The Internet of Things (IoT) has been identified as one of the key disruptive technologies that will have a significant impact on industry, community and society. We are already seeing its impact in a number of industries and community touch points but before we get into these impacts and how we can use IoT as a STEM Education tool, it’s good to start off with a clear definition of IoT.

So, what is it?!

IoT describes objects and things that have been embedded with sensors, network connectivity and processing power. This enables these objects to exchange data over networks and the internet. We are witnessing an exponential increase in connected devices with an estimated 75 billion devices online by 2025.

A good example is smart devices within the home. Air conditioners, heaters, lights, doors, vacuum cleaners and more are all being connected to home networks. Once connected to the network, we can then control and monitor them remotely. For example, on a winter’s day we can turn on our heater via our mobile phone as we leave work. Once connected these everyday objects become IoT devices.

Smart Electricity Grids

Another great example of IoT in action is our electricity grid. Energy companies across the world are and have been rolling out Smart meters across their networks. The smart meters measure electricity usage and provide this data in real time.

This provides valuable insights into their customers’ usage and using this data they can accurately predict customer requirements at a granular level. This enables the provider to implement predictive maintenance across the Grid and facilitate the integration and optimisation of renewable energy sources.

Classroom Examples

A number of schools have introduced IoT projects into the classroom where (with the initial assistance of the teacher) students are able to develop models or activities that draw upon their understanding of digital and design technologies as well as programming and coding. For example, students from St Joseph’s College have constructed a scale model of a ‘smart city’ where the street lights are programmed to be enabled/disabled. Using Galileo Boards, the students were able to control each of the houses and a light sensor to create day and night situations.

Other schools have developed programs where more inexperienced students use Pi-top to create an automated plant waterer. In other instances, classes have developed a vertical hydroponic farm or a garden bed where the students code arduino or pi-top to monitor the soil moisture and light intensity. This data is then collected to program an automated watering system and even a feeding system.

In addition, students can use sensors (or even their fitbit/Garmin watch/ STRAVA app on their smartphones) to monitor their everyday activity and collect and compile this data as a class. This could include data on how far they walk/run in a day, in addition to other personal data (like their heart rate). This would provide opportunities for healthy lifestyle discussions and could make biology classes more relevant to the students.

The last word…

IoT might be the latest buzzword (or acronym) but it signifies a major shift in the way our future will look and the skills that our students will need. To help our students, we need to provide opportunities that enable them to interact with IoT platforms and the data that is collected.