from analogue to a shareable digital form. Capturing asset, meter, and customer data digitally helps the supplier identify where automation can enhance productivity and reduce uncertainty.
    • Smart metering affords visibility into the dynamics of the industry, supply and demand.
    • Predictive maintenance analyses data from instrumented machinery in real time to anticipate when it might fail, avoiding downtime.
    • Digital twins create an accurate virtual replica of physical objects and anticipate problems ahead of time by simulating performance.
    • Drones inspect industrial installations from the air including power generation plants, oil and gas platforms, power lines, and remote oil and gas pipelines.


3.  How the IoT World Map can assist

IoT solutions have several different elements and can be complex. This complexity will also increase with more use of real time processing, the introduction of private networking and the rollout of 5G. Each of these offers major benefits but assistance from IoT solution experts with specific knowledge of each individual sector is increasingly needed. This presents a difficulty for IoT buyers, who typically have to identify which suppliers have specific knowledge of their application areas.

The IoT World Map is arranged so that those requiring IoT solutions can access the map knowing only the applications they need support for in their own sector. IoT suppliers who have direct sector experience and can assist specifically in such solutions can be readily identified and contacted.

The aim of this is to assist IoT buyers to proceed more quickly to solution design and implementation.

Robin Duke-Woolley

Beecham Research

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