Monitoring remote areas in real time has got a lot easier in New Zealand. A recently-developed network can send and receive data 30 kilometres.
Vikram Kumar, the Wellington-based founder of KotahiNet, says the networks bring about a new technological age – the "Internet of Things". The Internet of Things is the concept any device with an on and off switch being able to connect to the internet. With sensors connected to new long-range, low power networks, information about the physical world, like water quality, soil moisture levels and plant growth can now be monitored from afar.
"The Internet of Things is about data, context and insights from the physical world," Kumar said.
"This is like the early days of the internet, when digital information was first available to people. We were all excited about being able to email people across the world. It took time for people to work out, what can we do with this technology and what are the benefits for us."
This technology could be useful in the forestry, agriculture, as well as logistics and security industries. Equipment location monitoring, waste bin fill monitoring, frost warnings, and spray planning of Olive groves are among the current applications of this technology.
Kumar has been contracted to install five sensors along the Waikato River. The intention is to monitor the condition of the water as it flows through the Te Arawa River Iwi rohe area.
"There is this high-quality periodic data being produced, but it only happens once a month and in a few places. What we're trying to do is supplement what the government does already. We can get a sensor or device that runs on a standard AA battery, communicating over 30 kilometres, with a 5-year-battery life. Every 30 minutes, or every hour, it wakes up takes a reading, sends it, then falls asleep. The battery lasts so long because it doesn't have to send photos or video – it's highly focused on the data it's sending. The technology could increase productivity in the agricultural sector. You've got these paddocks far away in the middle of nowhere, and you really want a sensor there that you can put in and forget about for five years," Kumar said.
So what areas could people interested in the Internet of Things look into?
"Opportunities to develop the networks themselves were limited – but there is a future in sensor development and data analysis," Kumar said.
"A lot of young folks are looking at software. I would encourage them to look at basic hardware. Often people think with their hands, and so wiring several sensors together and writing a bunch of code can get them interested. Knowing how to analyse and understand implication from the data was also key." he said.
"Much of the future is getting comfortable with analysing or understanding data. We encourage school kids to not worry about how it's collected – but what stories are the data telling them about the river or the farm? We think understanding or evaluating this data is going to be a critical skill, perhaps even more than hardware and software."
Vikram Kumar will be speaking about the Internet of Things [IoT] at the Waikato TechWeek, which runs from May 19 to 27. Visit techweek.co.nz for details.
* The original article was published by Robert Steven at Stuff.co.nz