What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?
It is the network of physical objects, whether they are devices, vehicles, buildings, or even humans, which are embedded with electronics, sensors, software and network connectivity.
These different objects help us send, transfer and collect data.
It's a growing sensation that's captured everyone in the technology world, so much so that according to Forbes , companies and individuals are investing $6 trillion in IoT devices within the next five years.
With all of this money being invested in IoT, a real opportunity has come out to use it to spur growth in the developing world.
In fact, a recent report from ITU and Cisco identified the Internet of Things as
"A major global opportunity to that has the potential to help the lives of millions and speed up progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals".
Bringing IoT to Developing Countries
Now you may be thinking that getting IoT technology to developing countries might be a problem, fortunately there's already a standard infrastructure in many countries.
Over 95% of the world has basic 2G phone coverage, and while 29% of those in rural areas have 3G coverage, 89 percent who reside in urban areas are able to access 3G coverage with ease.
Not only that, but IoT is affordable, with some saying that the IoT at its basic capability is already in place in developing countries, where citizens and government officials would bear little cost in tweaking it.
Lastly, IoT devices have a "plug-and-play" attribute to them, that doesn't require setup from skilled laborer. This allows scalability within the devices, as the technology grows only at the speed the city, municipality, or country wants it to.
With all of this in mind, it's no surprise that 40 percent of IoT's predicted market value will come from developing countries.
So in what ways can people in developing countries benefit from IoT?
It seems like almost every year, there is an extreme health crisis in a developing nation. But what if that could be prevented?
Wearable tech devices called "Sensor, Technology, and Analytics to Monitor, Predict and Protect Ebola Patients" (or STAMP for short) are in the United States and then scaled and shipped to international aid offices in Africa.
These devices collect all kinds of patient data, from body temperature to oxygen saturation. Once the data collection is complete, doctors can ship it to a central location, where people can track a patient's health over time.
In the short term, tracking a group of people or a city as a whole can help with disease containment, as well as migrant population tracking. Over time these sensors can help predict where an outbreak is going to spread, allowing enough aid workers to get to the infected area before it's too late.
2. Water/Water Delivery
Billions of people in developing countries go through their day-to-day lives drinking water that is deemed unsafe for the human body.
IoT can help monitor both water quality, and water delivery. Municipalities can place sensors in the water streams to not only monitor acidity, but also alert municipalities when a water pump breaks, allowing for a quicker replacement time to ensure that an area's citizens are still getting enough, and quality water.
There are many countries in the developing world that are still agriculturally based, and plenty of people still work out in the fields. But what if there was a way to aid them. IoT technology provides that capability. Business Insider suggests that 75 million IoT devices will be agriculture-related by 2020.
Farmers can easily use these devices, placing them in soil to track acidity levels, as well as temperature, and crop growth so they can create a successful harvest.
Additionally farmers can reduce physical labor by using crop-spraying drones and unmanned aerial vehicles that can drive themselves, inject fertilizer, space seeds based on soil fertility, and perform other farming-related tasks.
4. City living
Cities in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the world are some of the most dense cities in terms of population across the globe. The problem is residents are not connected to one another.
Not only could IoT devices help with traffic flow, by regulating lights based on the number of vehicles on the road, sensors placed in homes can help warn residents of impending disasters like fast-moving fires, mudslides, or other disasters, helping to save lives, as well as personal property.
While still in its infancy, the Internet of Things has the potential to change connectivity in the developing world as we know it. By embracing IoT devices and practices, some of the world's most moribund countries can spur their own development.
Could better connectivity help mitigate problems like the growth of extremism? We don't know, but it's already creating an impact in the developing world.
In what ways have you noticed IoT make a difference in your life? In developing communities? Tell us about it below it the comments, or tell us in 140 characters on Twitter!
About the Author:
Adam Rosenfield is a freelance writer based in Austin, TX. He writes about everything from healthcare, to startups and technology, as well as e-commerce and sports. You can view his portfolio at adamrosenfield.contently.com or chat with him on Twitter @adamrosenfield