18 Oct What is The Internet of Things or (IoT)?
The Internet of Things or IoT is simply defined as a group or network of smart objects connected to the internet, communicating with each other seamlessly with minimal or without any interaction from human beings.
The “things” in the Internet of Things or (IoT) refers to any object, natural or man-made, that is assigned with an IPv6 address and can transfer data over a network. This means that any object can be a part of the IoT if it can be connected to the Internet and controlled that way.
The Internet of Things or (IoT) is truly revolutionary and provides a glimpse of what the future of technology holds. With the merging of different technologies in today’s world and the Internet, we are now able to combine operational technology with information technology. These two technologies can now work together hand-in-hand.
One fine example of this marriage of technologies is best exemplified by the smart thermostats found in today’s homes. The smart thermostat, assigned with an IP address and connected to the Internet, is able to gather data about today’s weather and adjust the temperature accordingly so that you come back to a warm and cozy home from a cold and dreary winter night.
It can be as simple as an RFID-tagged device that can provide the device’s condition and location among other data to a remote server or an app that adds augmented reality in its functionality to be able to guide an individual to the nearest coffee shop or bike rental station.
History of The Internet of Things
Back in the 80s and 90s, the idea of interconnecting devices and communicating with each other has already been in the minds of many scientists and pioneers in technology. Progress on these ideas was slow during those times because the technology to make these things possible was simply not yet available and the cost of making one was just too high at the time.
The term Internet of Things was mostly likely coined by Kevin Ashton, executive director of the AUTO-ID Center at MIT. In a presentation he gave to Procter and Gamble, he stated:
“Today computers — and, therefore, the internet — are almost wholly dependent on human beings for information. Nearly all of the roughly 50 petabytes (a petabyte is 1,024 terabytes) of data available on the internet were first captured and created by human beings by typing, pressing a record button, taking a digital picture or scanning a barcode.
The problem is, people have limited time, attention and accuracy — all of which means they are not very good at capturing data about things in the real world. If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things — using data they gathered without any help from us — we would be able to track and count everything and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling and whether they were fresh or past their best.”
The components needed to make the Internet of Things feasible would need to be cost-effective without sacrificing quality. The advent of cellular and wireless networking along with the increased availability of broadband and fiber optic internet helped the Internet of Things to come about and become what it is today. The introduction of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, RFID and other wireless technologies combined with the growing speed at which internet technology is advancing, all helped in making the Internet of Things what it is today.
What really boosted the Internet of Things in its development was the creation of IPv6 and the huge increase in the address space it provided. The amount of address space that IPv6 provides literally means that you can assign an IPv6 address to every object in the known universe. That’s a lot of IP addresses; more than we’ll ever need in this lifetime, at least.
IoT and its applications in our daily lives
At the end of the day, despite the beauty and accessibility of the Internet, it is still wholly dependent on humans for operation and information. As we all know, we humans are not perfect, prone to error and have either limited time or attention span–we are simply inefficient. The Internet of Things (IoT) breaks the boundaries by making machines able to automate and capture data and present that to us, without any intervention whatsoever.
At home, this could mean a sensor can be installed that detects a gas leak in your house and automatically turns off the gas main pipe and sets up a house visit by the gas company. Or it could simply be something convenient as your smart TV switching to channels and movies related to what you like by communicating with your smartphone and gathering your most recent locations or searches via store GPS locations. You can even control what goes on in your house remotely while you’re away on a trip with the help of smartphones and remote technology. You can have a smart refrigerator that you can remotely view to check what supplies you lack and need to buy more of to something the next time you are in a grocery.
In a manufacturing plant, the applications are many for the Internet of Things. Manufacturing machines can work seamlessly without human interaction. The machines are able to virtually talk amongst themselves and adjust accordingly based on standards. This greatly reduces waste, loss and ultimately, cost in manufacturing. The system would be so efficient that it would be able to tell us if a machine needed maintenance, repair or replacing.
On the road, this applies to smart cars that are now able to drive autonomously. Aside from this, we may soon be able to have connected cars communicating with each other, preventing car crashes, decreasing traffic jams, increasing fuel efficiency, etc. Other applications would be an infotainment setup on the dashboard which will give you real-time car telematics tracking, fuel tracking, vehicle location tracking, vehicle usage analytics and many more.
In a more massive scale, soon there will be smart cities with interconnected smart equipment and devices. Interconnected streetlights that are smart enough to adjust its lights based on traffic data being fed into it. A smart road system that feeds traffic data to your smart car, advising you of any traffic jams or car collisions and guiding you with alternate routes or detours.
In healthcare, IoT devices can be attached to your clothing to monitor your heart rate, automatically check your blood pressure, rate of breathing, etc. It can contact your healthcare provider whenever something goes amiss in your stats. Another application is in tele consultation. This means talking with your doctor one-on-one via your smart device and would regularly send updates to your doctor about your current health.
IoT and the future
With the prices of chips, sensors and processors falling every day, the Internet of Things will only grow bigger and wider in scope. It is truly the next revolution after the Cloud and Big Data. So what does the future hold for IoT?
Growth in the number of connected devices: In 2016 alone, over 3.9 billion connected devices were in use worldwide. A year prior to that, there were approximately 4.9 million things connected to the Internet; from millions to billions in just one year. By 2020, this can easily reach up to 21 billion connected devices.
Smart Cities will become the norm: Individuals like us will not be the only ones using IoT devices. Cities and companies will soon be using smart technologies to become more efficient and save them time and money. This means that cities will be able to automate, remotely manage their daily tasks and systems by collecting data through video camera surveillance systems, train stations, local shops, etc.
Smart devices will become smarter: Smart thermostats, smart lightbulbs and even smart coffee makers, all collect data based on what you use them for and how often. Smart devices that listen your voice do actually record what you say to them. They store your recordings in its manufacturers cloud server. It is collecting and storing all of this data to help itself “learn” This is what is called machine learning, which is a type of artificial intelligence. The device or machine learns and adapts without having to be programmed by a person. This helps the device focus on specific data it receives and then uses this to help it learn what your preferences are and adjust itself accordingly.
Device security will become smarter: Any device that is connected to the Internet can be hacked—this is a fact! And with all the billions of connected devices that will soon comprise the IoT network, security will become a major focus for IoT developers and companies. As such, manufacturers will work on improving and strengthening their security protocols as data is transmitted from one connected device to another.
The Internet of Things will only continue to evolve as new technologies are created and these technologies become integrated in current ecosystems using IoT. There will always problems to solve and for each specific problem, there will most likely be someone thinking of how IoT can help solve that problem. The possibilities are endless.
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