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How IoT is transforming the way we live on Vodafone IE

How IoT is transforming the way we live

Summary: Taking it from the abstract, Vodafone's Colin Barrett explains how Internet of Things (IoT) is helping businesses be more efficient and illustrates how it works in everyday life.

Colin Barrett, head of IoT with Vodafone Business Ireland

This article originally appeared on the Irish Times on August 11, 2023.

From the humdrum to the hubristic, technology is transforming the way we live. Far from being mere buzzwords, many advances are effecting significant - and positive - change for people and businesses alike.

One of those is Internet of Things, or IoT.

"IoT is about solutions to fix business challenges and bring efficiencies to everyday life," explains Colin Barrett, head of IoT with Vodafone Business Ireland. With 20 years-experience in the technology sector, he is best placed to speak about how these advances will alter the way we live and do business.

The term internet of things is somewhat abstract. "I get asked all the time what IoT means. There are different perceptions as to what it is because there is such a diverse range of benefits that it delivers."

What is IoT and why is it important to business?

For the uninitiated, IoT is essentially a network of connected devices which are often all around us, and could be serving any type of functional purpose. When you combine IoT devices with automated systems, data can be gathered for analysis, environments can be monitored, alerts can be triggered, or actions can be remotely executed. But Barrett is adamant that IoT is not simply about connected technology; "it’s about the value or competitive advantage that, for example, Irish businesses can derive by capturing real time data across thousands of devices, vehicles, people or even livestock and then representing it in a way that gives them a digital advantage - be it a new revenue stream or cost efficiencies."

"It's also around societal transformation and making Irish communities’ lives easier," he adds. "IoT is just the conduit and it's therefore best described in the context of the real-world scenario it has made possible. It's more about the value it delivers, than the technology."

Bus stop in Dublin showing real time information of bus arrivals

Powering society and enterprise

And this value from Vodafone IoT is evident in many everyday examples of its use. For example, if you buy a new car, it will likely have an IoT sim card embedded in it for SOS location services, infotainment subscription services and much more. Across Dublin, IoT powers digital bus stops to provide real-time schedules allowing city commuters to plan their journeys. It also connects thousands of on-street electric vehicle charging points nationwide and provides in-air digital services to the aviation industry.

Many Irish homes and businesses are kept secure with alarms and CCTV that are IoT connected for monitoring. And there are thousands of IoT water pressure sensors across Ireland’s water pipe network to help detect leaks and reduce water wastage. “Vodafone have been a pioneering IoT provider in Ireland for decades with hundreds of enterprise organisations leveraging our capability and experience” says Barrett.

Colin Barrett, head of IoT with Vodafone Business Ireland
IoT is also widely prevalent in the health sector; for example, IoT connectivity facilitates digitally connected ambulances across Ireland and other regions to help improve patient safety and critical transit. IoT availability has already revolutionised real-time remote telemedicine where wearable devices not only monitor patients, but also dynamically treat them. Wearable sensors employ IoT connectivity to allow independent living for older people.
Colin Barrett, head of IoT with Vodafone Business Ireland, showing how IoT works to employee

Keeping abreast of energy costs

IoT is also aiding the shift towards sustainability and energy efficiency, helping to address many of the challenges this move presents, Barrett adds. For example, Vodafone Ireland has recently launched an IoT pilot initiative with the aim of lowering energy costs for Irish SMEs. “This monitors electricity consumption through sensors installed around the customer premises, such as air-con, lights, heating, power,” he explains. “It helps drive changes in behaviour, by alerting when energy usage threshold values are exceeded.”

So while there is clearly a commercial imperative, the societal benefits are also obvious. This aligns with Vodafone’s core principle of inclusion for all, Barrett says.

One of the 600 smart life buoys

IoT technology making a difference

"Vodafone IoT has partnered with an organisation to provide smart disability parking spots in Limerick which reduces the stress for disabled drivers by helping them rapidly find available disability parking,” he explains. “And last year we worked with Civic Solutions to launch an IoT Solution, which monitors 600 smart life buoys nationwide to help save lives in Irish waters. These are all examples of where Vodafone IoT connectivity is behind a lot of societal services that impacts and touches on all of us.”

The beauty of IoT, Barrett emphasises, is that it’s not the preserve of large organisations and well-known brands. “It’s about what kind of difference it can make to any kind of community or businesses of any size.” He points out that there are now a raft of small tech start-ups using IoT solutions to build brand-new businesses and services.

IoT devices on a table

Why choose Vodafone?

By its nature, IoT may involve devices moving across different jurisdictions or being deployed in multiple different countries. “This can make things pretty complex,” Barrett admits. Vodafone, however, is able to remove that complexity with a seamless scalable connectivity solution under one Vodafone contract, which can roam across more networks than any other network operator in the world. “We provide IoT connectivity in over 190 countries,” he notes. “And our local Irish expertise is supported by our global IoT business unit with over 1,400 IoT experts.”

Despite these achievements and advancements, IoT is far from fulfilling its potential. Barrett notes that the ubiquity of 5G networks is expected to lead to a huge surge in growth of IoT devices. “Connecting cities and towns through 5G networks and IoT can help cities and regions with economic development, efficiency, sustainability and better citizen engagement for large-scale urban change,” he explains. “It can generate the data needed to measure, implement and optimise operations - whether that’s measuring air quality, traffic flow, planning health services, waste collection, public transport or energy and food waste.” IoT will also be increasingly used in the health sector to allow for robotic surgery and remote treatment.

2023, "How IoT is transforming the way we live", Irish Times, August 11. Available at: https://www.irishtimes.com/sponsored/2023/08/11/how-iot-is-transforming-the-way-we-live/

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