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The Home, City, and Factory are More Connected Than Ever Before

We are entering a new era of information. Connected by high-speed internet services, machines are sharing information with other machines, creating a networked environment called the Internet of Things (IoT). For many of us, this technology has made the idea of being connected into reality. Using smartphones, we are linked to our homes and our cars like never before. Even though wireless technology is giving us convenient access to a wealth of data, the need for physical connections remains, and high-performance data connectors will play a central role in almost all aspects of smart technology.

The Connected Home

Many of us have experienced the Internet of Things in the smart home. We have the power at our fingertips to control almost every aspect of our homes, from a refrigerator that orders its own groceries, to a smart meter that monitors energy consumption remotely. Smart technology will play a significant role in our quest for a low- or zero-emission economy with the introduction of advanced energy-efficient devices such as heat pumps and renewable energy sources.

Concerns over energy security are driving changes in how we create and distribute the electricity we use. New methods of producing energy are allowing local generation to become a viable alternative to the traditional network. Instead of relying on large-scale power stations, users can now generate power efficiently at a much smaller scale. The use of small power plants of less than 10 megawatts capacity is known as microgeneration.

Connected to the traditional power network, the smart grid allows consumers to become truly active participants, balancing their needs with their capacity to generate power locally. When demand outstrips the ability to generate power locally, the consumer can supplement their own generation with power from the network. At other times, a surplus of energy generated locally can be sold back to the network, reducing the consumer’s costs.

The development of high-capacity battery storage will also allow the consumer to store energy created on their own premises for later use. These Energy Storage Solutions (ESS) require sophisticated battery management systems (BMS) to ensure safe and efficient operation. Data connections will provide the vital link between the ESS and the home management system.

The smart home represents just a small element of the Internet of Things. The ability to share and process information is transforming manufacturing, energy production, agriculture, and even urban planning. All can make use of the power of the smart revolution.

Into the City

For the first time, the Internet of Things is providing the framework for a complete smart city. The smart city combines all elements of modern living, from transportation and traffic management to air quality and power distribution, to create a single ecosystem that is designed to improve quality of life. Residents interact with the city using their smartphones, homes and even their cars to allow the city’s infrastructure to be reconfigured according to need. Such elements as traffic congestion and energy distribution can be managed to provide maximum efficiency.

Data will even change how we travel. The future of mobility will be delivered by fleets of autonomous electric vehicles, employing the latest artificial intelligence, and connected to high-speed internet services. Known as Transportation as a Service (TaaS), this will result in a gradual reduction in traditional car ownership. Instead, individuals will use connected technology to purchase trips as they are needed.

The IoT is even changing how factories are run. With connected machines, manufacturing can be controlled centrally, even if the cloud-structure of the internet allows the individual elements of the industrial environment — machines, operators, and management — to be physically distant from each other.

At the heart of the control will be a digital twin, a simulated replica of the real-world system that exists electronically in a virtual space. It uses both a model of how the system should run and real-world data collected from sensors within the original. Data connectors will link sensors, controls and digital twins to create an integrated system that can respond quickly to changing circumstances.

New Environments and New Challenges

Many of these applications will be deployed outside the sheltered conditions of the office. Whether devices are deployed in the factory or at the heart of the city, the environment is the greatest challenge for designers. Exposed to a wide range of temperatures, moisture and prolonged exposure to sunlight, these devices must protect the sensitive electronics within. Despite the challenging conditions, connectors will continue to deliver the data needed for the latest smart devices.

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