Almost a year ago, we wrote an article on What the Internet of Things (IoT) Means for Small Business. This follow-up looks at some small business IoT use cases and the challenges surrounding IoT security.
The possibilities for deploying IoT technology appear endless. Companies large and small are either developing IoT tools or installing them in their own businesses to streamline their operations, increase efficiency, and lower costs.
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Internet of Things Applications: Taking IoT to the Street
Streetline, a "smart parking" company, simplifies parking for customers around the world. It uses sensors and mobile apps to help drivers find empty parking spaces in real time, make reservations, and pay by phone. It also provides analytics that help cities improve parking efficiency.
GridComm, another small business actively involved in making IoT work, helps cities network their street lights using IoT sensors installed inside the street light door. The sensors communicate data about the street lights across the city's power lines. Analytics are also part of the system.
"The system provides information like how many lights are on the network, how much electricity they use, and it tells you when street lights need to be replaced—before they fail," said Mike Holt, CEO of GridComm. "The maintenance team assigned to repair these lights can download their locations to a smartphone."
Further, cities can control the lights far beyond simply turning them on or off. For example, you can optimize the system by setting a dimming level and a precise schedule for individual street lights. A city saves money by not using bright lights when they're not needed
"Street lights are just the start," said Holt. "Once you network the street lights, we can connect thousands of sensors to measure weather, pollution, and traffic. And we can communicate the measurements over the street light control network."
Internet of Things Applications: Environmental Monitoring, Access, and Compliance
Matthew Olan works as the network administrator at Pharmacare Specialty Pharmacy(PSP), a Canadian company that employs about 150 people. His company installed Ubiquiti mFi temperature sensors, motion detectors, door sensors, and wireless security cameras throughout the organization.
"The cameras we have (from Ubiquiti Networks and Hikvision) are wired," Olan said. "We use them for security purposes such as monitoring facilities and recording incidents if they occur."
PSP uses temperature sensors to monitor both the temperature and the humidity in areas such as equipment rooms, server rooms, and in some of the main areas where staff actively work. It also uses RTD PT100 temperature sensors to monitor refrigerated drug storage. The company deploys these sensors across multiple sites.
"It's important for us to know if any fridges go out of a pre-set temperature range specified by our industry's governing bodies," said Olan. "The [IoT] system provides email alerts based on rules we define around temperature, and it also records and keeps data for retrieval as needed."
PSP installed door sensors on access doors to IT equipment areas, as well as on all lockable equipment racks. Olan said they configured the sensors to send alerts to the company's IT helpdesk (PSP relies on Spiceworks Helpdesk) if anyone opens any of the doors. Not only does this alert them to equipment access, it generates a ticket on which the staff member who accessed the area must provide a reason for the access. This acts an equipment access log. If an alert triggers and no one knows who accessed an area, PSP investigates the alert and reviews security camera footage to see who was involved.
"We currently use the Ubiquiti mFi IoT system for monitoring, event notification, and real-time data collection," said Olan. What IoT benefits does PSP reap? "Compliance, security, and cost savings are some of the factors that drive our need for IoT technology."
For example, if Olan's team gets an alert that a fridge is too warm or cold, they can transfer the contents of that fridge, which reduces product spoilage and saves money. It also shows regulators that PSP complies with industry regulations. The old method of manual temperature checks was time consuming, inaccurate, and showed only specific points in time—and nothing about what happened between those points.
Equipment access logs are both a good security practice and required under industry regulations. Normally access can be difficult to track especially when equipment resides on a remote site without a staff presence. IoT sensors on access points can notify Olan's team instantly whenever someone accesses equipment at a remote site.