It’s likely you’ve heard the phrase “Internet of Things” (IoT) floating around in recent years, even if its meaning is still a little unclear. It might be less likely that you’re familiar with the term “LoRaWAN” (Long Range Wide Area Network), but these two concepts go hand-in-hand – and both are being used by Dantia and NNNCo to boost business productivity in the Lake Macquarie region.
So what exactly is the Internet of Things? “It’s not something you can buy out of a box. It’s not something you can just plug in and now your business has got IoT,” explains Derrek Lush, Development Executive at Dantia. “It’s a term that’s been coined to describe the hyper-connected world that we’re in right now. Everything can now be connected to the internet, whereas previously it was just the computer that sat in your office. But now it’s lots of things, some that aren’t even electronic – and that’s IoT.”
Basically, IoT comprises anything that’s able to transfer data over a network without direct interaction between people (or between people and computers). We’re talking anything from “smart” devices and appliances to simple sensors transmitting basic yet valuable info. These devices can be connected to the internet through a communication standard called LoRaWAN. It’s a little like WiFi, but while WiFi is designed to move large amounts of data over short distances, LoRaWAN communicates smaller amounts over much longer distances (think kilometres rather than metres).
“It gives you the ability to give things in your business a voice that previously never had a voice.”
Derrek Lush, Development Executive, Dantia
So what benefits can businesses experience by using this technology? Derrek puts it simply: “It gives you the ability to give things in your business a voice that previously never had a voice.” While employees can relay information and give voice to concerns or feedback, and companies can make decisions to respond accordingly, this isn’t the case with other business assets. “The buildings, the vehicles that you’re using, the devices that are sitting on a desk consuming power – the equipment that you use to run your business may not have a voice, and so you’re not doing what it needs,” Derrek continues.
Take a fleet of business vehicles, for example. Maintenance is usually carried out on a standard schedule – but if a vehicle is being driven particularly hard, it may need to be maintained more frequently to keep it running at optimum capacity. Compare this with an employee who might be feeling burnt out after putting in a few weeks of particularly long hours. They can talk to their employer about the situation and voice their need for some time off to recuperate and recharge. But of course, there’s no way for a vehicle to communicate information like this. That’s where IoT comes in. Businesses can implement sensors in their vehicles to relay this deeper insight, leading to a more responsive maintenance schedule and, ultimately, better long-term performance.
This is just one example of how IoT technology can be utilised – there are countless applications for all kinds of businesses. Various local enterprises have already taken up the approach; Hunter Water, for example, has begun trialling sensors to detect leaks, predict water main bursts and protect water infrastructure.
These kinds of small but valuable functions can add up to big improvements in business decision-making and productivity. “It’s allowing you to make decisions based on actual information, not based on guesswork. They might be educated guesses, but now you can validate them with actual data,” says Derrek. “You can put sensors down to validate your decision-making. You might also be able to automate actions based on data, and then you can free up time to do other things.”
“You can put sensors down to validate your decision-making. You might also be able to automate actions based on data, and then you can free up time to do other things.”
Derrek Lush, Development Executive, Dantia
If your business could benefit from some IoT-style innovation, you’re in luck: the Lake Macquarie region now has an IoT network of its very own. Delivered through a partnership between Dantia, Lake Macquarie City Council and leading IoT provider NNNCo, the network is the first instance of city-wide coverage from a commercial-grade LoRaWAN network. The initiative aims to bridge the gap between businesses and IoT technology by eliminating the initial difficulties of implementing the required infrastructure. “It removes one of the sticking points for businesses wanting to adopt IoT – they don’t need to decide which network,” Derrek explains. “And they don’t need to deploy the network themselves, which is a significant cost for a small business.”
With the groundwork already completed, businesses can simply join the Lake Macquarie IoT network and start boosting their efficiency immediately. And for those who might still be intimidated by the prospect of implementing a new system, Derrek is quick to provide assurance. “It’s easy to connect – it’s not as difficult as you might think!” he says. “All you need to know is ‘I need to connect something because I need to get information from it in real time’. We can make that happen.”
The more businesses that join the Lake Macquarie IoT network, the better. More gateways are rolled out to accommodate more connections, meaning the network itself becomes stronger through increased coverage. And there’s a positive ripple effect on the local economy and community, too. Derrek sums it up best: “As far as business is concerned, it’s about productivity improvements. They can achieve some productivity uplift, increase revenue, reduce costs. And if we can slowly get all businesses getting more productive, that generates more dollars moving through the economy.”
Ready to experience the benefits of IoT for your business? Start-ups receive free access to connect to the network and eligible businesses and corporates receive a 15 % discount. Connecting to the Lake Macquarie IoT network couldn’t be easier. Just contact NNNCo and their experts will step you through the entire process.