Introduction: The Internet of Things is already here

Over the last decade, a growing number of “things” have become connected to the Internet. The term “things” refers to a wide variety of devices, from cars with built‑in sensors, to heart monitoring implants or smart thermostats in private homes. Sensors and networkconnectivity allow these things to monitor their environment, report their status and location, receive instructions and even execute actions based on the data they receive. This giant and fast-growing network of physical objects, equipped with sensors and network connectivity, is what is meant by the term “the Internet of Things” (IoT). By 2020 an estimated 30 billion objects will be connected, but even this is only 15 per cent of all connectable things. In the coming years, the IoT revolution will affect every aspect of societies and economies around the world.

Up until now, the Internet has generally been understood as a network which manages information created and processed by people. But the Internet of Things now also allows objects to communicate with each other, make decisions and take actions – without any human intervention. By bringing devices and objects online, IoT creates new ways of managing and monitoring processes, companies and organisations. The sensor technology which underpins IoT is developing quickly, and now ranges from basic identification tags to complex sensors. Basic radio- frequency identification (RFID) tags can be attached to almost any object. Sophisticated multi-sensors which transmit data about location, performance and environment are becoming more common. With new technologies such as micro elec tromechanical systems (MEMS), it is becoming possible to place such sensors in any object (even in humans). In its essence the Internet of Things can be imagined as a seamless flow of data between objects with sensors across different types of networks. Smart algorithms can learn from the data collected by sensors, make predictions, provide data-driven decisions in real time, and react to changes in environment.

Rapid Growth of the Internet of Things in Emerging and Developing Countries

It seems clear that the IoT offers an enormous potential for future economic income and prosperity in industrial countries: IoT applications are projected to create an income increase of 10.6 trillion US-dollars by 2030. Now the focus is shifting, and is no longer exclusively on industrialised contexts. As experts discussed during the IoT Solutions World Congress this year, IoT will also create substantial changes for populations in emerging and developing countries. In some rapidly developing markets, such as in Asia, annual growth in IoT connections reached 55 per cent a year between 2010 and 2013, in contrast with Europe where it slowed to 28 per cent.

The prospects for widespread implementation of IoT solutions in development contexts are helped by broader technological and social trends:

  • Prices for sensors, an integral component of IoT applications, have declined by about 80-90 per cent over the past five years.
  • Internet penetration in developing countries is increasing. 35 per cent of people in developing countries now have access to the Internet. And the falling cost of smartphones is driving rapid uptake in Internet access in the developing world. Across emerging and developing countries, a median average of 24 per cent of the population now owns such a device.
  • Due to the potential of the IoT, governments in developing countries are beginning to develop policies to support IoT innovations. The first ever Internet of Things Policy Document was released by the Indian Government in October 2014 and aims to create an IoT industry in India of 15 billion US-dollars by 2020. It lso addresses the following goals:

    - To undertake capacity development (human and technological) for IoT specific skill-sets for domestic and international markets.

    - To undertake research and development for all the assisting technologies.

    - To develop IoT products specific to Indian needs in all possible domains.
  • Programmers and designers from Accra to Singapore are developing low-cost, IoT applications that solve problems in their communities. The results of these initiatives can be seen in international challenges and awards, as UNICEF’s “Wearables for Good Award” or the White House’s “Maker Faire”.

In order to explore the potential of IoT for international cooperation, we will now consider three sectors – health, agriculture and disaster management – including examining existing case studies. These sectors are the most relevant in developing contexts as they are the most prone for positive economic impact through IoT applications. Additionally, drawing from the research database of more than 700 casestudies we have found that many innovations in IoT have already emerged in these sectors and could serve as models for scaling.


>> Ch. 2 IOT in Healthcare: Improving Care for those Out of Reach