How IoT is Powering Remote Work in 2021 by@jacquic

How IoT is Powering Remote Work in 2021

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Jacqui C

Jacqui is a freelance writer with experience in business, marketing, technology, and team management.

Around 40 percent of the workforce could, in theory, work from home at least one day per week without productivity being affected. Of that, 20 to 25 percent could spend over half their working week working remotely without consequence.

That is not to say that all these people will get the opportunity to work in this way. Employers often have incredibly good reasons for wanting their people in the office for as much time as possible. But after working their way through a pandemic and being able to do their jobs, employees also know now, better than ever, that they can do their jobs without having to battle the morning commute. Indeed, research suggests that almost one-in-three people that can work remotely will consider quitting if asked to return to the office.

When you consider that working from home post-pandemic can be expected to lift productivity by as much as five percent, it’s clearly in the enterprise’s best interest to figure out ways to enable remote work. And this is where the IoT comes in.

How the IoT will enable remote work

There are two principal applications of IoT that will assist organizations with their remote working strategies; sensors and automation.

• Sensors are data-gathering chips that can be placed on objects or in areas to monitor an environment without human personnel. For a simple potential application of this, imagine a greenhouse where sensors deliver humidity and temperature readings to a remote employee over their laptop. The employee can ensure that the plants are being adequately maintained without having to be on-site.

• Automation, meanwhile, is robots or processors that are powered by IoT connectivity and operate independently of humans. A warehouse robot that can go and retrieve a product without a human having to control it would be an automation application.

Brought together, IoT-enabled sensors and automation facilitate remote work by allowing the employee to conduct their tasks without needing to be on the site. If something goes wrong, they may need to make their way in for the sake of maintenance, but aside from that, IoT can act as the eyes, ears, and hands for the employee on-site.

How IoT will work, by sector

Each sector will find different applications of IoT. One of the strengths of the technology is its versatility. It enables companies to build technology-driven solutions specific to the data sets that it works with and processes that it might want to automate.

Some examples include:

Healthcare

For healthcare, it’s all about remote monitoring of patient’s conditions. Sensors allow nurses and doctors to keep an eye on recovery or vital signs from afar, which will allow patients better at-home recovery, and facilitate remote care, saving patients the need to travel to a regional hospital. In the long term, fine-control robots could enable remote surgery.

Manufacturing

Robot processes have already become standardized in manufacturing. Still, IoT can be used to better monitor the factory line for quality control purposes, more quickly diagnose and repair faults, and keep factory lines running longer.

Supply chain and logistics

IoT-enabled robots will take over more and more warehousing duties, while sensors will monitor supply levels to ensure minimal inventory and truly efficient logistics.

Mining

For mining, the big potential with IoT is monitoring the safety of the sites and potentially taking over tasks in dangerous conditions. Additionally, self-driving vehicles could allow for a more efficient flow of resources from the site.

Retail

Retailers will use sensors to monitor foot traffic around a store and then use that data to drive better layouts and highlight big-ticket items for customers. Additionally, retailers can use IoT-enabled devices to provide a more dynamic shopping experience for consumers without a retail salesperson needing to be involved. The potential of unattended stores is there with IoT.

The adoption and facilitation of IoT

Regardless of the sector, there are two underlying technology concepts that are set to super-charge IoT adoption and, therefore, IoT’s ability to facilitate remote work: 5G and edge computing. 5G is now well-known technology, but it is important for IoT for two main reasons: firstly, 5G allows for close to zero-latency data transfer, meaning that while other forms of the Internet would have a few milliseconds of delay in the data transfer, with 5G, it happens in real-time. Without that, fine-control IoT applications (like self-driving cars or remote surgery robots) would have a delay in input to action, which could have catastrophic effects. Secondly, 5G allows many connections at once, and with the number of IoT devices expected to hit 35 billion this year, that’s important.

Edge computing, meanwhile, simply means small data centers located on-site so that the computing that an IoT device does is achieved on-site. Previously datacentres were massive facilities hosted off-site, but this again introduced lag into any on-site controls. Edge computing solutions seek to address that challenge.

The interest in IoT applications is set to explode as more organizations look to solutions to enable remote work. The stability of the IT environment will be key. Still, any enterprise that can deliver this will not only have happier and more productive employees, but they will also enjoy significant competitive advantages from ever-more complex automation and AI, driven by those IoT sensors and robotics.

Jacqui C HackerNoon profile picture
by Jacqui C @jacquic.Jacqui is a freelance writer with experience in business, marketing, technology, and team management.
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