We explore how charities can make the most of Internet of Things technology
Staying connected has never been easier. With the proliferation of online devices and digital technology, the concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) has come to life.
Taking a closer look at the IoT idea and what the future might hold, we focus on how charities can use the tech to their advantage.
IoT means a network of devices which exchange information over the internet. Most of these devices capture information using sensors and software.
TechTarget, an online portal, describes IoT as “a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers (UIDs) and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction”.
Put simply, IoT is an organisation of online devices which automatically perform tasks without human influence.
While the definition of IoT seems vague and futuristic, we are actually in the IoT era already.
Networks of devices are already in place. Charity: water, known for their use of immersive storytelling, uses remote sensors to detect water performance. As part of its mission to help deliver clean water to rural communities, the charity installs handpump monitors in water wells.
The monitors keep track of how much water has been pumped and sends the information into the cloud. Staff then assess the performance from afar, and issue repair callouts if necessary. For Charity: water, the IoT network saves time and money by reducing the need for human resourcing.
Charity digital fundraising is another area where IoT networks have impact. Payment systems are becoming vital fundraisers.
Charities are creatively using connected point-of-sale devices to take payments in unusual ways. TAP London runs the familiar donation boxes in areas with high pedestrian traffic. The boxes take mobile phone payments to help rough sleepers. All donors need to do is tap their mobile phones on the boxes to contribute.
The IoT network is spread across London, and sits alongside electronic notice boards. Since inception in 2018, the boxes have received 50,000 taps from people passing by, raising over £145,000.
Charities are already thinking about how IoT devices can enhance service delivery. Many are looking into smart home technology. Scope UK, a disability charity suggests that home devices could be used for controlling lighting, temperature, security, and domestic machinery.
Voice-enabled virtual assistance technology has huge potential for enhanced service delivery. Now common, Amazon’s voice-controlled speaker Alexa connects users with charity advice and services. The PennState College of Medicine and the College of Information Sciences and Technology are delivering services through the smart speaker.
Using the Alexa Skill features, Nurse AIME (“Addressing Metastatic Individuals Everyday”) supports cancer patients by delivering in-home help. The cheery avatar works with those suffering from depression and assists with patient self-care.
Others are also taking advantage of Alexa’s intimacy with users. Breast Cancer Care helps women check for signs of cancer. The speaker prompts women to perform breast checks in the privacy of their own homes.
IoT devices also make it easier to fundraise. Larger charities, especially, are taking advantage of Alexa’s connection with payment systems.
The British Heart Foundation uses the in-home speaker to connect with audiences. Subscribers can donate using Amazon Pay and organise a collection.
Others charities have followed suit, including the NSPCC. The children’s charity uses the goDonate Voice platform to enable payments through Amazon Pay.
Without a doubt, IoT devices surrounding charity audiences have potential. Looking ahead, we can expect more charities to tap into the popularity of voice commands. It won’t be surprising to have voice commanded IoT devices in shopping centres, public areas, and charity events.
Getting started on IoT isn’t too different from installing your computer system and getting it online. Our top tips are:
Earlier, we highlighted how charities use devices to collect information and fundraise. There are many ways to use the data, including advertising, storytelling, and service delivery. Deciding what your charity aims are will assist the decision-making process to invest in devices and other hardware.
Map out your network by understanding information flows to and from audiences. This will help you review how and when your audiences receive information. Remember, the customer journey is still the most important aspect of the network.
On a practical note, use separate routers and network connections for your IoT network. By keeping your device network separate from your office computerware, you’ll be able to customise the connection.