OPE Journal

SMART LIVING & MOBILITY 20 No 34 | March 2021 | OPE journal The Internet of Things (IoT), smart objects, and smart living are all terms that have been around for some time. Smart devices and appli- ances are now common in many homes. What was once seen as something a little strange – such as calling out for lights to be turned on and off in our houses – is now often the norm. Over the last decade, innovation in semiconductors, flexible electronics and sensor technology has led to amazing advances, but it is exciting to note that this is in fact only the beginning of the story. There is potential for so much more. Why not the Internet of Everything? Connectivity and intelligent electronics in everyday low-cost items? This is where lives could really start to change – with positive results for people and society. It is not just about having ‘quirky’ devices in the home. Let’s take a look at the benefits of truly smart living… Smart healthcare Digital healthcare is on the rise. There are now novel remote patient monitoring solu- tions being trialled. For example, flexible patches that measure cardiac activity and wound dressings that include sensors that provide alerts when the dressings need to be changed. RFID (Radio Frequency IDentifica- tion) and NFC (Near Field Communication) technology are not new, but now with more low-cost options smart solutions are likely to become more widely available. For example, NFC-enabled blister packs used to ensure patients are adhering to their medication regime and reassure remote families that their elderly relatives are safe and well. Really smart home appliances Many people have started investing in smart home appliances in recent years, but with technology advances, smart keeps getting smarter. How about an affordable smart coffee machine that could sense when new refills are needed and automatically sends a request for supplies? There are an increasing range of smart fridges, but how about a really smart (and reasonably priced) fridge that automatically senses when you need milk and reorders more? Or alerts you when it senses via a ‘smart’ label on the milk bottle that it is close to past its best? Or suggests recipes for food items left in the fridge? This is much more than convenience – this would reduce food waste too. Smart learning and play Millions of parents have juggled work with home schooling and childcare during the COVID-19 pandemic. Online resources and technology have been an incredible help, but still many children have struggled. Imagine a new generation of smart interactive education resources and fun toys that could bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds. Embedding item-level identities into objects and games could create opportunities to make activities more dynamic. Making learning and play exciting and challenging. PragmatIC was part of the PING (Printed Intelligent NFC Game Cards and Packaging) Consortium, the first group to develop technology for interactive card and games. Smart resource use Smart living extends to smart resource use, re-use and disposal. Advances in RFID, flexible electronics and sensor technology could play a significant role in the challenge to increase recycling rates. A low-cost inlay (tag) could be added to the packaging at manufacture allowing the consumer, with a simple tap of their NFC enabled smartphone, to access information about the pack- aging and how to recycle it. With NFC each item can be uniquely identified, and the data given to the consumer can be personalised to reflect the recycling information in their local area. We could go further and incentivise consum- ers to recycle. For example, a smart recycling bin that gives the consumer credits for how much is collected – an extension of the reverse vending machines (RVMs) that are in use at Tesco and by Coca Cola. Promoting positive behaviour rather than the negative ‘pay as you throw’ schemes, which propose to charge for the amount of unsegregated waste. A new era Advances in technology mean that for the first time it is now possible to integrate intel- ligence and interactivity into high volume everyday items. As the costs involved in imple- menting new connectivity solutions reduce, the variety of use cases it can be applied to rapidly increases. It is the end of the era of The Internet of Things and the beginning of a new era – The Internet of Everything. This will lead to truly smart living. Image source: PragmatIC The IoT is on its way to become “The Internet of Everything” Making smart living smarter Alastair Hanlon, chief commercial officer at PragmatIC Semiconductor (Cambridge, UK) discusses low-cost RFID, flexible electronics and sensors as technological foundations for truly smart living