The year 2020 will, no doubt, be remembered as one of sacrifice, challenge, and adaption. People were directly impacted by an invisible enemy—the coronavirus and the resulting COVID-19 pandemic—and challenged to change their lifestyle accordingly. Companies were hit with mandated closures, economic challenges, and a new way of working. But through it all, people remained resilient and flexible. And in meeting the challenges, individuals and organizations found help in technology, new and old.

Many of the most innovative technologies developed before and during the pandemic addressed the IoT (Internet of Things) universe directly and made a significant difference. Those technologies, which we honor now, have made the IoT a reality, unstoppable, and adaptable.

But emergencies generate crisis responses and often those responses fade away once the disaster is over. What innovations will withstand the test of time? That is where Connected World can help, finding some of the hottest products for the fast-paced IoT market and uncovering the benefits in its annual IoT Innovations award.

Each year, technology companies submit nominations. The judging committee at Connected World evaluates the most transformative innovations to hit the market, looking at what makes the technology unique, what type of product or solution it is, how the company developed the innovation, as well as product attributes.

Each of the entries are then evaluated by each judge on a number of criteria including creativity of innovation, market competition, partners, go-to market strategy, price point, market need, addressing an industry pain point, and more. The editors also consulted with outside industry experts and conducted follow up discussions with the candidates throughout the research process.

At a time of disruption, when companies that have been tempted to put their digital transformation strategies on hold, more than ever innovation is essential. Yes, that means it’s a wonderful time to recognize the winners of the Connected World IoT Innovations for 2021.

So please join Connected World in congratulating the 2021 IoT Innovations winners.

Product: Wireless Industrial Temperature Sensor

Company: Disruptive Technologies

After more than a year of being concerned about our personal temperature, a rise of which could signify COVID-19, taking the temperature of a building might seem trivial. However, that is far from the case. Disruptive Technologies’ quest for smart buildings requires knowing how, when, and to what degree the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) is operating and if any equipment is overheating.

The Disruptive Technologies Wireless Industrial Temperature Sensor, a small wireless sensor with long battery life at extreme temperatures, provides a solution to make a building intelligent and sustainable in a cost-efficient manner.

It can be used as a standalone device to give notification of temperature changes at one point or as a part of a complete system to automate an entire building and all assets/equipment within it. This device can also prove to be a powerful tool in preventing COVID-19 vaccine spoilage in temperature-sensitive cold storage facilities.

Making tiny wireless sensors with more than 10 years of battery life is hard, regardless of the temperature extremes at which it operates, due to the nature of the lithium battery chemistry. Smaller devices require a smaller battery, which decreases battery life and increases internal resistance, making it harder to draw enough current to transmit a radio signal. The answer was to use BR instead of CR batteries; BR batteries have a significantly lower self-discharge rate at higher temperatures but are notoriously hard to make useful for wireless applications.

Disruptive Technologies overcame that challenge through custom-designed, proprietary silicon microchip technology, and a proprietary radio protocol that allows ultra-low-power sensing using two orders of magnitude less power than other sensors use to sleep between measurements. The protocol, Secure Data Shot, allows the chip to operate the sensor optimally without the constraints standard radio protocols impose.

“Disruptive Technologies offers a solution that can help prevent spoilage of critical COVID-19 vaccines all while leveraging sensor technology to do it is certainly one that we can all get behind.”
– Peggy Smedley

Product: MDsense

Company: Essence SmartCare

COVID-19 restrictions imposed by states and communities caused hardship for many people but none more than the seniors among us. A vulnerable demographic at the best of times, with limited access by caregivers, the older population was constantly concerned about what would happen to them in case of accident around the home. The usual choice was a wearable fall alarm but that isn’t always the only or best option.

Many fall detection solutions suffer from inaccuracy and reliability issues, with a high ratio of false alarms reported by major service providers in dealing with senior falls. On the other hand, MDsense is a multi-dimensional fall detection solution that can provide fall protection for an entire home by monitoring events using smart, wall-mounted sensors rather than wearable devices.

MDsense maintains complete privacy because it uses radar rather than video recording technology. It operates seamlessly 24/7, is completely wireless, works in light or dark rooms, is waterproof, and can differentiate between multiple people or people and pets. It can be installed in all living spaces, including bathrooms.

MDsense removes the risk of missed falls by analyzing the current position of the person to determine if a fall has taken place. This is a major difference with other solutions that require the sensor to detect the fall as it happens, leaving it susceptible to missed detections and reducing the types of falls that it can detect.

Essence developed the multi-sensor fall detector in partnership with Texas Instruments, taking advantage of the 3D sensing and on-chip processing capabilities of the TI mmWave sensors. If there is a sudden change from a standing to lying position, the device uses its internal decision-making mechanism to determine if a fall has occurred. Care providers are then notified through Essence’s Care@Home, a cloud-connected telecare solution that uses AI and machine learning to continuously collect actionable data, enabling accurately rapid response to fall events.

“Helping seniors concerned about injury, especially when they are trapped at home due to the pandemic, is essential and beneficial to caregivers, the community at large, and everyone involved. MDsense removes the risk of falls by analyzing the current position of the individual.”
– Peggy Smedley

Product: Jaibot

Company: Hilti North America

A cliché is that the construction industry is light years behind in technology adoption. Part of that comes from the fact that, while the industry has some very large global companies, it is also made up of thousands of small companies, often a family operation, working in the many trades that are required for today’s buildings. It’s hard to implement advanced programs such as BIM (building information modeling) at your kitchen table.

But that doesn’t mean smaller trades are avoiding technology since most are required to integrate with the technology used by their larger company employers.

But technology these days isn’t all desktop computer-based; some come on wheels or tracks. In that case, one approach available to any size company is equipment rental. Major vendors, such as Hilti, offer their tools for rent and even for “test drives.” And Hilti’s latest, the Jaibot semi-autonomous overhead ceiling drilling robot, is an example.

The Jaibot is a large piece of equipment on tracks that uses an extendable arm to hold the drill and locate the holes. Its steering is done by remote control, run by an operator, directing it to move from one location to the next. Once in the drilling area, Jaibot is referenced by a robotic total station, Hilti PLT 300, and automatically drills all holes within its reach.

The Jaibot is an easy-to-use system, which doesn’t require an expert’s skills to operate and can be fleeted from Hilti just as any standard Hilti tool. It is also offered on a short-term, project-based rental to allow customers to try it, learn about the workflow requirements of bringing a robot into the work schedule, and finding out what it means in terms of data preparation to feed the Hilti Jaibot with drilling data.

Jaibot executes its tasks based on BIM data, is completely cordless, locates itself accurately indoors, drills the holes dust-controlled, and marks them according to the trade. This is what makes the solution ideally suited for the MEP (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) trades.

BIM-enabled robotic solutions also make the construction process more transparent with improved execution speed, constant performance, and fewer errors. Daily progress can be reported from the field to the project office via the cloud. Potential conflicts between the trades involved on a jobsite also can be detected at an early stage and then limited, resulting in more projects delivered on-time and within budget.

Jaibot allows realtime data upload and download for progress tracking from the Hilti cloud and has an offline work mode for areas without cellular network access, such as in basements. The required data input would be the drilling coordinates and hole specific information—trade/size, marking pattern, etc.

Safety played an important role in the development of the Jaibot. It is designed to assist tradespeople in physically demanding, repetitive installation tasks. Jaibot will take over the ceiling drilling and allow the workforce to focus on installations, making teams faster and more productive while delivering a more constant output.

“Robots like Jaibot are an important part of today’s digital solutions, driving the digitization of construction and enabling optimization of the workflows on the jobsite.”
– Peggy Smedley

Product: ALTA by Monnit Soil Moisture Sensor

Company: Monnit

Living things need water to survive. Agriculture needs water, whether in fields or hot houses, and landscaping needs water, whether commercial or residential. But overwatering and underwatering can be constant concerns of farmers, commercial growers, greenhouse managers, and homeowners, as they work to balance water conservation with healthy plants.

There is a science to watering that includes measuring soil water tension to get the data necessary to make the right watering decisions. Enter the science of sensors and the IoT (Internet of Things).

Sensors that only measure soil water volume can be limited because they can’t tell how water moves. A better idea is to monitor the energy state of water, including the energy that a plant exerts to draw available water from the soil. When you measure water potential or soil water tension and temperature together, you can tell more accurately if your crops are healthy or stressed.

Monnit’s two-in-one ALTA Wireless Soil Moisture Sensor measures soil water tension (matric potential) and temperature in different soil types. The sensor features a resistive granular matrix element and a thermistor-based temperature element along with a wireless IoT range of one mile at ground level, outdoors without obstructions.

Unlike other sensors, it measures water tension in its fabric-covered matrix material rather than from the surrounding soil. No need to recalibrate per placement. The temperature element reads soil moisture temperature and compensates so there is no need for different water readings if the temperature changes.

Using a proprietary combination of IoT-based hardware and software to collect and securely send critical soil moisture data efficiently, and with a long-range, multi-frequency radio and flexible microcontroller, the sensor can be quickly deployed in multiple growing applications.

The sensor is ideal for putting IoT to work in agriculture, commercial landscaping, greenhouses, agronomy research, golf courses, sports turf, construction, mining, forestry, environmental monitoring, and more.

“We recognize we are facing a real water shortage, but by leveraging data, the ALTA Soil Moisture Sensor helps conserve water through the efficient use of irrigation.”
– Peggy Smedley

Product: MicroAI Atom

Company: ONE Tech, Inc.

As more enterprises deploy the IoT (Internet of Things) across multiple locations, facilities, and operations, the stream of data along the network increases to possibly overwhelming levels, disrupting operations instead of improving them. Employing advanced AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning along the path from reporting device to analysis can assist the IoT network to prevent overload.

MicroAI Atom is an endpoint-based, self-correcting AI and machine learning engine that aggregates and analyzes data from smart devices and machines. Unlike traditional AI solutions that are deployed on the edge but send all data to the cloud for processing, MicroAI Atom is deployed directly onto the microcontroller of the smart asset. This allows all critical data to be analyzed locally, at the device or machine.

Training at the endpoint allows massive amounts of data to be captured and analyzed without sending it across networks or storing it in cloud infrastructures. This greatly reduces the cost and latency associated with data transmission, along with reducing, if not eliminating, the cost of storing and processing the raw data, by only outputting data that has been processed via its AI/ML engine.

The engine’s algorithms are used to create behavioral profiles of the connected asset(s) to establish baselines for optimized performance. Asset performance and security is then monitored, in realtime, and workflow-based alerts are automatically generated in the event of abnormal behavior. This asset-centric approach to AI enablement provides OEMs, (original-equipment manufacturers) asset operators, and operational stakeholders with intimate insights into the performance and security of mission-critical assets.

MicroAI Atom has three primary areas of focus. First, it provides organizations with operational efficiency by achieving maximum performance of connected devices. Second, it provides predictive maintenance insight, allowing organizations to avoid costly downtimes and prolong the lifecycle of devices. Third, it allows for enhanced security of devices via an AI solution that lives directly on the endpoint device so organizations can better protect themselves by not sending data to a cloud environment.

As data volume expands from IoT deployments, MicroAI Atom allows for organizations to save on cloud and connectivity costs by processing data locally and only transmitting the necessary data, such as signs of failure, anomalies, or operational/health alerts of the asset. Furthermore, building the machine learning model is automated, removing the need for extensive efforts to embed AI for IoT deployments.

“Using AI and machine learning for data analysis at the edge limits the amount of data that must travel down the IoT pipeline, allowing more connections and better value. MicroAI Atom from ONE Tech, Inc., deploys directly onto the microcontroller of the smart asset, allowing critical data to be analyzed locally.”
- Peggy Smedley

Product: neo2

Company: OptConnect

More and more devices are connecting to each other and to central servers or the cloud and those devices need faster access to data. As connectivity to the cloud becomes more critical, downtime becomes more costly. The cellular network is getting overtaxed in many areas as smartphones, tablets, and IoT (Internet of Things) devices demand access and bandwidth.

The answer is to be able to use two or more networks, accessing the one that allows faster service.

neo2 from OptConnect is an IoT router with speed and carrier redundancy to ensure high uptime. It is a compact, full-featured high-speed cellular router that fits almost anywhere and can connect equipment to cloud services and provide dual redundant cellular connections and full integration with OptConnect’s complete managed wireless service. The compact LTE Category 4 router is suited for kiosks, micro-markets, digital signs, and other applications that require high-speed connectivity and redundant carrier connections.

The dual-carrier capability and dual ethernet ports can connect two devices to a single router, provides greater flexibility, and twice the connectivity power. OptConnect offers a solution, not just a product, that includes an entire suite of managed services, providing greater IoT connectivity uptime for operators though OptConnect’s Summit system.

As each device checks into Summit, it reports data on signal strength, signal noise, and other indicators around the device’s overall health. Data includes the cellular tower’s location the unit is using and with this information and the logic built into Summit, the platform displays an approximate location where the OptConnect hardware is operating.

Customers can see exactly how their OptConnect cellular devices are working, watch for signal strength issues, associate them with their equipment identifiers, and even connect their back-office computer systems or customer-facing platforms via the Summit API.

“Downtime is costly and neo2 helps avoid it by adding connections, speed, and carrier redundancy to ensure uptime so users can continue to connect their equipment to cloud services.”
- Peggy Smedley

Product Name: FactoryTalk InnovationSuite, powered by PTC

Company: Rockwell Automation

Today’s manufacturers handle enormous amounts of data from connected equipment, assembly lines, processes, and facilities. This creates the challenge of interpreting and pulling value from the various data streams. To manage the enterprise, companies must accurately analyze all this data to solve maintenance issues and adapt to changing production standards.

Unfortunately, collecting data and implementing decisions in time to make a meaningful impact can be even more challenging.

For example, only 39% of plant-level operators in 2018 were able to access analyzed information from their plant within the timeframe required to make appropriate decisions, according to LNS Research.

Rockwell Automation’s FactoryTalk InnovationSuite is a comprehensive digital-transformation software suite, offering a fully integrated IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things), edge-to-cloud analytics, MES (manufacturing execution systems), and AR (augmented reality) to help manufacturers connect IT (Information technology) and OT (operational technology) devices on the plant floor, leverage enterprise analytics tools for successful, informed results, and enable end-to-end digital thread capabilities that empower industrial organizations to expand their digital-transformation initiatives.

FactoryTalk InnovationSuite enables four main uses cases: digital workforce productivity, enterprise operational intelligence, intelligent asset optimization, and scalable production management. It helps manufacturers enable a digital thread to connect business processes across the organization—from product and process design to operation and production—through digital twin software that allows a virtually test machine and system design in a digital twin format.

By leveraging visual tools to drive successful, informed results, the entire machine learning workflow is supported, from data to value, in tools designed for manufacturing, process, or maintenance engineers. In addition, FactoryTalk Analytics provides self-service machine learning and data mashups for collaborative data analysis.

“FactoryTalk InnovationSuite, enables manufacturers to handle large amounts of data — from equipment, to assembly lines, to facilities, to process, and everything in between.”
- Peggy Smedley

Product:  Zonar Coach

Company: Zonar

Artificial intelligence, otherwise known as AI, is revolutionizing every walk of life, allowing machines to learn from experience, adapt, and perform tasks that have historically required human cognition. The U.S. government has elevated AI to a key priority area. In response, the Dept. of Transportation established research in AI as a priority area to accelerate adoption of AI by state and local agencies for addressing transportation problems.

Many commercial companies are on the leading edge of AI in transportation. Zonar Coach, for example, provides in-cab driver coaching using AI and a LightMetrics dash camera. This standalone, high-definition dual-facing camera includes 1080p footage and infrared so it can record what happens anytime the driver is behind the wheel, day or night.

While dashcams have been around since the 1960s, their benefits only go as far as providing evidence. Rather than simply recording and assessing the damage afterward, like most telematics solutions, Zonar Coach leverages the power of the IoT to capture realtime data with immediate feedback to the driver and instant connectivity with fleet managers.

Coach uses AI and a G-force accelerometer to detect 10 unsafe behaviors in truck drivers: distracted driving, fatigue, droopy eyes, speed limit variances, tailgating, rolling through stop signs, lane drifting, cornering too hard, hard acceleration, and hard braking. As an IoT hub, the in-vehicle device uses data analytics and machine learning to help drivers improve productivity, enhance driver safety, and optimize fleets.

Coach produces on-demand incident footage if accidents happen, video evidence available in 15-second increments that can be viewed on a map to see when and where the incident occurred. There is also a challenge feature to exonerate drivers with safe driving behavior.

On the back end, the IoT connectivity allows safety administrators to review driver trips, incident footage and mapped locations of incidents. They can also watch driver and road-facing footage simultaneously with side-by-side and picture-in-picture viewing options.

Technology can’t prevent every accident, but using a proactive and connected technology like Coach can saves lives and money. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Admin., the average cost of a large truck accident is $75,000, while it costs about $470,000 for a large truck accident involving injuries and $11 million for a large truck accident involving fatalities.

While drivers can mitigate many of these incidents by being self-aware, technology can make roads safer regardless of what you’re driving and where you’re going. Zonar Coach’s connectivity and ability to provide realtime web-based analytics back to drivers after a trip and directly to fleet managers is truly innovating the driver’s experience on the road.

“When used with IoT connectivity and AI, Zonar Coach dash cameras can do much more than provide after-accident evidence; they can reduce the number and severity of truck accidents.”
- Peggy Smedley

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