Our devices are getting smarter every day. Our homes are more connected, and our digital assistants can order us a pizza, get our groceries delivered, check the weather and even answer the door. Our cars are smart enough to drive — or at least reverse park — themselves. Buildings and stadiums are becoming smarter, as their HVAC systems, elevators, lights and other aspects are becoming connected via the internet of things.
But what about the other, less sexy but equally important parts of our everyday lives, like the infrastructure that ties our communities, cities, states and country together?
Anyone paying attention to politics in Australia will know that the term ‘infrastructure’ is frequently mentioned, and oftentimes so in the context of needing investment and overhaul. Of course, if you have driven on some of the roads in regional Australia or travelled on the stainless steel S set trains in Sydney, then you can attest: the infrastructure does need some upgrading.
But, does it need digitising as well? In short, yes. As nations such as the United States attempt to overhaul their infrastructure, and developing regions look to modernise, weaving in IoT will bring benefits for both general maintenance, but also create opportunities for new business models.
Smarter power grid means greater power efficiency.
Major cities around the world are already working to connect the power grid, allowing the city to better monitor and adjust for outages. Bringing more connectivity to the grid offers municipalities an opportunity to better ensure consistent access to power. While IoT will not prevent a cyclone from cutting electricity to thousands of homes in Far North Queensland, or avoid outages due to bushfires coming through the national parks, it can help to better monitor unexpected surges or less dramatic outages.
Power companies will be better equipped to understand where surges are happening and where they can throttle down power to areas that have expected down times. Moreover, IoT gives officials the ability to better identify the cause of an unexpected outage. In the future, power companies could incentive consumer behaviour. Knowing the details of the usage could allow power companies to be savvier in terms of how they work with their customers to better use power.
Our roadways can power our cars and fix our potholes.
Anyone who has a smartphone already knows about wirelessly charging your mobile phone — but what about your car? There are already experiments underway to explore electrifying roads that can allow an electric car to be charged while driving. Furthermore, roads will not only be able to charge your car, but will become smarter by understanding and sensing the wear and tear, being able to proactively anticipate when repairs are needed, and also providing usage data.