What is Internet of Things (IoT) and how will it transform our future?
“The Internet of Things has the potential to change the world – just like the internet did. Maybe, even more so!”
Imagine driving home from work in a self-driving car. Just before reaching home, your AC is switched on (so that the temperature is perfect when you enter), your vacuum cleaner has finished cleaning the sofa, the curtains have been drawn, and the microwave is already heating your coffee – all through a single command on your mobile. This is Internet of Things (IoT).
Simply put, this is the concept of basically connecting any device, or even any of its parts, with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cellphones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of. It creates a relationship between people-people, people-things, and things-things. These “things” collect and exchange data.
Although the concept wasn’t named until 1999, the Internet of Things has been in development for decades. The first internet appliance, for example, was a Coke machine at Carnegie Melon University in the early 1980s. The programmers could connect to the machine over the internet, check the status of the machine and determine whether or not there would be a cold drink awaiting them, should they decide to make the trip down to the machine.
How will this impact your future?
Internet of Things can connect devices embedded in various systems to the internet. When devices/objects can represent themselves digitally, they can be controlled from anywhere. The connectivity then helps us capture more data from more places, ensuring more ways of increasing efficiency, reducing wasteages and enhancing safety.
It is believed that through the Internet of Things, there will be over 26 billion connected devices by 2020! Yes, you read it right. The rule of the future is this: “Anything that can be connected, will be connected.” Here are a few glimpses of what your future will look like:
- You are on your way to a meeting – your car has access to your calendar and already knows the best route to take. If the traffic is heavy, your car sends a text to the other party notifying them that you will be late.
- Your alarm clock wakes up you at 6 am, and then notifies your coffee maker to start brewing coffee for you.
- Your office equipment knows when it was running low on supplies and automatically re-orders more.
- The wearable device you use at your workplace tells you when and where you were most active and productive and shares that information with other devices that you used while working!
- You go to a local grocery store, the store already knows what you want. As soon as you enter, the payment is automatically made via your smartwatch, when you leave the store, the smartcart follows you and auto-loads the content in your car – and you’re good to go!
- An elderly family member uses a wearable alarm button, connected to other discrete wireless sensors placed around the home. The system can track your loved one’s daily routine and give you peace of mind for their safety by alerting you to any serious disruptions detected in their normal schedule – all on your mobile device.
- Your smart-toothbrush is connected to your smartphone – it encourages good brushing habits for both kids and adults by turning brushing into a game, and saves data on your phone about your brushing habits. It then transmits the same to your dentist just before your appointment!
The reality is that the IoT allows for virtually endless opportunities and connections to take place, many of which we can’t even think of or fully understand the impact of today. It’s not hard to see how and why the IoT is such a hot topic today; it certainly opens the door to a lot of opportunities but also to many challenges.
However, this magic wand doesn’t come without its own set of challenges – the biggest one being security. With billions of devices being connected together, what can people do to make sure that their information stays secure? Will someone be able to hack into your toaster and thereby get access to your entire network? The IoT also opens up companies all over the world to more security threats. Then we have the issue of privacy and data sharing. This is a hot-button topic even today, so one can only imagine how the conversation and concerns will escalate when we are talking about many billions of devices being connected. Another issue that many companies specifically are going to be faced with is around the massive amounts of data that all of these devices are going to produce. Companies need to figure out a way to store, track, analyze and make sense of the vast amounts of data that will be generated. How will all of this be resolved, only time will tell. But one thing is for sure, before you know it, you’ll be deeply connected in the web – that is the power of the Internet of Things!
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