NBA players will be wearing smart rings to bring basketball back to its fans and safely continue the 2019-2020 season from July 30. As COVID-19 restrictions ease-out, all businesses are now looking at technologies which can help them in resuming their operations safely.
When the COVID-19 restrictions began in March 2020, technology helped in ensuring business continuity to a great extent by enabling working from home and remote collaboration. Now, different industries are looking at ways in which they can use technology to continue working from home, maintain social distancing norms, and perform contactless transactions. IoT is uniquely placed to facilitate a smart recovery as it enables devices/assets placed physically apart to communicate & connect with each other.
How IoT can help industry post COVID-19
IoT has emerged as the most viable solution in helping companies improve their products and services in a way that is safe and hygienic for their customers as well as employees. Of course, other technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning are also playing a pivotal role, but IoT solutions can prove to be the most effective out of all. Let us see how.
Physical distancing using IoT Solutions
People can return back to offices only if they have safe places to work. As of now, since the situation hasn’t improved much, the home still remains the safest out of all, and hence, work from home is here to stay at least for the short term within the corporate offices.
However, there are many situations where working from home or a safe space is not possible like in manufacturing industry assembly lines, healthcare, retail stores, etc. Therefore, the biggest HR challenge of the day is in ensuring safety for the employees coming back to work. In such a scenario businesses need to ensure that their customers, as well as employees, are safe.
Smart wearables and location-specific IoT sensors can be used to regularly monitor if the employees in the factory or any other workspace are ensuring a safe distance from each other while working and alerts can be sent to the main system if anything gets violated. Moreover, through integration with AI, it can also help in designing optimal workflows within the facility.
Building up a Safe Working Space using IoT Solutions
With Covid-19 travel restrictions being put in place, it is again not possible to visit work locations regularly and keep a manual safety check on all the assets, equipment & processes. Such regular checks are needed not only to prevent equipment downtime but also to ensure the safety of employees working in that place. IoT can help here by enabling remote monitoring and management of assets. For instance, machines in a factory, cold storage for food business, inventory of a hospitality business, air conditioning unit of a building, etc. all can be monitored remotely through a centralized dashboard providing all the essential information.
Remote asset monitoring and management can then be integrated along with AI-based systems in order to ensure predictive maintenance & immediate actions. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses already using IoT for automating their processes now need to further scale up and those not using IoT now have to introduce it within their facilities in order to resume operations.
Contactless transactions with IoT Solutions
The same technology that enables people to work safely and remotely can be used to ensure the contactless transaction. For instance, if two employees or a customer and a retail executive or two customers in a queue come too close to each other, a warning signal can be used to ensure safe distancing. The primary requirement here is that processes must be automated as much as possible to increase the possibilities of a contactless transaction.
What we have discussed till now applies to all industries and work styles. Let us look at specific industries that can benefit by leveraging IoT to ensure safe re-starting of business activities.
Industry use cases for implementation of IoT Solutions
IoT in Hospitality industry
Hospitality is one of the worst-hit industries due to the COVID-19 pandemic because it thrives on a person to person contact. Traveling or eating out is not a basic human need, so people find it easier to eliminate it from their daily lives when needed. The use of IoT in hospitality can help implement social distancing and hygiene norms. IoT and big data can together transform the hospitality industry and help get it back to its feet. Here are a few ways in which this can happen:
Contactless device control – A smart interface that allows the guest to control all the devices in the room, like television, lights, thermostat, etc., can minimize the need to touch multiple surfaces, improving hygiene and health safety. The same device can additionally be used to kill the bacteria and viruses in the atmosphere using ultraviolet rays.
Contactless services – IoT devices can be a good substitute for room service, payments, language translation, etc. minimizing the need for face to face contact.
Resource optimization – Motion sensors and temperature sensors installed in rooms and public areas of the property can ensure optimum utilization of resources for maintaining temperature and lighting conditions.
Cost optimization – Data collected from devices and sensors on the IoT network can enable businesses to optimize variable costs like electricity, water, room service, HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), etc. Hospitality is a labor-intensive industry. Occupancy trends can help optimize staff requirements, cutting on labour costs.
IoT in Manufacturing industry
Manufacturing is an investment intensive industry. The current shutdown has pushed many organizations in red and they need to recover as fast as possible. Industrial Internet of Things (II0T) can help businesses improve productivity while operating in safe conditions using interconnected intelligent devices. Businesses that were already using IIoT partially need to implement it more widely. Those still not in the fold of Industry 4.0 need to embrace it immediately. Find below some of the ways how IoT in the manufacturing industry can be helpful:
Social distancing – Ensuring social distancing on assembly lines is a nightmare for most Industries. IoT devices and sensors can be installed so that an alarm for alert goes off when people come to close to each other.
Predictive maintenance – Most Industries already have had too much of downtime and they would want to keep further downtime to a minimum. Predictive maintenance through the use of sensors and smart tags can ensure that there is no breakdown of equipment and hence disruption in the assembly line.
Process automation – Predictive maintenance can further be designed to trigger remote inspection when required to make the equipment maintenance process completely contactless. As the number of automated processes increases, the amount of physical interaction required decreases.
Data insights – Due to the pandemic restrictions, manufacturing units have had to divide work into shifts, reschedule timings, and calibrate production according to demands. IoT can combine the data collected with artificial intelligence and analytics to provide insights necessary to make these changes in real-time.
IoT in Healthcare industry
Digitization of the healthcare industry has been ongoing over the past few years. However, in view of the recent pandemic and the challenges set by it, more and more providers need to embrace IoT technologies to ensure the rapid adoption of smart healthcare.
Remote healthcare – Telemedicine and remote care have made inroads into traditional health care but they need to scale up quickly if the Healthcare industry is to cope with the surge in demand. There needs to be wider adoption of telemedicine especially for routine treatments so that patients do not need to come to the hospital and risk exposure to coronavirus.
Use of robots – Medical robots can help in COVID-19 detection centers by measuring temperature, delivering medicines, and disinfecting the premises. The data being collected can then be used by other devices in the IoT network to take appropriate action.
Connected diagnostics – Imaging and other diagnostic equipment can be connected to the healthcare providers so that they receive the results directly. This eliminates the need for patients to visit their healthcare practitioners to get prescriptions or medical advice.
Equipment maintenance – Correct functioning of medical equipment is crucial to ensure uninterrupted healthcare services. Smart equipment or sensors and smart tags attached to brownfield devices enable continuous monitoring and predictive maintenance. The same IoT technology can also be used to optimize the use of these resources, cutting on operating costs.
IoT in Retail Industry
Retail Industry has been severely affected by the pandemic, especially brick-and-mortar stores, due to the social distancing and hygiene norms in place. However, with the help of IoT, they can bounce back and gain more loyalty from their customers by showing that they care.
Avoid crowd within stores — Automated counting of people entering an area, be it a shopping mall or a standalone store, can be used to monitor whether more people can enter or they must wait for some of the customers inside to leave. Footfall counters can also double up as compliance facilitators so that they don't fall foul of the authorities.
Contactless in-store delivery – Robots can be used to deliver goods to the aisles or a specific area. This might bring about a feeling of insecurity among the existing employees, so businesses need to convince their employees that this is not for replacing human resources but to make them more efficient and safer.
Data insights – Actionable data from sensors placed strategically inside the stores can help gain insights into the shopping traffic patterns. This can further help them in being ready for shoppers with total safety and hygiene in-place.
Enforcing social distancing – Indoor positioning and location-aware IoT technology can help understanding how long people are standing in queues, and work towards decreasing that time.
Inventory optimization – The most important use of IoT in the retail industry is optimizing inventory. Beacons, smart tags, sensors, card tracking, and in-store navigation can collect data about which goods are in demand and enable stores to adapt to the changing customer demand quickly.
IoT in Pharmaceuticals industry
The COVID-19 pandemic has further underlined the need to optimize capacity utilization, strengthen supply chains, and increase production in the pharmaceutical industry. The global need to produce more drugs at scale has never been felt more acutely. But in reality, due to the pandemic, supply chains have been disrupted, drug production has decreased and R&D activities have taken a beating. Post pandemic, the pharma industry needs to figure out how they can boost both R&D and production of drugs while keeping their researchers and workers safe. IoT can be of help in their three-pronged strategy to pivot post Covid-19.
Supply chain management – IoT devices, sensors, and tags can be used to monitor the end-to-end supply chain remotely, from procuring API (active pharmaceutical ingredients) to shipping the drugs to the end-user. This is crucial in the pharma supply chain as varying temperatures and weather conditions can spoil the products and hence needs to be monitored continuously. Post pandemic, patient-centric healthcare would be the new normal owing to greater use of telemedicine and connected healthcare. So, the supply chain would change too.
Drug manufacturing environment – IoT can help maintain the ambient temperature and other environmental conditions necessary to produce drugs. The equipment can also be equipped with smart tags and beacons to monitor them. All these data can be fed into a dashboard that alerts a supervisor when action needs to be taken. This eliminates the need for physical verification of the drug production environment or inspection of equipment.
Drug research and development – Drug development environment parameters like temperature, humidity, light, radiation, etc. must be very precise. A failure at any level can mean the scrapping of the whole project, leading to huge losses. IoT in pharmaceuticals industry can help monitor and manage these conditions in real-time.
IoT in Logistics & Transportation
The supply chain was deeply affected — as evident from lack of essential goods – due to the COVID-19 restrictions and it is still recovering to a great extent. Business leaders feel that IoT can be a great enabler in putting supply chains in order so that everyone is prepared to operate effectively in case of future disruptions and shutdowns.
Real-time Cargo Data – Sensors and smart tags can be used to provide a real-time data analysis of the containers being transported. IoT in logistics can be used to monitor container variables like temperature, humidity, etc. and also, detect any kind of theft or spoilage. The data can be monitored by the supervisors on a single dashboard and alerts can be received immediately whenever there is an emergency situation. As an incident in the supply chain has a cascading effect on the downstream activities, real-time insights can help prepare for emergencies.
Tracking Fleet Operations – With the help of GPS based sensors, IoT in Transportation can help in tracking fleet. Fleet operators can use IoT to monitor driver behavior and patterns and at the same time ensure optimum utilization of the fleet. Moreover, it can also assist in keeping a real-time track of a vehicle’s location, idle time, running speed, average speed, etc.
How TechAhead can help
As discussed, IoT can help your business recover at speed post COVID-19. However, you must be careful in adopting IoT so that you achieve maximum benefits with minimum investments. After all, your business has already lost on revenue over the past few months due to the pandemic. The first step in adopting IoT to pivot your business must be to understand where your business stands and how it can benefit by using IoT. You can take the help of an in-house expert or external business analysts. Remember that it is not necessary to have all expertise for implementing IoT in-house. You can always take the help of experts for everything from understanding business requirements to development and maintenance.
TechAhead has a team of IoT solution specialists experienced in end-to-end IoT application development. From analyzing business requirements and designing a solution to developing the application and providing maintenance support, TechAhead has the required expertise in all domains associated with IoT. If you already have the technical experts for developing the application but need help in understanding the business requirements or using the right framework for developing the application, our consultants and business analysts can help you.
It was the technology that ensured business continuity through remote working and remote collaboration during the COVID-19 lockdown. As the economy opens up slowly, it is technology again that will help businesses pivot. Businesses are exploring technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data, cloud computing, etc. but the main centre of attraction out of all that is going to play a huge role in IoT. This is because it can easily facilitate the three primary conditions businesses need to put in place — having a safe working space, ensuring physical distancing, and performing contactless transactions.
IoT can help Industries like healthcare, retail, hospitality, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, etc. to get back to work while complying with social distancing and hygiene norms to ensure employee and customer safety.