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From cold beer to childcare, the internet of things just went ‘massive’


The internet of things describes a world where physical objects, are connected to the digital world, telling us where they are, when they need to be turned on, replenished, replaced or simply to tell us what’s happening in the environment.


From home appliances, to smart utility meters, to smart offices, the IoT has come to define a decade where technology is the crucial driver in the growing need for efficiencies.


But even here a revolution is happening.

Enter “massive IoT” (M-IoT), a category driven by scale where billions of sensors on everything from transport containers, gas tanks, to factory robots will be supplying and making sense of trillions of bits of data, shaping supply chains and curbing energy consumption.

Now a vast host of battery-powered devices can easily transmit incredible volumes of small amounts of essential data. An example might be millions of devices sending over many years a few kilobytes of data each day or when specified events occur.

They do so using a national and public 0G Network, dedicated to massive IoT, which is both energy efficient and easy to connect to.


While the 5G networks we’re accustomed to in our daily lives are high bandwidth and low latency, 0G runs on sustainable and low bandwidth technology.


This has unlocked previously impossible business cases to connect high volumes of assets in a way that makes sense from a financial and operational perspective.


For Nick Lambrou, chief executive officer at M-IoT company Thinxtra, massive IoT has so many use cases it’s difficult to find a category it could not be applied to.


“The asset data created by these millions of sensors is transported, it’s analysed, and it provides organisations or government agencies with insights that help them either deliver operational efficiencies, environmental benefits, or even evolve a new business model,” he says.


“Or it could be just to give insights into what’s happening in the environment in which those sensors are connected to.”


Thinxtra is the exclusive owner and operator of the 0G network, a low-cost, low-power wireless network designed to send or receive small messages from IoT devices. One industry where massive IoT is disrupting logistics is in the beverage space.


As Lambrou explains, beer kegs that effectively track themselves – telling owners where they are and when they need to be refilled – are changing an entire industry.


“Even a small micro-brewery might have a fleet of a thousand kegs. At $200 each, that’s a capital outlay of $200,000,” says Lambrou. “So, for large brewers who have 100,000 kegs in their fleet, we’re talking about upwards of $20 million in capital and no real way of identifying where those kegs are or whether they need to be refilled.”


A steady brew

While previously RFID (radio frequency ID tags) solutions went some way to addressing the challenge, Lambrou says there was no real way of knowing what the keg was doing between scans.


“And fundamentally, if I were a pub owner, I’d prefer to have my staff focusing on customers, not manually scanning kegs.”


One company that Thinxtra has been working with in this space is Konvoy.


Formed by Adam Trippe-Smith in 2019, the beer keg service company now uses next-generation IoT-enabled, scanless and seamless tracking for hundreds of thousands of kegs across Australia and New Zealand connected to Thinxtra’s 0G Network.


Having cut his teeth on Kegstar – the keg rental business sold to Brambles in 2015 – Trippe-Smith was familiar with the latest in track and trace technology.


Using massive IoT, he says, takes the business beyond RFID, providing accurate data that’s consistent and in real time: critical when you’re delivering a premium product like craft beer - it not only helps to maintain quality, but minimises asset losses


“Independent brewers are often not pasteurising the beer, so it needs to be treated more like milk,” says Trippe-Smith.


“It needs to be stored cold and that information needs to be checked regularly, RFID does not have the capability to communicate this kind of data or accuracy.”


Atmospheric monitor

Indoor air quality has been another challenge where massive IoT is making a difference.


The Gap Cubbyhouse Montessori in Brisbane needed a solution to monitor indoor air quality to lower the risks of airborne disease transmission, such as Covid, and increase productivity of students and staff.


The childcare centre selected IoT indoor air quality monitors, connected by Thinxtra’s 0G network, to remotely accessible web and mobile applications, that indicate CO2, humidity and temperature levels, and trigger alerts when thresholds are passed.


The combined Thinxtra and Zeplin solution provided instant access to indoor air quality data, allowing staff to change conditions in the rooms when necessary.


Lambrou says that it’s solutions like these that stand to improve the way we live with Covid and other airborne viruses going forward.


“One of the things with this that hits very close to home is with aged care facilities,” he says. “Even with my own family, I’ve seen the impact to aged care when they have to go into lockdown; we can’t see our loved ones and they can’t see us.


“It’s preventive measures such as those installed at The Gap Cubbyhouse Montessori that are providing safer environments.”


In addition Thinxtra’s technology is helping facilities managers and building operators, as well as more than 3000 classrooms across the country, combat the indoor air quality challenge.


As for the future of massive IoT, Lambrou says it is only limited by imagination and its power source. However, as the total cost of ownership comes down and business cases stack up, battery life lengthens to many years and battery units become smaller, the applications are set to multiply.


“At the moment massive IoT applications always need a power source, however small, but who knows what developers are creating in their labs,” he says. “Adoption is growing as a natural part of digital transformation, and technology advances make more and more use cases viable. That will only expand.”


https://www.afr.com/technology/from-cold-beer-to-childcare-the-internet-of-things-just-went-massive-20220719-p5b2nv

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