Internet of Things and the efficiency in service management


The Internet of Things (IoT) is a reality and it offers us many possibilities. For that reason, it is crucial for the University and the companies to keep a strategic alliance that allows not only to take advantage of these possibilities, but also to prepare our students and graduates. On July 11, the conversations about the signing of the agreement between WND and the PUCP were materialized. The agreement was signed by Mario Bibolini, CEO of WND-Peru, and Dr. Marcial Rubio, provost of PUCP, who were accompanied by Dr. Carlos Fosca, Administrative Vice-Rector, and by Dr. René Ortiz, Secretary-General of the University. Other participants were the engineers David Chavez, coordinator of the discipline of Telecommunications Engineering, and Ángelo Velarde, coordinator of the Research Group IoT-PUCP. The latter offered us the following interview.

What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?

To explain this, I would like to use an example. A watch allows me to see the time: the hour, the minutes and the seconds. That is to say, it offers useful information to the person who owns it. But, what happens if I share this information with the world or if I take advantage of the intelligence that I may find on the network to obtain more information? For example, a smartwatch can get a sensor that will allow me to see new information like my pulse, my location, if I am moving, if I am working out, etc. So, all this information, which is actually just numbers, goes to the cloud, where there is a great processing capacity, and it gives me valuable information in return. Now, I do not only get the time and my pulse, but also information such as the times of the day where my heart has been beating faster, or the moments where I got the most physical activity; those things are not just numbers anymore, that is valuable information for the user.

The Internet of Things depends on a device (a thing) that, when connected to the internet, it makes the most the intelligence and the available information for the user’s convenience. For example, in a house, you can have an energy meter that offers information about what is the consumption at different times of the day, as well as where this consumption comes from (lights, electrical devices, etc.). On the other hand, it is also useful to distributing companies, since the information collected can allow them to improve their services and distribute energy all over the city in a more efficient way.

Agreement signed between WND and the PUCP

The agreement is with the company WND, official operator of SIGFOX technology in Latin America. Through the CEO of WND Mexico, Daniel Guevara, we stablished contact with the CEO of WND in our country, where the operations with said technology have already started.  SIGFOX technology consists of providing devices an element that will allow them to communicate with their network. What SIGFOX manages is a communications network, like mobile networks, that is dedicated exclusively to the Internet of Things. In this way, it offers facilities to control the exchange of information, optimizing traffic and improving its safety, since it is an independent network and, with a very low connection cost, it manages to keep all the devices connected in an independent way.

So, for example, if I could connect all the power and water meters, I would not need anyone to come constantly to check on them. In addition, I could also know the consumption of every house in the city and, since every device would be connected to the SIGFOX net, the distributing company could take advantage of this information to make decisions.  In this way, the company can make decisions rapidly in the case of outages (if, for example, the user has not paid for the service) or in the case of failures, which is something that occurs frequently in Lima.

Why did you sign this agreement with this specific company?

Two graduates from our School, Renzo Arauco and Jorge Benavides, were the ones who started the conversations with WND and contacted us. The Research Group IoT-PUCP, found it extremely interesting and thought it was a powerful move to have the University connected to this SIGFOX technology. At the end of the day, the university is like a small city and it can obtain valuable information and make the most of it from the data accumulated in a network like this one.

Favorable applications of this technology at PUCP

The Group has discussed a lot about turning the PUCP into a laboratory, with the goal of obtaining the largest amount of information in order to optimize the use of the university’s resources. A small-scale example could be discovering the exact amount and the moments of the largest consumption of drinks, through the vending machines on the campus. We could also discover how much power is used in a building, or what are the habits regarding the use of lights. This kind of information would allow the university to manage better its resources.

Favorable applications of this technology in education

On the other hand, it is interesting to see how we could obtain information regarding class attendance or the state of the classrooms, or whether they are being used. It would be interesting to get information about the teaching and learning processes, for example, we could implement laboratories that use IoT that will allow to obtain  information and to have this experience in a remote way. In this way, I could have access to an educational process from my home and continue strengthening the teaching and learning processes. Having a virtual and remote laboratory would allow me to improve my educational processes.

The University already has equipment and devices that can be connected to a network. An oscilloscope or an image generator, which are meant to be used in a laboratory, could be managed or visualized through the internet. In other words, they already are IoT devices. In this way, we could build IoT modules for the developing of an experiment, which, along with an instrumentation that can be monitored though the internet, would allow the student to conduct at home an experiment that (s)he has done in class, in person, strengthening what has been learned in class.

In this remote experience, the student would work with the same instrumentation and equipment found in the laboratories and classrooms, but from afar, which has a larger potency because it is not a simulated space. It is not a software that simulates the equipment, but actually working with it, with the real instrumentation, but controlling in in a distant way, giving the student the opportunity to visualize the experience from home.

Transparency in the administrative processes

The tracking of the administrative processes goes beyond managing the information systems and the possibilities of using Information Technology (IT) in general. To see the administrative processes it is very important to have a transparent access to information. Finding valuable information of the process, wherever you are, is exactly what one should be aiming for. In these cases, Information and Communications Technology, in general, beyond of the Internet of Things, are the ones that can help in these processes. I, personally, have always thought that we should be able to do this tracking of our administrative process from a mobile device. I have heard of the use of electronic records in courts, in this way, the user can have access to how the information is being handled, in what state said information is, etc.

The Internet of Things in other institutions around the world

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has an experience called Senseable City Lab, through which they spread out a series of sensors around the city. What we want to replicate in the University, as a research group, they already did in their city. In this way, they have started to see what are the effects of having that amount of information regarding traffic monitoring, the quality of the weather or the water, etc., and, from artificial intelligence technology, they start to see what they can improve and what decisions could be made. For that reason, I think it is something very potent and is completely interdisciplinary, since it can help different disciplines and research groups. I understand that in Peru there are many groups that are working of topics regarding the IoT, both in national and private universities. It is a very interesting subject, but the only problem is that, as a country, we lack the knowledge of what to do exactly. Other countries have a national plan of IoT thinking of where they want to put the focus of this technology on, because there are crucial safety issues regarding the fact that all the devices are interconnected. We should also consider how invasive this systems might be, there are ethical issues to take into account. On the other hand, it is important to determine how to promote the use of technology related to the Internet of Things to improve the city, institutions and industries. Nowadays, people talk not only about the Internet of Things, but also about the Industrial Internet of Things, through which sensors would allow to improve the industrial processes of a product. It is possible to continue all the processes and optimizing times. The IoT could be applied in agriculture and animal husbandry; for example, there are sensors that are used to monitor the cattle’s behavior. There are so many applications to the IoT devices and so many technologies involved that, without a doubt, it is necessary to order and regulate it.