Changing the World with IoT, Innovation, and a Village

2019-04-15  |  7 min read 

It’s been easy enough for most of us to ignore all the talk about needing to create a sustainable world over the years, especially if we weren’t directly impacted by things like lack of access to clean water and energy. But times are changing. In our 24-7 connected world, it’s become harder to turn a blind eye to the plight of those in third-world countries or to ignore the fact many environmental issues today don’t just impact a specific country or region; they are global.

Consider a few sobering statistics from a recently released landmark United Nations report. By the middle of this century, millions of premature deaths will be caused by air pollution across large portions of Asia, the Middle East and Africa. By 2050, a major cause of death around the world will be antimicrobial-resistant infections stemming from freshwater pollutants. And just as worrisome, if human activities continue to degrade the global environment at the same pace, a major species extinction event will occur, impairing the Earth's ability to meet human food and resource needs.

Finding a solution to preempt these dire predictions requires technological innovation and action on many fronts. The United Nations is doing its part by outlining 17 interconnected sustainability goals for the world to reach by 2030 to ensure a better, more sustainable future for all. Each goal is designed to address the global challenges we face, such as access to clear air, energy and water so that no one is left behind.

But the United Nation’s work alone is not enough to stem the rising tide of global environmental challenges, especially when it comes to clean water and sanitation. That’s where technology comes in and in particular, the Internet of Things (IoT). Wireless IoT devices are everywhere these days, relatively inexpensive to produce and operate, and can have a battery life upwards of 10+ years or more. That makes them ideal for tackling issues like clean water, which regularly alludes more than 2 billion people around the world.

In fact, an estimated 1,800 children under the age of five die each day from diarrheal diseases linked to water, sanitation and hygiene. By 2050, more than 5 billion people could suffer water stress due to increases in demand and pollution.

Reducing pollution, eliminating dumping, and minimizing the release of hazardous chemicals and materials are perfect ways to help keep water resources safe. These are exactly the kinds of tasks where IoT devices thrive. They can be used in waterways to monitor potentially unhealthy conditions and detect dangerous contaminants. Early alert systems, fed by data from the IoT, can notify relevant parties to take decisive action when something out of the norm is detected.

As it turns out, these types of systems are in use today. Under different bodies of water around the world at this very moment, wireless sensor networks are quietly, but impactfully, monitoring and unearthing new data tied to dissolved oxygen, seismic activity, atmospheric carbon dioxide, visual mapping, temperature, and much more. A wave of innovative deep-sea solutions have also been deployed. A prime example is Stanford University’s OceanOne, a humanoid robot mermaid equipped with haptic feedback that dives into the depths of the oceans in high fidelity. There's also an innovative battery-powered sensor designed to latch onto a hand pump in Ethiopia to ensure clean water in remote, rural areas and ultimately, save lives.

Clearly, IoT technology is working to lay the groundwork for a future with cleaner and safer waters, but further innovation is required. Fortunately, some companies are proactively working to pave the way for that innovation.

Keysight Technologies is doing its part through the introduction of the Keysight IoT Innovation Challenge. This design competiton challenges graduate and undergraduate students in eligible countries around the world to innovate low-power IoT to make the world better for billions. Contestants can either develop a wireless sensor network to improve access and quality of water around the world or make urban life healthier for people living in highly dense cities.

Is the IoT Innovation Challenge and other events like it, an answer to all of the world’s problems—absolutely not. But at least it is a start in the right direction. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. I think, in this case, it takes a village to save the planet. Keysight is doing its part. You too can play a role in our global village by rising up in support of innovation.

If you are a student, you can participate in the competition. If you are a design or test engineer, you can register for the event and vote for your favorite design idea. By doing so, you will help ensure that the best, most innovative idea rises to the top and that the reponsible students are rewarded with up to $50,000 (USD) in cash and $50,000 (USD) of Keysight test equipment for their school.

One big idea is all it takes to change the world. Are you ready to step up and do your part?