There is an unprecedented demand for organisations to respond to Covid-19 right now.

To put in place their business continuity plans and figure out how to enable their staff to work remotely in a secure manner. However, amid all those requirements, there still exists an opportunity for businesses to innovate, using connected technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) to improve operational efficiencies, reduce costs and provide better digital services.

CENSIS describes IoT as ‘enabling organisations to have greater visibility into aspects of their businesses that may have previously been hidden - this valuable information, often available in real-time has a multitude of business benefits.’

It’s hard to argue. In Scotland, recent research conducted with 2,000 citizens by Capita* on behalf of SWAN has revealed that there is a strong appetite for innovation and change across the country – 84% of people believe that Scottish public services should embrace more digital technologies; 92% say that access to digital services and connectivity is important in choosing where to live now; 75% would take access to digital services and connectivity into account when choosing where to live in the future.

Focusing specifically on the Covid-19 crisis, IoT could play a critical role in allowing for quarantine tracking and enforcement, for example a coronavirus app that alerts people if they have recently been in contact with someone testing positive for the virus "could play a critical role" in limiting lockdowns, scientists advising the government have said. 

Another application, such as one developed by Capita’s partners WMW, is dedicated to help government authorities and healthcare organisations determine who may have been infected and aid the tracking of those in close proximity.

Away from Covid-19 specific applications, local authorities such as Norfolk County Council are spearheading the use of IoT in several ‘smart’ initiatives, aiding its ambition to be the best-connected rural county in the UK. Norfolk is installing Long-Range Wide Area Network (LoRaWAN) ‘gateways’, creating the largest public LoRaWAN network in the UK to make better informed decisions and save money. The network is free for anyone to use, whether they are a citizen, a business or in the public sector. For example, the authority uses LoRaWAN-linked sensors to monitor road temperatures to help manage road gritting and monitor road safety issues. The temperature data from low-cost IoT in-road sensors in Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn determines whether road gritting is needed. Each run costs around £25,000 and ‘smart’ gritting helps to save £8,000 per grit run.

IoT can also be used most effectively to optimise smart buildings, such as monitoring temperatures of public sector buildings, or changing heat and light settings to reduce energy waste and consumption.

Back in Scotland, IoT was used in Highland Council schools to monitor water temperature in the pipes and to send data to an online dashboard. This replaced the “man in a van” at up to £50 per visit per month by using IoT to provide regular 15-minute data captures provided remotely with installation taking half a day per site – clear benefits mean no travel is required and there is no potential contagion. Secondary uses of data supported future building design and implementation of more efficient water systems. 

Other use cases we’ve seen being piloted by our customers to improve efficiencies for their businesses include:

  • Smart street lighting - connecting streetlights that can be controlled individually or by group, to improve safety for citizens and reduce energy consumption.
  • Social housing monitoring – an end-to-end service to monitor the internal environmental conditions within domestic properties owned by the Council. Sensors provide the local authority with data, reports and analysis of environmental data collected.
  • Water monitoring – SEPA utilised IoT to monitor the level of one of the rivers in the Arbroath basin area, collecting data to measure water extraction rates during high water and drought periods.  As a result, SEPA can consult and advise farmers on better management of water extraction from the river, using the data in conjunction with historical weather reports and current long-range weather forecasts to communicate optimum timing to extract water from the river.
  • Asset management & tracking – assisting staff in being able to locate assets has been a challenge over recent years and IoT starts to finally make this efficient and cost-effective to deploy for use cases including healthcare and facilities management. In line with strategies to reduce health and social care costs, the use of IoT and smart wearables can transform the lives of groups at risk, providing early intervention for the elderly living on their own.

Despite these troubling times, from the use cases outlined above it’s clear that IoT is already transforming the way that many services are being delivered, allowing organisations to improve efficiencies, reduce costs and derive tangible benefits from the data being delivered. Our advice for getting started? Don’t hold back! Think big, start small, then scale fast!

Working with our team can help you develop your IoT strategy, undertake a proof of concept or you can simply access our expertise. We’ll help you to navigate your IoT options, investigate use cases, build confidence and ambition to support innovation within your organisation.

The latest report, ‘Exploring digital transformation and IoT in Scottish education’, is the final in a series of three. The first report explored digitalisation and IoT in healthcare, and the second looked at digital technology in local government services.

Download the full final report

Thinking about your organisation?