Internet of Things: Living in a Technologically-Connected World

February 11, 2020 by Stefanini

Imagine yourself in the not-so-distant future, living in a smart home where your appliances are connected to your alarm. They brew coffee for you as soon as you wake up and automatically turn on lights as you walk through your house. Perhaps you already have started incorporating devices like these into your daily life – but imagine it taken one step further. Voice commands become part of your everyday routine as computing devices read your messages and schedule to you while you get ready for the day. Your car drives you to work via the least congested route, which allows you to catch up on the news or prep for your morning meetings.

These scenarios might sound like science fiction, but actually are all part of the Internet of Things (IoT). But what is IoT and how might it affect you sooner than you think? Read on for the answer.

What is the Internet of Things?

According to Wired, the Internet of Things – or as it is sometimes known, the Internet of Everything (IoE) – refers to everything connected to the internet, but the definition is a little more complicated than that. For instance, the term “IoT” is increasingly being used to denote objects that “talk” to each other – devices like simple sensors, smartphones, and wearables that all communicate. According to Business Insider, even cars, kitchen appliances, and heart monitors can be connected through IoT. By combining these devices using automated systems, the objects are able to gather information, analyze it and create an action, such as learn from a process or help with a particular task. When it comes to IoT, it is all about data (link to Stefanini article about big data).

Terms to Know

As mentioned above, IoT encompasses any stand-alone internet-connected device that can be controlled and/or monitored from a remote location. And as smaller, more powerful chips are developed, almost all these types of products can be considered IoT devices.

Here are some terms to know:

·         IoT ecosystem

The components that enable consumers, governments, and businesses to connect to their IoT devices, such as remotes, dashboards, networks, gateways, analytics, data storage and security.

·         Entity

Consumers, governments, and businesses all make up bodies that interact with and benefit from IoT devices.

·         Physical layer

Hardware such as sensors and networking gear that make up the hardware underlying an IoT device.

·         Network layer

Transmits the data collected by the physical layer to different devices.

·         Application layer

Includes interfaces and protocols that devices use to identify and communicate with one another.

·         Remotes

Allows entities to utilize IoT devices to connect with and control using a dashboard like a mobile application. Smartphones, tablets, PCs, connected TVs, smartwatches and nontraditional remotes all make up these types of devices.

·         Dashboard

Refers to the device that displays information about IoT ecosystem to users. It enables them to control their IoT ecosystem and is usually housed on a remote.

·         Analytics

Used for a wide variety of scenarios, such as predictive maintenance, these software systems analyze the data generated by IoT devices.

·         Data storage

Where data from IoT devices is saved.

·         Networks

Can sometimes enable devices to communicate with each other, but mostly allows the entity to communicate with their device.

How Does the Internet of Things Work?  

The IoT is made up of all the web-enabled devices that collect, send and act on data they acquire from their surrounding environments. These use embedded sensors, processors and communication hardware to gather various sorts of readings, such as temperature, moisture, and light, as well as communication hardware that can send and receive signals. These smart devices have the ability to talk to other related devices, which is called “machine-to-machine (M2M) communication,” and react based on the information they receive from one another. M2M communication has been in existence for quite some time, with How Stuff Works estimating that it started with the telemetric systems of the early 20th century, which transmitted encoded readings over satellite communications, radio waves or phone lines. Humans become involved with IoT by setting up gadgets, giving them instructions or access to data; however, the devices do most of the work on their own without human interaction. The existence of these devices is made possible through small mobile components, as well as the always-online attributes of our home and business networks.

The processing of data on web-connected servers in large data centers – also known as the cloud – has allowed many everyday gadgets to become part of IoT. These devices are able to connect to the internet by sending data to your phone or via some other dedicated hardware that acts as a hub over a local communication method, such as Bluetooth. The connection can be made directly through a home’s router or modem via WiFi or Ethernet cords, cable or power line networking. Cellular communication is another way these devices communicate.

The History of the Internet of Things

The IoT might be in its infancy, but according to IoT Analytics, the term itself is at least 16 years old. The idea to connect devices first originated in the 70s and was called “pervasive computing” or “embedded internet.” The actual term “Internet of Things” was created by Kevin Ashton in 1999. As a worker in supply chain optimization, he wanted to get the attention of senior management to a new opportunity in technology called RFID. Since the internet was still beginning to develop in 1999 and was somewhat trendy, he called his presentation “Internet of Things.” Yet, the term did not get widespread attention until some ten years later.

The concept began to gain some popularity in the summer of 2010. Google was at the forefront, with information leaking that Google’s Streetview service had stored a ton of data on people’s WIFi networks while they were taking 360 degree pictures. At the same time, the Chinese government announced that it would make IoT a strategic priority in their Five-Year-Plan. And in 2011, Gartner included the emerging phenomena on their list as “The Internet of Things.” The “Internet of Things” was then the theme of Europe’s biggest Internet conference, LeWeb. From there, popular magazines like Wired and Fast Company started using IoT to describe the phenomenon.

In October 2013, IDC published a report that stated IoT would be an $8.9 trillion market in 2020. Further, that year Navigant Research predicted that the worldwide installed base of smart meters would grow from 313 million in 2013 to nearly 1.1 billion in 2022. Mass market awareness was reached in January 2014, when Google announced they were going to buy Nest for $3.2 billion. The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas then held their conference under the theme of IoT.

From there, the IoT continued to grow until it became the ever-evolving entity we know today.

The Vastness of IoT

As mentioned above, IoT encompasses the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet, as well as to each other. This giant network of connected “things” can also include people.

Despite the fact that most people are not equipped with smart homes filled with interacting objects, IoT is already quite large. Gartner estimates that by 2020, there will be over 26 billion connected devices. This number is even expected to grow potentially from 50 to 212 billion by 2020. By 2025, there could be around a trillion connected devices. Though this number might seem quite large, it seems less implausible when you consider the fact that you can embed or attach sensors and tiny computing equipment to everything, from wearable fitness trackers to your pets’ collars. Further, embedded processing, sensing and communication equipment is being added to everything from bathroom scales to refrigerators to shoes. Security cameras, smoke alarms, and smart thermostats can track people’s habits to help them save on energy bills, alert them when something isn’t right at home, let them remotely see camera views of home, and make it easy to contact emergency services like the fire department or police. And IoT isn’t stopping there. Even more devices are hitting the market, with companies and industries working to create standards and platforms that will make it easier for different devices to be programmed to work together more seamlessly and improve security.

While all these devices might not work together cohesively right now, once there are more devices that can work with other devices – even from different manufacturers – many mundane tasks will be automated thanks to the fact that we’ve given common physical objects computing power and senses. These devices are able to take readings from our surrounding environments – such as our own bodies – and use the data they collect to change their own settings, signal other devices to follow suit, and aggregate it for us to peruse. These actions are performed based on complex algorithms that can occur within their own processors or on cloud servers. As smart gadgets continue to grow and learn, they soon will be able to complete tasks we haven’t even dreamt of assigning them yet.

IoT Benefits

A massive amount of internet traffic is generated by these connected devices, including large quantities of data that can be used to make the devices useful, but also can be mined for other purposes. Of course, generating all this new data and the Internet-accessible nature of these devices have raised both privacy and security concerns. Yet, due to this technology, we now have access to real-time information that we didn’t have before. Homes and families can be monitored remotely and kept safe. Productivity at businesses can be increased, reducing material waste and unforeseen downtime. City infrastructure can be embedded with sensors that help reduce road congestion and let us know ahead of time when infrastructure is in danger of breaking down. Nature can even be monitored, with gadgets watching changing environmental conditions and warning us of impending disasters, such as hurricanes or earthquakes.

As IoT continues to grow, there are many benefits we’ll see from interacting with it. The first, most obvious benefit is the fact that the IoT enables more connectivity, with people being able to operate multiple things from one device, such as a smartphone. An increase in connectivity also enables an increase in efficiency, as we’ll spend less time performing the same tasks. As smart appliances become more commonplace, convenience becomes a factor of everyday life, with devices like Amazon dash making life easier by reordering items on your behalf and with your consent. IoT also will create a world with healthier people, with wearables like smartwatches allowing you to reach your health goals by recoding your weight and body composition, providing suggestions and rewarding progress toward weight loss goals. And with smart cities on the horizon, conservation goals worldwide can be reached, allowing city planners and residents to come up with solutions to current issues by monitoring city conditions like traffic, air quality, electric/water usage, and environmental factors. Finally, personalization will be a huge attribute of IoT. Again, IoT is all about data and as IoT devices gather more data from you, they will be able to tailor to your preferences as they learn your likes and dislikes.

Where Will IoT Go Next?

Forbes writes that when it comes to the future, “anything that can be connected, will be connected.” This is why one of the trends to watch out for with IoT includes the emergence of smart cities, which can loosely be defined as the connectivity behind infrastructure and urban planning for improvements for residents, such as optimizing the flow of traffic. And as more and more IoT-based smart city applications are developed, harnessing edge analytics architecture will become even more possible. Edge computing lets the compute be performed close to the device at the edge of the network, which enables smart cities to store, process and analyze data in real time at the device level.

And IoT will continue to expand, with Gartner predicting that the enterprise and automotive IoT markets will grow to 5.8 billion endpoints in 2020, which is a 21 percent increase from 2019. According to a Microsoft survey, 85 percent of IT decision makers say they have at least one IoT project in the learning, proof of concept, or purchase phase in their organization. As 5G networks continue to evolve, they will provide better experiences for existing applications while also accelerating use cases that were not possible with the previous generations of mobile networks. This acceleration will provide a great benefit for IoT devices that are an important part of industries like healthcare and logistics. According to various sources, the rate of adoption will increase throughout 2020, with Microsoft predicting that 94 percent of businesses will be using IoT by the end of 2021.

Yet, those connections come with risks. Cybercriminals, for instance, will continue to use IoT devices to facilitate Distributed Denial of Service attacks – DdoS for short – which works to overwhelm websites with internet traffic. In 2016, a DDoS attack caused by a Mirai botnet flooded the servers of Dyn, a company that controls much of the internet’s DNS infrastructure. This attack caused major websites like Twitter, CNN, and Netflix to halt services for hours. Luckily, the future also includes more security, as routers become safer and smarter. While conventional routers provide some security, such as password protection, firewalls, and the ability to configure them to only allow certain devices on your network, router makers are likely going to seek new ways to boost security.

Finally, it comes as no surprise that the rate of adoption for Robotic Process Automation (RPA) using bots to automate methodical and time-consuming tasks is spiking. According to Forrester, the market for RPA technology will reach $2.9 billion by 2021. Yet, some estimate that RPA will never truly live up to the hype, as its potential can be construed as limited. Instead, we might see a blending of RPA with intelligent business software and AI that will create hyper automation, which will automate processes in ways that are more significant than standalone automation technologies. Yet, others are more optimistic. According to Digital Workforce, most companies will be able to automate at least 20 percent of their workload in the next five years. In order to stand up to the competition, businesses should utilize RPA to ensure they’re not consumed by larger players in the game.

IoT’s Potential

The future of IoT is ripe with potential. Yet, it is dependent on many moving parts. For instance, according to Microsoft’s study, the future of IoT is reliant upon other technology such as 5G and AI, which will critically affect its success in the next two years. Yet, GSMA Intelligence estimates that IoT adoption will add up to $370 billion per annum to the global economy by 2025. As more scalable, easy-to-deploy, cloud-based IoT solutions are used by organizations, a worldwide adoption of IoT is becoming more and more likely.

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