Over US$13 Billion Worth of Goods are Stolen Each Year – How Can IoT Help?

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1Q 2022 | IN-6421

The use of LPWA smart sensors would be increasingly effective in reducing and solving theft.

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Smart Sensors vs Increased Security


Theft makes headlines when it involves high value items such as cars, jewelry, and electronics. However, theft is common in a broad array of things that are not as high profile. For example, in China there has been a large increase in the theft of things like manhole covers which has prompted governments to enforce strict punishments, up to the death sentence. The punishment has gotten this strict due to the open holes in the ground leading to over seventy serious injuries or death between 2017 to 2019, as well as substantial damages to vehicles. In addition, it is difficult to track where those things go once they are stolen. A more economical and sustainable way to combat theft is to attach intelligent sensors or locks to be able to monitor these objects or places, remotely.

Better Use of Resources


With Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) cellular connectivity options in the form of Cat-M, Narrowband-Internet of Things (NB-IoT), and uniquely designed sensor devices, the ability to monitor objects and places is much more efficient. Instead of having to have human eyes monitoring these different things, attached sensors can alert when attention is required. For example, MokoSmart is a company that has developed a smart manhole sensor that has LoRaWAN, NB-IoT, and GPRS connectivity built into it. This sensor is placed on the bottom of the manhole cover and has a resting state when the manhole cover is laying in the ground, horizontally. The sensor then can be set to send an alert whenever the manhole cover is tilted to a certain degree off its resting horizontal state. This signal is then sent to a monitoring center where they can then track the manhole cover through the sensor. This is just one example of the efficient use that LPWAN IoT connections can provide.

Sensors On and Eyes Off


Implementing sensors on difficult to monitor or remote places makes the security of those things more cost effective and efficient. Instead of having to hire someone to travel to these places and do checkups, sensors or smart door locks could be implemented at each entryway or relevant checkpoints to ease this process. Furthermore, using LPWA technologies in these scenarios is highly recommended.

The two recommended solutions for mitigating theft with IoT would be to either implement condition-based sensors or smart door locks with NB-IoT technology built-in. The low-cost that comes with the NB-IoT technology as well as the “plug and play” capability makes this solution far more practical than sending a human out for constant monitoring or consistent checkups. In buildings or on objects that aren’t accessed very often, condition-based sensors are a great solution. The condition-based sensors can be used similarly to how the manhole sensors are used, as discussed in the previous section. It can have a resting state on the door of being closed or flat, and if the resting state is altered then an alert is sent to the control center to act. In locations where long travel is necessary, or when an object is stolen, either having surveillance turn on when the sensor is altered or activating tracking of the object may be essential. For buildings that are entered often, installing NB-IoT door locks is a better solution. Through a scanned QR code or short time unique code, there will be a constant record of who is going in and out of the building, using a certain object, and when. Like the condition-based sensors, if the door or object is used either without a code or broken into, automatic surveillance or tracking being activated may be necessary.

The Total Available Market (TAM) for these solutions is tremendous. Virtually any object is subject to theft, so it comes down to interested parties determining what is important enough to be monitored. In addition to break-ins and thefts in buildings, which already has a huge market, these sensors could be used to mitigate theft on railroad cars, shipping containers, storage units, and more.