Amazingly, the first time this expression was coined was as far back in 1999 and it refers to the rapidly growing network of connected objects that are able to collect and exchange data using embedded sensors. For example, thermostats, cars, lights, refrigerators, and more appliances can all be connected to the IoT. Indeed the first internet connected appliance was a toaster in 1989!
Where it’s most common, in Britain at least, is home heating and energy use – partially because the government is pushing energy companies to roll out smart meters. They have clever functions that let you turn on heating remotely, set it to turn down the temperature if it’s a sunny day, or even turn off when there’s no-one home. Some can tell the latter with motion-sensing cameras, or simply by seeing that your smartphone (and therefore you) has left the premises.
IoT is more than smart homes and connected appliances, however. It scales up to include smart cities – think of connected traffic signals that monitor utility use, or smart bins that signal when they need to be emptied..
Manufacturing is perhaps the furthest ahead in terms of IoT, as it’s useful for organising tools, machines and people, and tracking where they are. Farmers have also been turning to connected sensors to monitor both crops and cattle, in the hopes of boosting production, efficiency and tracking the health of their herds.
Healthcare is one area where more data has the potential to save lives, by preventing disease, monitoring it and by analysing it to create new treatments. However, our health is also one of the most sensitive areas of our lives, so privacy and security will need a bit more preventative medicine first.
The examples are endless, and all we can predict is that connected devices will likely creep into most businesses, just the way computers and the web have.. One prediction is by Gartner, they predict that there will be nearly 20.8 billion devices on the Internet of things by 2020.
To Be Continued – The Challenges IoT faces – security and privacy.