The Future of Cellular is IoT – Hacker Noon

Learn how the world is using cellular IoT hardware to solve real problems quietly and efficiently.

Cellular IoT (Internet of Things) is strengthening ubiquitous connectivity at a rapid pace, with industry experts projecting the number of cellular-connected devices to grow to 1.8 billion by 2023. From a market of 0.5 billion cellular-connected devices in 2017, this growth is primarily fueled by the rise of small, computing cellular IoT hardware.

Cellular IoT hardware (like IoT prototyping kits and development boards) are designed for low-power, low-cost, and long range applications. They are designed to give businesses and product creators a reliable and secure way to connect their products to the internet over cellular connectivities. Cellular IoT hardware is typically equipped with SIM cards and can connect to networks via 2G, 3G, or LTE connectivities.

However, the problem with cellular IoT hardware is that it’s often hard to see in action. That’s why in this article, I’ve rounded up real IoT applications to show how cellular technologies are helping product creators and enterprises solve real-world problems.

Six Real World Cellular IoT Applications

1. Environmental Management with Opti

Today, the vast majority of cities aren’t equipped to handle the environmental damage that can occur from earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods. However, companies like Opti have developed ways to combat inadequate infrastructure with drainage systems that are equipped with cellular IoT hardware.

Opti’s stormwater management system

Opti’s CMAC (continuous monitoring and adaptive control) drainage system combats environmental damage by monitoring weather forecasts and activating drainage valves to minimize flooding and damage. The drainage system is equipped with an Electron, which allows them to control their drainage system over cellular networks. It gives them the ability to control the actual firmware and to update it over the air, which is extremely helpful when you have hundreds of drainage systems deployed throughout a region. With their CMAC system, Opti represents a growing group of organizations that are using cellular IoT to make the world a safer place.

2. Remote-Starting Excavators

Greg Meandel is not your regular farmer — he loves to build and program IoT projects that remove the complexity from daily farm life. One of his many IoT projects is an excavator that can be started remotely.

Remote-Starting Excavators

By using an Electron, he can remotely heat up the excavator’s internal block heater, which helps start up the engine. In some cases, he had to wait hours for the internal block to heat up. Now, he can wake up and wirelessly send a command to an electron via his phone. By the time breakfast is finished, the excavator is heated and ready to go. Greg’s brother, who works with a salvage crew, now uses the tractor because he can start it remotely in the field, without having to rely on spotty Wi-Fi services.

3. Tracking Data in Public Park Systems

Chip McClelland, Founder of See Insights, is using cellular IoT to keep track of attendance in his park district in North Dakota. Parks departments across the United States must report how many people visit their parks to determine funding allocations. Traditionally, park departments would pay someone to sit at the entrance and record how many people would enter the park grounds. However, Chip is using cellular-enabled sensors to keep track of any visitor (walkers, joggers, bikers, or cars) entering his park.

Chip McClelland’s Electron-based counters

These sensors are built with the Electron and take advantage of its cellular connectivity to send data remotely. With the Electron, the sensors can send park attendance data straight to reporting dashboards and systems, which means park managers don’t have make employees stands at park entrances. Three years after creating these sensors, other parks managers are starting to adopt Chip’s methods. For the past two years, Umstead State Park has had Chip’s sensors deployed at every entrance for the past two years. In North Carolina, Crabtree park is also testing Chip’s sensors to track park attendance. With all this success, Chip is currently working on producing these devices at scale to empower parks across the US.

4. Fleet Management with SafeTransport

SafeTransport, a subsidiary of Computer Aid, Inc. (CAI), is using cellular IoT to bring fleet management to the school commute. Using a cellular asset tracker, SafeTransport enables school officials to remotely track and monitor school buses in real time.

Safetransporter’s user-interface that allows schools and parents to track busses in real time

School officials can now track buses in real time and can identify which ones are behind schedule or off route, which allows them to communicate with parents when buses will be late. Now, over two years later, three large school districts in Pennsylvania have adopted the SafeTransport system in their bus fleets, increasing transparency and improving communication between parents and school administrators.

5. Mass alerting with StaffAlerter

StaffAlerter, from PM Power Products, is using both Wi-Fi and cellular IoT hardware to create a programmable mass alerting system. Users can setup custom mass alert systems that communicate messages in the event of a emergency. The system can be activated via text messages, email, text to speech, application alerts, contact switches, and more.

An illustration of how StaffAlerter Works

Staffalerter uses Wi-Fi and cellular IoT hardware as its core connectivity engine to configure commands and communicate mass alert messages. Currently, Staffalerter can be used for industrial monitoring, severe weather alerts, emergency remote door locking, and more. StaffAlerter is continuously improving their product and continues to introduce mass-alerting systems to new demographics.

6. Envirofit Drives Public Health Impact

Over 3 billion people around the world cook over open fires inside their home. While this doesn’t sound harmful, wood-fire stoves can release large amounts of CO2 and other harmful emissions that can contribute to climate change. However, Envirofit is combatting this environmental damage with their all-new energy cookstoves that are engineered to reduce harmful emissions.

Envirofit’s clean energy stoves

Recently, Envirofit and the Honduran government teamed up to deliver stoves to local communities in need. However, the government and Envirofit were concerned that the stoves wouldn’t be used. To ensure the stoves were being adopted, Envirofit equipped 1,000 stoves with temperature sensors and Electrons to record when and for how long the stoves are in use by the families who own them. With this system, they can contact customers who aren’t using their stoves to understand why and help improve their experience.

All and all

The Internet of Things is the future of cellular because is it enabling new product applications and unlocking new business value. Cellular-connected IoT devices are being deployed daily, and their reach is only expected to grow into the millions due to the growing number of cellular IoT hardware options. These IoT applications show that cellular IoT applications are not limited and can be used for a number of use cases across industries, from transportation, environmental management, to agriculture.

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