Give IoT the Edge

|December 8, 2017 0
Image courtesy of Nongkran_ch at Freedigitalphotos.net

Vaibhav Kaul

All industries today function on the principle of interdependence. Nowhere is this more evident than the chemical industry that provides assistance in the form of research and development to different industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, agriculture and more.

In these efforts, scientists are exposed to various chemicals that emerge as the final product or by-products of the various processes in the industry. An example of this is the production of ammonia in agricultural labs or methane in the coal industry.

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Currently, those who work in these environments are provided with masks that provide short-term protection against the hazards they face. In addition to this, an LCD screen constantly displays the concentration in parts per million (ppm) of all the gases in the working area. This screen, however, must be constantly monitored in order to keep track of changes. A lack of monitoring can result in dangerous situations, such as in case of a major gas leak. The masks provided would not be able to protect those working in such an environment and would also not alert the larger organization to the threat initiated. Thus, threat detection becomes a primary concern to be addressed in order to ensure safety and to upgrade security responses.

These concerns have prompted the industry to look for solutions that combine both Cloud and Edge intelligence processing with the seamless power of IoT.

Traditional cloud computing, while flexible in terms of deployability, suffers from time delays when speed is of the essence. Any lag in processing time can be life-threatening in the chemical industry as most workers do not even realize when the concentration of gases has crossed the prescribed threshold. In addition to this, cloud networks are susceptible to network or platform failures that can shut down all processing abilities.

Edge computing allows containerized deployment of measures that act as a bridge between the central processors and the cloud, thereby increasing response times as well as widening the scope of processing ability.

Thus, in the scenario of an agricultural lab or even coal mine, the implementation of this technology could be done in the form of multiple sensors inserted into a wearable mask. These sensors feed information into a mobile app via Bluetooth. This essentially replaces the inefficiency of the LCD screen and in turn, constantly displays the gas concentrations in the environment in real-time. Furthermore, even the slightest changes beyond the optimum concentration send an alert to the wearer. The issuance and audience of such alerts can also be customized from one local department all the way up to an organization-wide alert so that it can be addressed and contained. So basically, information is simultaneously sent to the central server to enable remote monitoring and data collection, thereby laying the base for better security measures in the future.

Such innovations show that IoT technology powered by the Edge is the way forward for all industries due to the advantages they provide. Much like India’s software industry today, where the workforce has seen a paradigm shift from traditional skill to full stack developers; this particular innovation serves as a case-in-point highlighting the need of holistic solutions that are envisioned and engineered for multi-industry applications while consciously remaining industry or sector agnostic and only end-benefit focused.

In the case of this innovation, with greater implementation of short distance protocols like Bluetooth, Zigbee or Wired, detection and management of resources in the future is all set to become much simpler. And the applications of this simplified technology are as immense as they are diverse – Imagine the advantages in Healthcare where patients with respiratory ailments will not only be able to predict but also pre-empt a pollution-induced respiratory episode or in cities like New Delhi that are dealing with catastrophic smog; by simply adjusting or customizing the settings on a wearable mask. Thus building technology that not only simplifies technology but also, amplifies possibilities.

The author is Senior IoT Specialist, Altimetrik

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