Internet of Things (IoT) uses machine-to-machine (M2M) technology to connect objects to each other via the Internet, analyze their data, and communicate results to other objects (your Smart phone or Smart TV, PC or tablet, etc). What can objects tell us? Well, anything and everything you want.
Maybe you’ve already heard about fridges checking expiry dates on their content, then alerting you on your Smartphone. This is just the starting point. Next you can set your appliance to automatically order new supplies from your preferred local supermarket (based on your consumption habits and preferences), pay with your credit card, and let brands track this data to text you coupons and special offers tailored to your specific needs.
But the best example comes from technology utilization you do not notice, while trusting a close friend. Think about water. Hearing the sound of water is relaxing, but there is also a lot to learn if we listen to it.
One of the problems with water in Italy is that most of the production is lost along the grid due to old pipes. Maintenance is expensive, and government is unable to afford the upgrades required. Attempts to involve private funds is a risky business, and politicians do not like to mention it as the immediate reaction is usually voter (and populist) anger: too many fear that leaving such a fundamental utility in the hands of for-profit companies, will change users into customers – meaning people will only access water based on how much they are able to pay, and how convenient it is for the company to provide it in more isolated areas.
On the other end, water is often wasted by users, due to its low price (government-controlled). And even the most observant people often struggle with errors from manual meter reading and billing. Then there are security risks due to manual reading: utility companies have to always consider an additional cost in their yearly budget, to inform customers wary of so-called delegates coming to their doors for checking reasons.
So what if the pipe could tell us where and when waste is happening?
In Smart Cities, carriers can collect data of water usage from sensors, cross-check and combine them with other information from sensors in town. Then share this info with agencies, companies, real estate managers – and customers. Smart Metering allows a better Utilities Management: remote meter reading, ad hoc and consumptions division, leaks and tampering in-time detection, measurement of peak demand to improve customer fees and efficient use (ie public irrigation system), …
You do not need to check the number on the analog meter any more because your building administrator requires your house consumption data for proper expense sharing. And you receive automatic alerts in the event of abnormal consumption (avoiding high water bill surprises due to waste + another bill from the plumber and carpenter for the restoration job). Having an analog meter under the kitchen faucet couldn’t prevent these situations: we only remember of its existence when we need to close it because we’re leaving home for summer holidays.