Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off one whole year of Unlimited learning. Subscribe for just £249.99 £174.99. New subscribers only T&Cs apply

Find out more

What is the best way to use IoT?

While data is the output of an IoT system, it needs to be considered right from the very start of the system design process.
(upbeat music) <v ->We’ve learned that IoT collects data</v> from remote sensing environments, whether that is asset trackers, agricultural systems, industrial applications, smart city purposes, or any of the other possible use cases. How important is a business case for creating IoT applications? <v ->In deciding what is important or valuable,</v> we have to understand the outcome or action that is desired, and who that is important to. We often begin the process of creating IoT applications with the business case that takes account of the users and stakeholders. What is important to them, and how a project is funded.
A critical part of this process is acknowledging the variety of stakeholders to the organization, customers, staff, industry, laws, regulations, and the public interest, including environmental sustainability. In the best scenarios, there are benefits to all and minimal harm. This process will recognize what the ultimate benefits of the IoT system is, and how all the stakeholders will measure success. This analysis helps us to know what actions and outcomes we wish to create, what data analysis is required to achieve this, and what data inputs are needed to enable the system operation. <v ->So why is data important in an IoT application?</v> <v ->The data context is ultimately</v> where the value of IoT resides.
IoT allows the collection of data from the environment, analysis of data and the creation of useful outcomes. A critical consideration of IoT application design, is deciding what data to collect and how to use that data. In some cases, we are creating dashboards, or reports for people to take action on. In other cases, we are automating an action based on data without requiring a person to be in the loop. Can you give an example of using data from IoT? <v ->The environment of a city is extraordinarily complex,</v> possibly millions of people, each with individual activities that are uniquely important. Some topics of interest are transport, health, work, utility services, entertainment, and lifestyle.
Each topic can impact the performance of others and meeting the needs and wants of every citizen is near impossible. One example could be in construction, using data to ensure the right materials are ordered, delivered to the right place at the right time, the construction activities are safe and productive. And when the building goes into use, that it is efficient in resource use and effective for the building occupiers. That sounds like a lot of data. How do we make sense of this? <v ->Data is been throughout the building life cycle</v> from design to operation.
The more we use and reuse this data, and integrate data from other sources, the best of the building is able to work for people and make efficient use of resources like energy, water, heat, and lighting. We can also use a digital twin to understand these complex data sources and what they represent. A digital twin is a dash model, often environment, such as a piece of equipment, a building, or even a city. The digital twin exists in the computer representing the physical world. It could be created from the construction drawings from designers, architects, or city planners. The digital twin helps us make sense of disparate data sources in complex scenarios.
We could also use virtual reality or augmented reality to view data with better visual techniques. Something that can be important with explaining and making decisions with people not familiar with the underlying technology and analytics. <v ->Okay, but there’s a lot to take in,</v> can you summarize this data context? <v ->Data is a real value of IoT systems.</v> We have to understand what the purpose data is, how this is useful to people, and what environmental or sustainable outcomes are needed. We have to decide what data to collect, where to collect data, and when. We can also look for useful data sources to include, that could be weather forecasts or building designs.
We have to really understand what we are wanting to achieve as an outcome or action that is beneficial to all relevant stakeholders. Technologies like artificial intelligence, and machine learning, help us make sense of these large data volumes and generate useful outcomes. We can also use augmented reality, virtual reality, or digital twins to visualize data so that non-technical people can readily understand data analysis. IT systems are important collectors of data, whether that is at home, work, or wherever we interact with our environments. The data context allows us to make sense of all types of information, and take meaningful actions across all aspects of human activity in the present and for the future. (upbeat music)

While data is the output of an IoT system, it needs to be considered right from the very start of the system design process.

Making the most of data from IoT

Given the critical importance of data being generated by an IoT system, having an overarching vision for the project, and knowing what the intended outcome or action should be, is critical to developing sustainable and useful IoT systems. There are also many other factors to consider when thinking about data, starting off with a seemingly simple, but complex question:

  • What type of data do you want to collect and why? The type of data that you would like to collect will influence the type of technology (discussed in week 1) that it will be suitable for.
  • Whose data are you collecting? It is important to consider, whether you are collecting data about the natural environment, people, or constructed systems.
  • How are you going to use that data? As we are interested in sustainability in this course, how will it inform decision-making in relation to sustainable outcomes?

An example

Let’s take healthcare as an example. IoT is said to be transforming healthcare, providing opportunities to optimise individual patient care, and improve overall population health. With the expansion of telehealth prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, ‘virtual care’ is likely to become a key part of health care systems and approaches even post-pandemic.


With healthcare in mind, consider an application of IoT, focusing specifically on data. Healthcare in this context could be at an individual or population level? How could IoT be used, what data would be useful to collect and why, whose data would you be collecting, and how might that data inform decision-making for more sustainable outcomes?

You might like to think of applications that use IoT that you have seen being used in your local context as part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic as an example.

This article is from the free online

Internet of Things (IoT) and Sustainability

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now