Internet of Things / IoT

Updated: Tue, 22 Dec 2015 by Rad

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet. The IoT is a giant network of connected "things" (which also includes people). Examples include smoke detectors, thermostats, door locks, intelligent fridges, and various sensors.

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the ever-growing network of physical objects that feature an IP address for internet connectivity, and the communication that occurs between these objects and other Internet-enabled devices and systems.

"As the IoT category expands and the products become more sophisticated, one can envision a scenario where your fitness tracker detects that you've fallen asleep and then automatically turns off your TV and lights. Or, before hitting the road, your car could pull up your work calendar and automatically provide the best route to your meeting, or send a note to relevant parties if you're running late."

Bonnie Cha, recode.net

Billions things connected every year

The Internet of Things is becoming an increasingly important part of the technology industry, with analysts estimating that 4.9 billion 'things' (2015) will be connected this year, rising to around 25 billion by 2020.

Despite the recent excitement over products like Google's Nest - the IoT can actually be traced back to the 1980s. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University first came up with an internet-connected Coke vending machine in 1982.

This can not happen without implementing IPv6 globally. IPv6's huge increase in address space is an important factor in the development of the Internet of Things. In other words, humans can easily assign an IP address to every "thing" on the planet using IPv6. This is not possible with IPv4 currently still in use as IPv4 address space is exhausted.

Imagine if a car, a kettle and your toothbrush could all speak to you. The car could let you know that its tires need air, the kettle that the boiled water is cooling and you should hurry up and make that cup of tea before it gets too cold, and your toothbrush lets you know when you've brushed your teeth for two minutes as it's best to keep your teeth healthy.

A thing, in the Internet of Things, can be a person with a heart monitor implant, a farm animal with a biochip transponder, an automobile that has built-in sensors to alert the driver when tire pressure is low -- or any other natural or man-made object that can be assigned an IP address and provided with the ability to transfer data over a network. So far, the Internet of Things has been most closely associated with machine-to-machine communication in manufacturing and power, oil and gas utilities.

Many forms of IoT

IoT devices can be used to solve a wide range of problems and they come in many forms.

IoT comes in many forms. Variation of use cases seems endless. IoT devices itself has many types and can be arranged in different configurations. Those devices can be used to solve a wide range of problems and can be divided into many categories. Some of them are:

Nest thermostat
Nest
Credit: William Murphy (Own work), via Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-SA.

  • smart homes (including smart energy management, smart lights etc.)
  • wearables (fitness tracking bands, smartwatches, smart glasses etc.)
  • appliances (smart kettles, fridges and washing machines)
  • smart spaces (computing environments applying knowledge to adapt services in order to enhance user experience)
  • smart health (advanced sensors connected with the Internet producing essential health data in real-time)
  • smart cities (uses information and communication technologies (ICT) to enhance quality, performance and interactivity of urban services, to reduce costs and resource consumption and to improve contact between citizens and government)

The Internet of Things is where wireless networks of objects are created using RFID, Bluetooth, GPS, and other technologies, working in tandem with cloud computing environments, Web portals, and back-end systems that will allow our 'things' to talk to each.

Some analysts predict that the industrial value of the Internet of Things over the next decade will surpass that of the Internet 30 times over, and say it will become a market that is worth more than $100 billion.

Top IoT companies in the world

Many of global technology players realize that IoT market will be huge in next decade. All major tech players actively work are all working on connected devices, as are many smaller companies and startups; including Intel, Microsoft, Cisco, Google, IBM, Samsung, Apple, Amazon and Oracle amongst others.

As sensors spread across almost every industry, the IoT is going to trigger a massive influx of big data. Nearly 80% of companies are actually convinced that the IoT will become a disruptor element and will be what mark the decade.

As first, IoT will revolutionize marketing and will change how brands relate to consumers, although this will not be the only change that will impose on users and companies. IoT will not only channel for future big data development, but also the power to create the basis for such content.

Big data, meanwhile, is characterised by 'four Vs': volume, variety, velocity and veracity. That is, big data comes in large amounts (volume), is a mixture of structured and unstructured information (variety), arrives at (often real-time) speed (velocity) and can be of uncertain provenance (veracity).

IoT challenges and risks

However, communication between various devices is not smooth. With so many companies working on different products, technologies and platforms, making all these devices communicate with each other is no small feat - seamless overall compatibility likely won't happen.

Global connectivity between all devices creates significant security concerns. Recent reports of hackers being able to remotely control cars illustrate the immense risks posed by IoT. This raises questions regarding current security risk management practices and illustrates the challenges that are being created by IoT's all-in-one connectivity.

The IoT market is still in its infancy, but is being driven by high expectations built around offering consumers a more convenient life style. Meanwhile, it promises to open up new markets for businesses by providing vast amounts of information on customer buying habits, which can be leveraged to drive further sales.

"The various amounts of data collected by smart home devices, connected cars and wearables have many people worried about the potential risk of personal data getting into the wrong hands. The increased number of access points also poses a security risk."

Bonnie Cha, recode.net

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