IoT Podcast - Agriculture
Business and Enterprise |

IoT Podcast: Agriculture industry embracing Internet of Things

By Gerhard Loots September 12, 2018

The Internet of Things (IoT) sits at the heart of a major technology-driven transformation in Australian agriculture that has huge implications across the whole $60 billion industry.

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With IoT, farmers can monitor and manage every tiny detail — from the moisture, nutrient and acidity contents of soil and individual plants to the presence of pests and local weather patterns to the health and wellbeing and minute-to-minute movements of cattle.

And as these elements become connected, farmers stand to gain huge insights from big data analytics that enable better decisions both on the farm and at every stage along the supply chain — a move that should ensure the agriculture industry can feed the world’s projected 8.6 billion people by 2030 and 9.8 billion by 2050.

Livestock monitoring and management

It can be a time-intensive task to manually track and monitor hundreds or thousands of farm animals such as cows or sheep, which are sometimes spread across vast areas, but a multitude of IoT technologies make light work of this.

GPS and RFID sensors attached to the animals, coupled with adrone or ground-based high-precision geo-mapping tools and sensors on water bores and troughs enable livestock management that simultaneously looks at the state of the herd as well as each individual animal — thereby negating the need for farmers to make constant trips to check on things in person.

Sensors can detect, for instance, when an animal is sick or about to give birth and alert the farmer via a text message or app notification. Predictive data analytics can even identify notable changes in an animal’s condition before they present any obvious symptoms.

Motion sensor data on cow movement revealed that the animals get restless at night when they are fertile. Farmers were able to use this information to increase the productivity of cows by around 20 percent.

Elsewhere, Australian startup Smart Paddock is using IoT to track and monitor animal-related health issues in cattle herds to identify animals that are sick (or especially healthy).

Around 450,000 cattle die prematurely in herds across Australia each year — amounting to around 7 percent of cows in the country, or more than $700 million in lost revenue. But this data helps to identify the causes of illness, and to reduce the spread of disease within a herd, so that those premature death numbers can head as close to zero as possible.

Data insights for today’s global markets

Agriculture has become a global business. Farmers no longer produce food and other goods only for the domestic market; they now export to China and the United States and other places all around the world.

And it’s technology like that developed by Smart Paddock, or by FKG Group’s Queensland-based innovation precinct for farming, that allows Australian produce to compete on the global stage — with fast, evidence-based decisions that have a significant impact both on short-term yields and long-term productivity.

Business and Enterprise |

IoT podcast: Harnessing IoT to protect our precious resources

By Gerhard Loots August 28, 2018

The Internet of Things (IoT) is helping to better conserve, monitor and intelligently manage the utilities that we all depend on: electricity, gas and water.

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Whether it’s saving energy by identifying and eliminating waste, managing our home appliances, or preventing leaks with smart water meters, the Internet of Things is helping to reduce utility waste and it’s saving Australians millions of dollars in the process.

Energy retailer Origin wants to automatically improve our energy use by integrating IoT sensors, smart meters and smart devices into our homes. The idea is that sensors for detecting movement, temperature and humidity can leverage home wi-fi networks to interact with smart lights, plugs, appliances and gateway devices that hook up to a controller app on a smartphone.

Lights and appliances can be configured to automatically turn off or on at certain times or under certain circumstances (like if you leave or enter the room), which saves electricity and reduces bill costs. And better yet, all this data could help improve load balancing on the electrical grid — to more efficiently manage electricity production from solar, hydro, wind, coal and gas sources, or perhaps to automatically use off-peak electricity rates. All of this better optimises our everyday energy consumption.

Even before you get to our energy usage at home and work, we’re wasting huge amounts of electricity. Basement car parks, lifts, foyers, gardens, and other communal areas of apartment blocks, office buildings and hotels use tremendous amounts of power. But Wattblock is on a mission to change this — at least for the 2.2 million Australians who live in apartments.

The energy analytics start-up uses smart meters and IoT sensors to first quantify energy waste in apartment buildings. This shows strata organisations just how much money they’re losing from the outdated lighting, ventilation and hot water systems in their common areas.

Using techniques such as machine learning and A.I., Wattblock helps transition these buildings to more sustainable energy technologies such as solar and batteries, LED Lighting, heat pumps for hot water and even electric vehicle recharging stations. Wattblock has benchmarked energy savings of up to 80 percent and assisted some of the first apartment blocks in Australia to achieve 5 star environmental ratings.

These sorts of savings are not just great for businesses and residential buildings. They’re also great for the environment. With IoT powering innovation that brings smarter gains in efficiency and productivity, as well as larger reductions in wastage, we can do more with water and electricity while also using less of both.

We can protect our most precious ecosystems from the byproducts of industry and population growth and make big cuts to our carbon emissions. And we can do it all better than we ever could before.

Iot podcast: Smart City Innovation – how IoT is helping to build our cities of the future
Business and Enterprise | IoT |

Smart city innovation: how IoT is helping to build our cities of the future

By Michelle Bendschneider July 4, 2018

Driven by maturing Internet of Things (IoT) technology and infrastructure, Smart Cities are becoming more than a future concept; it’s now a reality. Whether it’s in the private sector with smart cabs and smart parking or in public infrastructure with traffic and waste management, there’s a big push to embrace smart city connectivity and the innovation it can enable.

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Connected infrastructure

With Australia’s population projected to double by 2075 and the average home predicted to climb from 13.7 to 30.7 connected devices by 2021, it’s critical that we build the infrastructure necessary to allow businesses, residents and tourists to seamlessly and securely connect what they want and need, as and when they want it.

Tasmania’s second-largest city, Launceston, aims to become one of Australia’s most innovative cities. In a partnership between Telstra, the University of Tasmania and Federal, State and Local government, the city has been chosen as the vanguard in Australia’s move into a connected future. To achieve its vision, it’s currently conducting trials to scope and define the future of city planning, healthcare, education and emergency management.

The backbone of these plans is the IoT infrastructure necessary to enable a smart city transformation: it’s gained access to Telstra’s Narrowband and Cat M1 IoT networks which integrate with connected devices used by homes and businesses.

Smart Services

Much of the current IoT infrastructure development is about preparing for future technology that capitalises on these specialised networks, but some of it can have a more immediate effect.

Telstra and Smart Parking have installed thousands of IoT ground sensors across several Australian council regions, including the City of Casey in Melbourne and the City of Joondalup in Perth, that monitor the use of parking spaces. This data feeds into a smartphone app that can offer precise directions to the nearest vacant spot so that drivers can stop circling around hoping to see an empty space.

There’s been an increasing rollout of smart bins, too, that notify maintenance crews when they need emptying, which allows for more efficient scheduling, a better citizen experience and fewer trucks on the road. Sensors have also been installed in parks and other places to monitor air quality, vehicle traffic flows and more. As an added bonus, the City of Joondalup has found that since its smart park technology trial the council’s internal culture has improved — with people now actively looking for digital solutions.

Data-driven planning and innovation

All this IoT infrastructure opens the door to technological innovation from the private sector. Take Cab Digital’s TaxiLive digital billboard system, for instance, which is expected to be fitted into 945 taxis Australia-wide by November 2018.

TaxiLive integrates a 32-inch digital screen into a custom-built boot, with on-board GPS data and mobile connectivity used to not only run tailored advertisements but to provide other road users with location, time and place-specific accident, traffic, weather or other alerts.

Better yet, there are future plans to share the data generated by TaxiLive-equipped cabs with roadside authorities to help with future transport and infrastructure planning. When a critical mass of taxis is reached, each generating real-time location data, we could see insights emerge about which areas of a city are under- or over-serviced by taxis at different times of the day.

The better the data gathered by sensors spread across connected cities, the better the potential optimisations and refinements to city infrastructure and services. Imagine AI-assisted reactive traffic management systems that automatically control lane openings and traffic light sequences to create the best flow of vehicles not in just one intersection but across the whole city. Or zoning regulations and urban planning decisions — not to mention local business investments — made according to insights identified in detailed real-world and predictive data analytics.

This is all just the tip of the iceberg. The biggest benefit for IoT in our cities and their surrounding regions is likely still unknown as most successful initiatives so far have focused on small and well-defined business challenges.

The connected city’s greatest potential lies in the opportunities the technology creates for businesses to innovate, to dream up exciting use cases and new solutions to problems we might not even realise exist – and to actually make them a reality.