Yes, your new fridge can be an internet-enabled Thing, and you can text it to check the beer supply, possibly avoiding a stop on the way home (although, is it possible to have too much beer?)

Alas, which of life’s many difficult hardships will technology eliminate next?  The smart fridge is cool, but it’s about as necessary as a lawn ornament (no offense to law ornament fans).

What about the breakthrough, make-the-world-a-better-place uses for IoT?

In business, I see three promising areas:

Inventory: Good, cheap, durable sensors attached to inventory could cut losses and improve  accuracy.  RFID isn’t good enough in many cases, although that is changing: Airbus uses RFID tags to track thousands of airplane seats and life vests, and a major Japanese clothing retailer has applied RFID tags to everything in its stores, including inventory, hangers, and merchandising displays.

Retail: Already some stores are starting to use sensors to detect when inventory on the shelf is low.  If the trend continues and accuracy is good, this could be a revolution in retail inventory tracking, which is currently done by scanning UPC codes.  As the costs of sensors drops, more and more (lower value) products can be included in this type of solution.  Some hotel mini-bars now sense when items are consumed, eliminating the need to count, write down, and key in how many drinks and snacks a hotel guest had. 

Machinery diagnostics: For complex production lines that are difficult to keep running at top performance for long periods, IoT sensors could continually measure and transmit machine parameters, output, speed, consistency of cycles, and other variables to create a visual record of performance that could then be correlated with unplanned downtime; cause and effect could more easily be determined and machine performance improved.

PINC Solutions, Inc. markets connected sensors and software for managing truck fleets at plants and distribution centers.  It is a straightforward, practical application of IoT: trucks have RFID sensors that uniquely identify them; trucks are attached via software to delivery numbers, dock doors, destinations, and other information via a giant virtual whiteboard.

The benefits here are easy to understand: measure & reduce wait times at pickup and delivery points, reduce idling and searching in a yard full of trucks for the one you need, and provide real-time on-the-road status and ETA.

For more on this topic, check out this IoT primer published by Goldman Sachs.

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