What they call the 4th Industrial Revolution is happening. And driving it are several key technologies like 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT). These allow devices to become better connected, which is so important in this era. These technologies have developed at astonishing speeds. That allowed people to apply them in many applications. Some examples are environmental monitoring, smart traffic management, smart agriculture, personal healthcare, human-machine interactions, and smart homes.
National University of Singapore’s Study
Scientists from the National University of Singapore have written in the journal “ACS Materials Au.” They reviewed the progress of IoT devices in healthcare and smart home applications. The said comprehensive review investigated advanced material development, devices, fabrication techniques, and systems. Furthermore, the scientists highlighted future outlooks, opportunities, and challenges.
What is IoT?
IoT stands for “Internet of Things.” It is a system of interrelated devices, objects, and humans or animals with unique identifiers (UIDs). Each part of this system can transfer data over a network without needing human-human or human-computer interaction.
Many things could be a “thing” in the Internet of Things. That could be a natural or man-made object with an IP address and can transfer data over a network. Likewise, it can be something with a sensor – a security camera, for example – to alert a person when it detects something. Furthermore, a person or animal with a wearable device or biochip can be part of the Internet of Things.
How does this system work?
An IoT ecosystem consists of web-enabled smart devices. They use web-embedded systems, like processors, sensors, and communication hardware, to collect and send data they acquire from their environments. On top of that, they can also use the data to perform necessary actions.
Again, these devices in this ecosystem can act based on the information they get from one another. Therefore, they work even when no human is present.
That allows you to leave your house with fewer worries than ever. Smart thermostats can adjust depending on whether there are people in the room. Also, smart lights and air conditioners can turn themselves off if you are not home. And smart security systems ensure that you will know if someone tried to break into your house while you are away.
People can still interact with these devices. Of course, humans are needed to set them up. Also, humans can access the data these devices have collected to make informed decisions. And humans can also give instructions to them (ex. telling Alexa to turn on the lights.)
IoT Application in Smart Homes
While IoT and 5G technologies have many applications, the focus of research in recent years is on healthcare and smart homes. That is because of the increasing demands in connectivity, safety, personalized, home-based healthcare, domestic amenity, and automation.
Thanks to advances in smart materials and fabrication techniques helped realize the concept of smart homes and personalized healthcare.
Wearable devices and internet-connected home equipment are the two key elements of this technological revolution. The smart IoT sensors and systems integrated into these devices give them automation, health monitoring, personal care, fall detection, and security functions.
A fully automated smart home contains so many smart devices. Sure, many devices can help you save energy. But the number of smart devices or appliances in your home can still increase your bills.
That is why battery-operated devices exist. The problem with this is that batteries have a limited lifespan. You will need to replace them, which would take time and effort.
The most desirable type of smart devices to include in your IoT ecosystem are the autonomous ones. They have incorporated energy-harvesting functionality, so you don’t need to plug them or put a battery in them.
There are many devices like that today. These energy harvesting devices are solar panels, piezoelectric generators, pyroelectric generators, and triboelectric generators.
The last one has gained significant interest in recent years. This type of generator works on the principle of contact electrification and electrostatic induction. In turn, they harvest mechanical energy.
Triboelectric generators are popular because of their many positive aspects. They are low-cost, high-performance, high compatibility machines. Also, they have good scalability, a simple structure, and material availability.
Another key concern in the field of smart homes is about increasing the intelligent functionality of sensors and devices. That will improve their decision-making process and reaction to real-world scenarios. That will make smart home devices even more popular.
Thus, manufacturers use technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deep learning in the field. And that integration gave birth to a new research field called AIoT- the Artificial Intelligence of Things.
Construction of IoT Devices
The paper published by the scientists from Singapore also reviewed the fabrication techniques and materials used in creating IoT devices.
They found that biocompatible, flexible, and self-healing polymers provide enhanced comfort and mechanical performance. Furthermore, large-scale printing and electrospinning look promising for manufacturing devices for large-area applications. That includes floor sensors and whole-body sensors.
Internet of Things made smart homes possible. And as it advances, we can expect smart home devices with improved features to pop up.
Some areas still need some work, though. As mentioned above, one of them is the energy concerns in the field. The smart home devices currently available are either wired or battery-operated. Very few of them have the ability to obtain power from somewhere else.
Moreover, those that can obtain power from somewhere else can only provide low-power generation. Thus, these devices are still not as reliable as one would want them to be.
Aside from that, there’s this challenge concerning the amount and types of data generated from smart homes. These data streams require advances in data analytics to analyze them fully.
There needs to be optimization at all levels, from individual device components to complete systems. Achieving that will lead to the realization of fully connected, integrated, smart, and self-sustained AI platforms. And hence, people in smart homes can live an even more comfortable lifestyle. The researchers say that that kind of future will be possible through innovations in technology.