The “Internet of things” (IoT) is becoming an increasingly growing topic of conversation. It’s a concept that not only has the potential to impact how we live but also how we work. But what exactly is the “Internet of things” and what impact is it going to have on you, if any?
The IoT is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers (UIDs) and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.
Simply put, this is the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything, smartphones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of.
The IoT is making the fabric of the world around us more smarter and more responsive, merging the digital and physical universes.
It’s the biggest, largest, giant robot in the whole world. How? It’s the billions of physical devices connected to the internet, collecting, sharing and downloading data.
Thanks to the availability of super-cheap computer chips and the ubiquity of wireless networks, it’s possible to turn anything, from something as small as a pill to something as big as an airplane, into a part of the IoT. Connecting up all these different objects and adding sensors to them adds a level of digital intelligence to devices that would be otherwise dumb, enabling them to communicate real-time data without really involving a human being.
How does Internet of Things work?
An IoT ecosystem consists of web-enabled smart devices that use embedded systems, such as processors, sensors and communication hardware, to collect, send and act on data they acquire from their environments. IoT devices share the sensor data they collect by connecting to an IoT gateway or other edge device where data is either sent to the cloud to be analyzed or analyzed locally. Sometimes, these devices communicate with other related devices and act on the information they get from one another.
IoT can also make use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to aid in making data collecting processes easier and more dynamic.
The devices do most of the work without human intervention, although people can interact with the devices — for instance, to set them up, give them instructions or access the data.
The connectivity, networking and communication protocols used with these web-enabled devices largely depend on the specific IoT applications deployed.
How Big is the Internet of Things?
It keeps getting bigger as there are now more connected things than connected people in the world.
Tech analyst company IDC predicted that in total there will be 41.6 billion connected IoT devices by 2025, or “things.” It also suggests industrial and automotive equipment represent the largest opportunity of connected “things,”, but it also sees strong adoption of smart home and wearable devices in the near term – which is already happening.
Why is Internet of Things Important?
The internet of things helps people live and work smarter, as well as gain complete control over their lives. In addition to offering smart devices to automate homes, IoT is essential to business. IoT provides businesses with a real-time look into how their systems really work, delivering insights into everything from the performance of machines to supply chain and logistics operations.
IoT enables companies to automate processes and reduce labor costs. It also cuts down on waste and improves service delivery, making it less expensive to manufacture and deliver goods, as well as offering transparency into customer transactions.
As such, IoT is one of the most important technologies of everyday life, and it will continue to pick up steam as more businesses realize the potential of connected devices to keep them competitive.
Benefit of Internet of Things to Business
The benefits of the IoT for business depend on the particular implementation; agility and efficiency are usually top considerations. The idea is that enterprises should have access to more data about their own products and their own internal systems, and a greater ability to make changes as a result. The internet of things offers several benefits to organizations. Some benefits are industry-specific, and some are applicable across multiple industries. Some of the common benefits of IoT enable businesses to:
- monitor their overall business processes;
- improve the customer experience (CX);
- save time and money;
- enhance employee productivity;
- integrate and adapt business models;
- make better business decisions; and
- generate more revenue.
IoT encourages companies to rethink the ways they approach their businesses and gives them the tools to improve their business strategies.
Generally, IoT is most abundant in manufacturing, transportation and utility organizations, making use of sensors and other IoT devices; however, it has also found use cases for organizations within the agriculture, infrastructure and home automation industries, leading some organizations toward digital transformation.
IoT can benefit farmers in agriculture by making their job easier. Sensors can collect data on rainfall, humidity, temperature and soil content, as well as other factors, that would help automate farming techniques.
The ability to monitor operations surrounding infrastructure is also a factor that IoT can help with. Sensors, for example, could be used to monitor events or changes within structural buildings, bridges and other infrastructure. This brings benefits with it, such as cost saving, saved time, quality-of-life workflow changes and paperless workflow.
A home automation business can utilize IoT to monitor and manipulate mechanical and electrical systems in a building. On a broader scale, smart cities can help citizens reduce waste and energy consumption.
IoT touches every industry, including businesses within healthcare, finance, retail and manufacturing.
Some of the general advantages of IoT include the following:
- Ability to access information from anywhere at any time on any device;
- Improved communication between connected electronic devices;
- Transferring data packets over a connected network saving time and money; and
- Automating tasks helping to improve the quality of a business’s services and reducing the need for human intervention.
Challenges of Internet of Things
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 in recent times; it certainly opens the door to a lot of opportunities but also to many challenges.
Security is one major issue. What can be done to make sure that information stays secure? Will someone be able to hack into any of my connected devices and have access to my entire network?
There’s also the issue of privacy and data sharing.
Another issue that many companies specifically are facing and 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.
Also, if there’s a bug in the system, it’s likely that every connected device will become corrupted.
One more issue is, will there be an international standard of compatibility for IoT, as it’s difficult for devices from different manufacturers to communicate with each other?
So what now?
Conversations are still on going all over the world as we seek to understand how this will impact our lives. We are also trying to understand what the many opportunities and challenges are going to be as more and more devices start to join the IoT. For now the best thing that we can do is educate ourselves about what the IoT is and the potential impacts that can be seen on how we work and live.
Let me know your thoughts on Internet of Things. Let’s keep the conversation going.