The Internet of Things (IoT) helps museums and other institutions protect their resources, from art to animals. IoT’s benefits go beyond conservation to helping control expenses, improving efficiency, generating revenue, and increasing safety. Here’s how institutions are harnessing the power of IoT to improve their operations and grow.
Protecting Priceless Art and Artifacts
New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art was an early adopter of wireless sensor technology. The museum implemented wireless environmental sensors in 2011 to protect the Cloisters, its collection of medieval and Byzantine art. Humidity and temperature fluctuations can damage the centuries-old paintings, tapestries and other artifacts by causing shrinkage, warping, and other problems.
Before the wireless sensors were installed, the museum had no way to refine its temperature- and humidity-control systems. With the sensors in place, the museum can collect real-time data to run those systems more efficiently. This enables the museum to control costs, reduce environmental impact, and protect the art.
Museums with IoT environmental-monitoring systems can see other benefits, too. Real-time alerts inform staffers if there’s a sudden change in temperature or humidity. These systems work as well for pieces in storage as they do for items on display.
Real-time data reports also relieve staff members of the need to manually record environmental data. An IoT monitoring system can save an hour or more of staff time per day. Smaller institutions with real-time environmental monitoring are better positioned to host traveling exhibits of rare or fragile items that need precise temperature and humidity settings.
Keeping Zoo Animals Healthy, Reducing Waste
The UK’s Marwell Zoo combines IoT sensors with artificial intelligence (AI) to help nyala antelope stay warm without wasting energy. The sensors send data once per second to the system’s bridge, where it’s analyzed to decide when the heaters should be on.
Previously, the zoo left all the heaters on in the nyala house around-the-clock during cold months and all night during warm seasons. Now, sensors detect when an animal is near a space heater in the barn, even if the animal is asleep and not moving around. The zoo hopes the IoT system will reduce heating costs by as much as 40 percent for the nyala house. If so, the zoo plans to expand the IoT system other enclosures and use the savings for new projects.
Reducing Poaching Losses and Protection Costs
In Africa, long-range IoT sensor networks deployed by zoos and national parks protect animals and people from poachers. One such program in South Africa has cut rhino poaching by 96%. That park’s new anti-poaching program combines an IoT sensor network with a rapid response team of rangers. The sensors pinpoint the location of people crossing into the park carrying metallic objects like machetes and guns. This information lets rangers helicopter in to arrest poachers, instead of tracking them on the ground.
The new program eliminates the need to sedate and tag rhinos, a process that risks blindness or death. It also protects park rangers from unexpected encounters with poachers in remote areas of the park. Worldwide, more than 800 park staffers and scientists have been killed since 2009.
Parks and zoos in other countries are now looking to roll out similar programs. The London Zoo’s IoT wildlife monitoring system has been tested at sites worldwide to protect rhinos, bird colonies and reefs. Protecting wildlife from poachers preserves biodiversity. It also helps parks improve their appeal to paying visitors.
Growing Membership and Attendance Revenue
IoT-enabled wristbands and other devices can personalize the museum experience for visitors. This can lead to higher attendance numbers, an increase in memberships, and more revenue for institutions. The Children’s Museum of Houston saw memberships rise in 2016, after it launched an IoT-linked spy-themed scavenger hunt. Now, three years later, the scavenger hunt remains a popular activity. The museum also offers it as part of its on-site birthday parties and corporate events.
Wireless sensor networks are saving institutions money and staff time, protecting resources, safeguarding staffers, and raising revenues. Those organizations gain the freedom to do more with their resources and new income. As more museums, zoos, and parks see what IoT technology can do, the Applications for IoT networks will almost certainly expand.