IoT and Canaries


IoT researcher Timo Elliott jokes that the first example of the Internet of Things was the canary that miners took into the mine shafts. Canaries would die from lack of oxygen before the miners realized they weren’t feeling so hot, so the hapless birds were an early warning system for bad air.

The Industrial Internet of Things can go beyond communication from one machine to another — important as that is — to communication throughout the facility. This can mean increased efficiency, but it can also mean increased safety.

Traffic patterns, for example, can be captured by a smart building. You can see where people may be getting in each other’s way and creating potentially dangerous bottlenecks, or where people almost never go, so that machinery may need intentional monitoring. Savings on lights and heating and cooling can be created by this kind of tracking, and needed changes in machine configuration can be discovered.

Data, once captured, can be sent to the cloud rather than just to the control room. That extends the ability of people in charge to access information and know what’s going on, no matter where they are. That lets more people get the information they need to make decisions, and improves the chances of catching safety issues before they create problems.

The building itself can even begin to catch safety issues. Once a building learns the normal activity patterns for a workday, it can identify abnormalities and alert decision makers. Over time, algorithms can be developed that trigger responses to abnormalities, from initiating safety sequences to alerting individuals.

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