In recent years, we’ve been hearing a great deal about the Internet of Things and the ways in which it is beginning to impact businesses. The IoT is the name given to the network of objects embedded with electronics that allow them to communicate and exchange data.
Many aspects of the IoT – automated fitness tracking, for instance, or home thermostats that react to our preferences – are already seeping into our day-to-day lives.
The IoT has also become increasingly visible in industry, where a number of sectors are using it on a broad scale to improve efficiency. But the transition that has yet to impact some of the ventures that could make the most exciting use of IoT innovations.
Social entrepreneurs can make good use of technologies that fall under the IoT umbrella. Here are a few examples.
Health tracking ventures
Health tracking and disease detection are popular ventures for social entrepreneurs, particularly those operating in developing countries. Vera Solutions is a company that is working to sift through “mountains of dead data” to help health organizations better fight HIV/AIDS in South Africa. Health information on people with the virus already exists – it’s just being overlooked due to poor tracking and collection processes.
This is a natural fit for IoT technologies. Wired wrote a nice article on home medical tracking via app technology, and this same concept can work wonders in areas where health information is often lost in the clutter. While it’s a stretch to arm people living with HIV/AIDS or other illnesses with their own apps and wearable technology, a single iPad can allow a worker to gather health data on entire communities in a day or two. The potential improvements in efficiency for social entrepreneurs working on health tracking and illness detection can save lives.
Delivery of vital resources
The supply of vital resources and tools is another common focus among social business ventures, and one that’s illustrated by The Paradigm Project. Seeking to solve the issue of respiratory diseases caused by smoke from indoor cooking fires, The Paradigm Project has supplied people in developing countries with well over 35,000 clean-burning stoves. It hopes to get that number to an incredible five million within the next five years.
That’s an admirable effort with the potential to change and even save countless lives. However, where delivery of products and resources is concerned, how can companies best handle shipping?
This is another area in which the IoT has already shown progress in improving business efficiency. Networkfleet’s use of the IoT in shipping reveals that by equipping vehicles with GPS tracking, WiFi, and programs to measure vehicle diagnostics, companies can gain greater control over how their resources are getting where they need to go.
As of now, this sort of initiative has a greater impact on large-scale shipping industries that operate across countries and continents, but there’s certainly potential for automated shipping and delivery management to improve the ways in which a company like The Paradigm Project accomplishes its goals.
Environmental safety measurement
People in developing countries often cope with poor air quality due to things like the cooking fires addressed by The Paradigm Project. This is also the focus of One Earth Designs. This startup sells solar-powered tools that can cook, purify water, and even produce electricity. The company is operating specifically in rural China, but holds some interesting potential for purifying environments and providing clean energy.
Where the IoT comes in is in actually measuring environmental variables to make sure devices like the solar cooker from One Earth Designs are having the desired effect. Make Use Of highlighted a number of products that already exist to monitor air quality in a “smart” manner. They immediately alert residents to problematic substances in the air and can even connect to mobile devices for constant monitoring or quick communication.
Automated, intelligent air tracking quality could assist social entrepreneurs who are working in this sector.
From these examples it’s clear that social entrepreneurs can make good use of emerging IoT technologies. Don’t be surprised if the next wave of socially and environmentally conscious entrepreneurs looks to take advantage of some of these connections.
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