The Internet of Things: The Future of Disruptive Technology

by The Burns & McDonnell Team on August 20, 2014

Internet of ThingsHailed as being one of the top 10 tech trends for 2014, the Internet of Things (IoT) is a hot topic. Cisco estimates that it has a potential market value of $14 trillion, with one-tenth of that credited to manufacturing, which impacts us in many ways.

According to CB Insights, in 2013, IoT companies secured more than $1 billion in venture capital, an 11% increase from the previous year. The IoT buzz kicked off earlier this year when Google announced its $3.2 billion purchase of a Silicon Valley start-up called NestLabs who create Internet-connected home monitoring and energy management systems.

What Is It Exactly?

The Internet of Things is often referred to as Machine-to-Machine or Machine-to-Mobile. That not only includes the obvious things like smartphones and other mobile devices, it also includes myriad sensor-driven devices, like car keys, watches, alarm systems and temperature control systems within commercial buildings, many of which could ultimately interconnect.

There are many companies already making use of the IoT, like Samsung and GE, who are manufacturing products like smart thermostats and lighting systems using the IoT technology. Until recently, this type of smart connectivity was expensive and difficult to produce. However, thanks to companies like Texas Instruments, Intel and Qualcomm, chips and sensors that connect to the Internet are increasingly becoming both more efficient and more economical.

Tracking Behavior: Good for Business

Embedding products with sensors enables companies to track movement and monitor interactions. With fine-tuning, companies can use this behavioral data to their advantage. For example, car rental companies can embed sensors into vehicles for accurate tracking. Likewise, in the B2B marketplace, some companies are using the IoT to track radio frequency identification (RFID) tags on products as they move through the supply chain. This not only improves inventory management, it also reduces capital costs.

The number of uses for IoT tracking is growing. In the aviation industry, for example, sensor technologies have influenced new business models. Thanks to IoT technology, airplane manufacturers are building airframes with sensors that send continuous data to their computers to update on the level of product wear and tear. This allows air carriers to better monitor fleet condition and act quickly upon the first signs of deterioration.

Control from the Comfort of Our Own Homes

The IoT already has the ability to control technologies in our homes and would certainly have its advantages for controlling equipment like HVAC systems and washing machines. What’s more, the IoT can educate consumers about energy use, promote behavior change and, ultimately, save money.  We’re already seeing that with the integration of smart meters in the utility industry and consumer adoption of devices like Nest. The ability to clearly see energy use and its financial implications in real time can go a long way toward effecting change. The same is true from a commercial property standpoint, as technological innovations make building management, maintenance and energy use easier to monitor and control.

The IoT can also play a significant role in hospitals. By implanting RFID sensors into human subjects, doctors and surgeons are able to gather data about the body that can benefit patients. The information can then be uploaded to servers for more analysis. One example: the ability to monitor elderly patients living on their own, helping to ensure they’re safe, delivering better care and reducing the need for hospitalization.

 What Does the Future Hold for the IoT?

The future is definitely bright, but the IoT may have some way to go within business enterprises. There are the not-so small details of policy and technical challenges that need to be considered before systems can be fully embraced.  Innovators will need to quantify value, which takes time, and regulators will need to take a close look at privacy laws and data protection.

Leading technology manufacturers will need to update products to be fully compatible with the IoT, and they’ll need to evolve their standards so that data can be collected from a wide range of systems and devices.

What do you think about the Internet of Things and how it will change our lives? How will it affect the way we do business? Do you have privacy concerns about this technology? We’d love to know what you think.

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Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)With the merger of American Airlines and US Airways, Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) is set for significant renovations to accommodate the world’s largest airline.

Led by US Airways, which uses PHL as its primary international hub and second largest domestic hub, upgrades to the airport’s Terminal F were successfully completed last year — creating a fresh, modern experience for regional travelers. Terminals B and C are next in line.

Modernizing a Complex That’s More Than 60 Years Old

After expanding Terminal F by 120,000 square feet, US Airways has shifted its focus to operations in Terminal B/C, the hub for mainline domestic, Caribbean and Canadian flights.

These two terminals form the oldest part of PHL’s seven-terminal complex. Initial work on Terminal B began in the late 1950s and the complete Terminal B/C complex officially opened in 1970. In 1998, the complex was renovated to include new retail and food outlets, plus a 25,000-square-foot US Airways Club. However, little modernization has been carried out since this renovation 16 years ago.

Our team will manage a modernization project for Terminal B/C that will include modifications to the security screening lanes, a more efficient passenger check-in process, in-line baggage screening and upgrades to existing facilities, including HVAC.

New Design Technology Makes It Easier to Collaborate

With so many new and innovative products available to streamline air travel — from the check-in process to security — choosing the best tools for an airport modernization program is no easy task.

The project team will design a concept for the modernized terminal by looking at the technology available and evaluating what works well, and what can be improved, at other airports worldwide.

Some of the options being considered include:

  • Self check-in and self-service bag drop facilities, including a baggage drop at the parking garage
  • Hold rooms similar to high-end lounges, with restaurant facilities and iPads at every seat
  • Security checkpoints with specific lanes designated for passengers who have already been cleared, crew, etc.
  • Highly advanced baggage screening systems
  • A transport system that connects Terminals B and C with the rest of the airport complex.

Collaborating on a conceptual design is easier today than it was just 10 years ago. Thanks to 3-D design software, our designers can show airline executives what the renovated terminal will look like. These models allow everyone involved in the project, including airport staff, to better evaluate whether the plans will meet their needs.

Before the final construction documents are agreed upon, the program management and design team will consider all possible conflicts that may disrupt the project schedule, and put measures in place to ensure the whole operation runs as smoothly as possible.

Using Technology to Keep the Project on Track

Once the design is finalized and construction is ready to start, innovative technology will really come into play — to ensure the program progresses on time and within budget.

For a program as complex as this, the management team must guide everything to proceed without complications. Considering the many ongoing airport operations, both the project and management teams will need tools that enable clear communication to keep all parties up to date on schedules, milestones and changes.

Our OneTouchPM® and NoTouch Reporting™ technologies will play a vital role in allowing the program team to maintain schedules, deal with challenges and promptly execute the plan.

This challenging project will transform Terminal B/C and convert the critical hub from outdated to world class.

What are your thoughts on this project? How do you see the role of technology in modernizing air travel? Have you used reporting technologies like our OneTouchPM? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Katherine Goudreau is a vice president in charge of Burns & McDonnell’s Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia offices, and has spent the majority of her career working on aviation-related projects. She oversaw the Philadelphia Terminal Expansion project.

 A previous version of this article appeared in our 2013 Aviation Special Report — Envisioning the Future.

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