This curated column is authored by Asaf Adi, Senior Manager, IoT and Wearables at IBM Haifa Research Lab
In the last few years I have been involved in multiple IoT projects in different domains: form optimization of water and waste water networks to employee safety and identification of new oil reserves. There is one thing that is common to all these projects: the gap between Theory and Practice in doing IoT projects. Here are some examples
IoT deployment – Optimizing the water network of a city to reduce leakage and to save energy requires the installation of sensors, such as pressure sensors, on the water pipes. But does the city know where exactly where the 50-100 years old water pipes are? – What about installing a smart home or a smart factory – are the building plans we have are up to date ?
- The Theory – We have all information required to plan an IoT deployment
- The Practice – The information we have on the environment is limited and we have to plan for the unexpect during IoT deployment
Installation cost – Sometimes roads and buildings were built on top of the old pipe network which make it difficult to install the sensors, but in any case installing a sensor in the ground means – an expensive construction project. What about installing a sensor in a smart factory – what does it means to the assembly line ?
- The Theory – IoT sensors and devices prices are going down
- The Practice – IoT sensors and devices installation may be complex, expensive, and may cause inconvenience to the user/customer to the level that they will lead to the cancelation of the project
Battery life is one of the major challenges in employee safety projects and any projects that use devices that are not physically connected to power such as wearables. We have many wearables devices and many sensors to choose from but not many of those can hold for a full shift (12 hours) while acquiring and transmitting data.
- The Theory – Many wearable devices to choose from
- The Practice – Most wearable devices are not suitable for the enterprise working environments as recharging is required during the shift.
Convenience – have you every tried to wear shoes that are just to small ? What about a wearable that is itching in dusty and humid working conditions ? IoT sensors should be seamlessly assimilated in our daily routine, they should become unnoticeable. With the maturity of technology that exists today – this is far from reality.
- The Theory – IoT devices are easy to use
- The Practice – IoT devices usually require high maintenance – connectivity is lost from time to time, battery need to be recharged, and sometime the device is just not designed well and is inconvenient.
Connectivity – In todays connected world connectivity is not an issue – right ? Think again … IoT devices require very reliable network to make sure data is not lost. Connectivity in large factory floors, areas with lots of metals, underground mines etc is a significant issue – both from installation perspective and from costs.
- The Theory – It is a connected world
- The Practice – In industrial settings, connectivity is significant part of the project planning and costs.
This is a partial list, I could go on on …..
When you are doing your IoT project, plan for the unplanned, try to expect all the problems that can occur and plan for it in advance — don’t assume anything – validate it.
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