Tackling inequality across the world through technological innovation

Last updated: 05 July 2017

The IoT is helping the environment

Advances in technology are creating new possibilities to create healthier and fairer societies. Regular readers of the blog will know we’ve discussed the environmental and economic benefits of innovation before (check out our work on connected cars), the Aland Bank’s Baltic Sea Project being a recent example. Already, mobile and IoT technologies are lifting people out of poverty, protecting citizens from environmental risks and opening new opportunities for those in disadvantaged communities across the world.

We’re particularly excited to see the Indian government recognize the emancipatory power of technology, launching free WiFi hotspots in 1,050 rural villages across the country. Just imagine what this might mean for villagers, previously cut off from the rest of the nation. The Indian government will be building WiFi towers in each village at the cost of $62 million, intended to “provide basic development services to rural areas using digital technology”, according to Aruna Sundararajan from the Ministry of Electronics and IT. With estimates suggesting there will be 340.2 million smartphone users across India by the end of the year, the announcement marks a crucial step towards ensuring rural areas benefit from the mobile revolution.

Over a billion people worldwide still live without access to electricity. Fortunately, the problem is getting more and more addressed, thanks to technological innovation. Rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa can benefit from a clean, reliable energy supply, thanks to solar energy and IoT connectivity. Gemalto worked with a German company called Solarkiosk, a specialist in providing solar-powered energy and retail outlets to communities cut off from telecoms and power networks. Owners of these kiosks can rely on solar energy to power laptops, fridges or mobiles, representing a perfect solution for those wanting to run a small business in challenging environments. The kiosks are equipped with smart meters powered up by Gemalto wireless modules, ensuring optimum efficiency and reliable power flow.

IoT developments can also bring good news to communities living at risk of bushfires. Back in 2015 we ran the IoTMaker competition, where we asked readers to submit their ideas for a new IoT innovation. The winning entry was an automated 3G Bushfire Alert System. The idea came from Jason Mitcheson, who was concerned about bushfires and the speed at which they spread in Australia. We went on to build a prototype of the system, equipped with sensors to detect dangerous heat levels and a communication system to alert the authorities.

Furthermore, IoT solutions are ushering in the era of the connected park, boosting security and making visits more enjoyable. An IoT Enablement Platform has been developed to provide real-time analytics to park managers and response teams, helping them to locate people and prevent vandalism with the use of powerful cameras and sensors. The connected technology allows quick and accurate reporting on weather conditions, allowing park maintenance and security to immediately respond to any safety issues. Park visitors can download a smartphone app to stay in touch with developments, post updates on their journeys and alert someone if they get lost. You can read more about smart parks here – we’re really excited about their potential to make travelling around national parks much less dangerous.

The rise of big data, connected devices and powerful smartphones aren’t just making our lives more convenient – they’re also driving meaningful change for people in rural communities and developing countries all over the world. Stay tuned for more information on how the IoT is empowering coffee farmers across the world and ensuring people benefit from fair trade and super fresh coffee!

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