When we talk about the IoT there are three main things that come to mind: improving convenience, improving efficiency, and lowering costs. Those can be applied to any number of specific applications or even entire industries in which the IoT is already active. And for the most part, they tend to come together to make environments run more smoothly, whether that means a home, an office, or an entire business.
In other words, they’re largely for profit. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, and in the process many IoT applications are lowering energy consumption and consumer costs — both of which are generally good for the world. But there are also some smaller, developing IoT systems that are designed simply to help people in need. Here are four such systems and applications you may not have heard about just yet.
- Clean Water In Developing Countries
There’s been some talk that developing countries could drive the evolution of the IoT. Companies are looking for ways in which smart technology systems could help with various issues in such countries, and one that immediately comes to mind is the problem of clean water. Indeed, one report on the IoT in developing countries specifically mentioned the ability to monitor water systems automatically (as well as to check air quality and manage waste systems) through IoT devices.
The fact that contaminated water could be recognized and dealt with all through automated systems has major implications for many of developing countries, and could save lives. In fact, it’s even a useful application in more developed countries. Consider, for instance, that one of the hot political issues in the U.S. as of late has been a clean water crisis in the city of Flint, Michigan.
2. Assistance For The Visually Impaired
For most of human history people suffering from blindness or other serious visual impairments have relied on the assistance of others to get around. That might mean kind strangers, family, and friends, or even a walking stick or guide dog. But thanks to the IoT we’re seeing the beginnings of technology that can help such people to get around more independently. An article about GPS-related IoT applications pointed to this new technology as something that helps users to navigate the outside world by using their locations and orienting them with their surroundings. Basically, the technology recognizes surrounding obstacles and alerts the user. It also works with a “wand” that the user can point in a given direction to pick up on what obstacles or buildings might be there.
3. Early Earthquake Detection
There’s been some noise made about how the IoT might be used to detect and monitor extreme weather or natural disasters. But the early implications regarding earthquake detection actually came about almost by accident a few years ago. In September of 2014 reports came out that Jawbone health monitoring wristbands had actually recorded people’s responses to minor tremors related to a small earthquake. Basically, a high percentage of people wearing Jawbone wristbands within 15 miles of the epicenter of the earthquake woke up when minor shaking began. Specifically using sleep habits to track disasters may not be particularly useful but in the years since there’s been more focus on using IoT sensors to automatically track troublesome environmental occurrences.
4. Patient Surveillance
Suffice it to say there are numerous companies creating and even distributing IoT-connected tools meant to monitor health conditions. Right now that mostly means blood sugar levels and heart health, but the implications are enormous. From established hospitals to health organizations in developing countries there is all kinds of potential for health monitoring systems and IoT patient surveillance to help sick or suffering people lead more comfortable lives.
We’re quickly learning that the IoT has just about endless uses, even if some are more grounded in potential than reality at this point. But these examples show that the IoT may wind up being just as involved with helping people in need as with boosting company production or improving home life.