How IoT can power the new remote work normal

From remote monitoring to virtual training, here's how IoT will help the workforce negotiate a new way of working.
11 May 2020

IoT will play a key role on our ‘new normal’ way of working. Source: Shutterstock

COVID-19 has rapidly swept across the globe with the knock-on disruption affecting business across all industries.

As a result, it’s forced millions of employees to do their jobs from home. But the remote work phenomenon was already well underway before the pandemic, and experts expect that the crisis will further accelerate the trend, even when people can go back to their workplace.

In fact, 74 percent of CFOs surveyed by Gartner expect at least some of their employees to continue working from home after isolation measures are lifted.

One technology that holds huge promise in allowing more teams to work efficiently and effectively while remote is the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT market is expected to grow to 5.8 billion endpoints by the end of 2020, and mandatory quarantine measures are propelling investment and development of the technology.

IoT allows workers to undertake vital tasks without the need for physical presence across a number of sectors, providing more freedom and flexibility to explore the benefits of remote work.

Let’s take a closer look at the ways in which IoT is set to help businesses succeed in this new era of remote work.

Remote monitoring in manufacturing

Remote IoT applications allow technicians to monitor and maintain the performance of equipment without requiring staff present at the location. IoT sensors that are connected to cloud software platforms can remotely report on things such as condition, usage, and even temperature of machines, providing real-time data to the responsible person.

If certain thresholds are breached, the IoT devices alert the technicians so they can take action.

Remote monitoring data lets teams automate maintenance schedules and make proactive decisions and corrective actions when the data indicates the need for downtime or repair – all from a separate location. This ability to detect, diagnose and troubleshoot equipment failure saves technicians from taking unnecessary trips to the plant, also saving businesses on time and money.

Microsoft Azure offers remote IoT monitoring solutions that are transforming the capabilities of manufacturing companies across the world by allowing teams to collect vital data from multiple remote devices, visualize this information on a dashboard, and respond accordingly to alerts.

IoT in remote healthcare

In healthcare, IoT devices are helping workers to remotely monitor the vital aspects of patients in hospital or at home, allowing them to act as virtual caregivers and make recommendations and diagnoses based on the data they receive.

Technology is advancing quickly in this space in the face of COVID-19: Medisanté is a Swiss health tech company that offers solutions to help with remote patient monitoring. With its IoT devices that have cloud-connectivity embedded, healthcare professionals can gain access to real-time patient data in a secure cloud-to-cloud infrastructure.

Many health tech experts and healthcare professionals are forecasting the expansion of IoT use for telehealth: Cutting-edge enterprises Telenor, Ericsson, and Sony have teamed up to enhance real-time tracking solutions that will be applicable in healthcare.

In addition, the University of Hong Kong has been successful in using Biofourmis’ commercial AI and IoT platform for remote monitoring of COVID-19 patients, and hospitals across North America are implementing remote patient monitoring solutions.

IoT in remote workforce training

While previously, a truly interactive training experience could only be done in person, now, IoT technologies are allowing businesses to deliver educational content and skills-based training to remote workforces. For example, Scanmarker is an IoT tool that lets users scan editable text from books, papers, and other documents directly into a tablet or computer, which is then translatable into 40 languages.

Another example comes from SweetRush, whose solution facilitates instructor-led training and offers tools like competitive games and audio and video functionality to increase participation and retention.

SweetRush created a simulated call center experience for a financial services company that wanted its call staff to learn and practice skills without the need for in-person role play.

Remote asset management

With the help of IoT devices, organizations can track their assets as they travel through the supply chain and gain access to real-time information on the condition of the inventory, including granular data such as tilt, light exposure, temperature, and container integrity.

IoT means that the tracking, monitoring and management of these systems can now be done remotely, with the operators located in secure and safe locations instead of being on-site or present at various nodes of the supply chain.

IoT enhances remote security

IoT devices such as sensors and cameras help security teams work remotely to detect unwanted intruders and understand which employees have had access to certain parts of a building. These devices send real-time information to the security professional when suspicious behavior is detected, allowing them to take immediate action.

By leveraging IoT to detect any potential break-ins or damage to facilities and gain the information in real-time, businesses remove the need for the physical presence of a security guard on-site at all times.

What 5G will mean for IoT and remote work

The emergence of 5G will transform current IoT applications from remote monitoring and reporting applications into interactive applications. Integrating 5G into IoT devices will further power the industry use cases of IoT described above, while paving the way for new, cutting-edge solutions.

For example, 5G will allow for the remote control of diagnostic devices and even surgical machines, as seen in this case of a Chinese doctor conducting remote surgery on a patient while thousands of miles away.

5G and IoT will also open up the possibility for remote robotic control for machine repair in manufacturing, removing the need for physical presence for technicians altogether.

While COVID-19 has forced thousands of organizations to shift to a remote work model with little warning or chance for preparation, these businesses should now embrace its benefits, especially when empowered by IoT technology.

What’s clear is that once the pandemic is over and obligatory work-from-home measures are lifted, a new remote work normal will remain now that industries have uncovered what is possible. IoT will form a key part in the foundation of this next phase, and businesses that want to stay ahead of the curve should be ready to leverage it to its full potential.

This article was contributed by Leo Lax, Executive Managing Director of L-SPARK