IoT solutions to help us lead better lives

26th June 2018
Posted By : Anna Flockett
IoT solutions to help us lead better lives

Last week Hardware Pioneers hosted their third IoT & Connected Hardware Showcase. This time even conservative estimates place the number of attendees at over 900 people - once again highlighting the organisers’ ability to consistently tap into the hotbed of engineering activity to be found in London and the surrounding area. There were 23 companies exhibiting, with long-established multinationals like Mouser, Nordic Semiconductor and Texas Instruments alongside many of the industry’s most exciting new start-ups. 

Guest blog written by Mark Patrick, Mouser Electronics.

One of the recurring themes in this latest event was making our work and living spaces better fit for purpose. Thanks to its IoT sensors and accompanying data platform LightFi is able to undertake real-time occupancy monitoring, in order that lighting and air conditioning systems will operate with higher degrees of efficiency. The WiFi connected hardware can easily be retrofitted into existing workplaces, as well as being applied to new builds. 

Likewise, through the smart sensor technology that they incorporate, Beringar’s building automation units are able to collect real-time data on occupancy levels to enable more effective resource management. Through the analysis of compiled movement, temperature, air quality, sound and light intensity information, and the subsequent application of artificial intelligent (AI), systems are able to learn and then further refine what the appropriate response is to a given scenario. It is also possible to determine why certain spaces are under-utilised or what further resources need to be allocated to a space with continuously high concentrations of human activity. By connecting up the units situated in different buildings there is the potential to pool together available assets. 

In the domestic environment, the Verv home energy assistant also integrates AI. This product has the capacity to give users access to intelligent data about key household appliances and their electricity consumption at a more granular level than a standard smart meter. It means that utility bills can be kept under control and any item that is having a disproportionate effect on overall expenditure identified - then subsequently repaired or replaced. It can also be used in a preventative context, by enabling deterioration in performance or the tell-tale signs of arising faults to be uncovered at an early stage. Meanwhile Smarter is developing IoT-based household appliances with the intention of transforming our kitchens. Helping to not only conserve energy, but also tackle the increasing problem of excessive food waste. 

Figure: London-Based Start-Up Smarter Looks to Shape the Kitchens of the Future.

The employment of IoT technology in the agricultural sector also featured heavily. Odyssey Sensors is aiming its products at family and small-scale farms. Through its hardware, farmers can gain access to valuable data about the water reserves distributed over their land, saving them time and fuel travelling between these locations. As well as providing a monitoring function, it can also alert the farmer/farm operative if there is an issue that needs urgent resolution. 

Based in the incubator at Somerset House, in central London, but with the core academic research coming from Harper Adams University in Shropshire, EarthRover is looking to bring robotic technology into the farming arena. In doing so, the objective is to offload some of the labour intensive tasks that currently require a human workforce to execute. The autonomous agriculture robot they are currently prototyping was on display at the Hardware Pioneers showcase. This compact unit is intended for scouting out where things need to be done and communicating this back to a central hub. The plan is for the company to introduce a larger unit in the near future that will be able to take care of all the heavy-duty work.  

CityCrop is using smart technology to improve plant yields, but in this particular case it is targeted at urban settings. The company’s intelligent indoor garden solution, which takes up a volume of just 45x45x88cm allows optimisation of the plant growth conditions through control of temperature, humidity, lighting and air circulation, while limiting the electricity consumed to just £3-5/month.  

Disruptive Technologies is promoting a sensing-as-a-service business model. It has developed a series of ultra-small sensor node types - movement, proximity and temperature (with others such as touch in the pipeline). Suitable for incorporation in industrial automation, agriculture, building management, smart homes, etc., these sensors (along with the supporting data acquisition and analysis software) will be rented out per node on a monthly basis. As a consequence, implementations can start small and be adjusted before scaling up, thereby mitigating the risks involved. 

With an ageing population, assisting living will become more commonplace in Western economies over the course of the next few years. Canary Care has developed a system that can monitor elderly people’s activity with considerable detail. It relies on the dispersal of wireless sensors throughout the home. Via these the system even has the capacity to ensure that the occupant is taking their medication, eating properly and getting enough sleep. As a result, it gives greater visibility to prolong independence for as long as possible, and helps determine when ongoing carer support might be called for. Also exhibiting was the team from Ding with their Wi-Fi enabled smart doorbell. This simple to install system could be beneficial to both the elderly and the disabled, as well as for property management (Airbnb being among the examples of where it would be appropriate - allowing guests to be let in remotely by the owner). After seeing such a wealth of innovative ideas, I am already looking forward to getting the opportunity to meet with more fascinating start-ups at the next showcase event, which is scheduled for early December.

Figure 4: A Collection of Different Sensors Offered by Disruptive Technologies.

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