Picture1Author: Steven Morvay, Digital Developer

In the digital world, “things” come and go. But the “Internet of Things” is here to stay.

The Internet of Things is the network of physical objects – devices, vehicles, buildings and other items – embedded with electronics, software, sensors and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data.

Everything Will Be Connected

It won’t just be cellphones that access the Internet; it will be our lightbulbs, our front doors, our microwaves, our comforters and our blenders. It will be our cars, our dogs, our groceries and our lawn mowers. On a larger scale, it will be our roads, our bridges and our buildings.

And on a much more personal level, it may be on or in your body itself.

Yep, you can send vital stats to your doctor regarding your blood pressure while you remotely adjust your home’s temperature, lighting and oven to cook that perfect dinner. Someone rang the doorbell…just check the security video stream to see if it’s OK for little Elroy to answer. These features may sound like something out of an episode of The Jetsons, but the Internet of Things revolution is already unlocking the potential of a fully connected world and making widespread interdevice connectivity a reality.

Let’s Take a Look at a Few Good Examples

Our Cities

In 2007, a bridge collapsed in Minnesota, killing many people, because of steel plates that were inadequate to handle the bridge’s load. When we rebuild bridges, we can use smart cement – cement equipped with sensors to monitor stresses, cracks and warpages. This is cement that alerts us to fix problems before they cause a catastrophe.

And these technologies aren’t limited to the bridge’s structure. If there’s ice on the bridge, the same sensors in the concrete will detect it and communicate that information via the wireless Internet to your car. Once your car knows there’s a hazard ahead, it will instruct the driver to slow down, and if the driver doesn’t, then the car will slow down for him or her. This is just one of the ways that sensor-to-machine and machine-to-machine communication can take place. Sensors on the bridge connect to machines in the car: we turn information into action and potentially save lives.

Here’s is an infographic that illustrates the connectivity for businesses and consumers:

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Personalized for the Individual

Medical and heath monitoring devices can be worn or implanted to monitor your vitals and communicate these to your healthcare provider for timely response and treatment. These devices could be anything from a blood pressure monitor to a pacemaker.

Some Stats Worth Mentioning

Growth

Juniper Research predicts that by 2020, there will be 38.5 billion connected devices. IDC says it’ll be 20.9 billion. My guess? Thirty billion. The numbers don’t matter, except that they’re huge. Almost all agree that most of those gadgets will be industrial – the Internet of Things is less about you changing the color of your lightbulb and more about companies large and small finding new ways of making their businesses, and your life, easier and more efficient.

Money

With the Internet of Things, it’s not a matter of “if.” It’s a matter of when, how big and who will reap the profits. That’s the thinking, at least, among many investors, tech conglomerates and investment banks. They see it as the biggest opportunity since smartphones and tablets swept the world.

You may or may not be attracted to the idea of using your phone to control your thermostat and home security system from miles away, or wearing a smartwatch or fitness tracker – the products that leap to mind when the Internet of Things is mentioned. But the term also encompasses a much larger and less visible universe of uses – everything from cars to oil rigs and factory machinery that send data to one another. Between the possible consumer and business applications, analysts have been tripping over each other to make the most grandiose predictions: $1.9 trillion from Gartner, $7.1 trillion from IDC, $19 trillion from Cisco.

Question: When Will This Become Commonplace?

Before the Internet of Things becomes commonplace, there are a few obstacles that we need to overcome.

A Standard in Connectivity

Did you buy an Apple TV this fall? You now have a HomeKit Hub in your house, and if you buy a HomeKit-enabled device, it’ll be incredibly easy to set up. Have an Amazon Echo? Try saying, “Alexa, turn the lights off.” Actually, that one will only work if you have a Philips Hue set and you’ve already done the work of setting up things. It’s a “whole” thing.

The question is no longer: Is it possible to connect everything to the Internet? Yeah, it’s possible. The question now: How do we do it the right way? Internet of Things companies need to set standards, pick both winners and losers, and come up with ways to make it easier for everyone to get on board. It’s possible some regulatory body will decide on a set of standards, or everybody will agree to support everybody else and redundancy will rule the day. Whatever the outcome, some standards need to be set before we are truly connected to each other.

Security

We need to begin grappling with the security concerns these devices raise – having your Target account hacked is one thing, your car or home security camera is another entirely. We’ll have to understand the sheer volume and intimacy of the data we’re handing over as we go about our hyperconnected lives, and hold our leaders and executives accountable for what they do with that data.

Answer: It Won’t Happen Overnight

As David Pierce of Wired said, “It may be coming like a molasses tidal wave, but the Internet of Things is coming.” So as the Internet of Things develops and becomes more commonplace, these are some of the advantages that will come along with it.

Communication

The Internet of Things encourages communication between devices, also known as machine-to-machine communication. Because of this, physical devices are able to stay connected and therefore total transparency is available with lesser inefficiencies and greater quality.

Automation

The Internet of Things allows you to automate and control the tasks that are done on a daily basis, avoiding human intervention. Because physical objects are connected and controlled digitally and centrally with wireless infrastructure, there is a large amount of automation and control in the workings. Without human intervention, the machines are able to communicate with each other, leading to faster and more timely output, and to maintain transparency in the processes. It also leads to uniformity in the tasks and can help to maintain the quality of service. We can also take necessary action in case of emergencies.

Information

It is obvious that having more information helps in making better decisions: Knowledge is power and more knowledge is better. Knowing the exact quantity of supplies or the air quality in your home can provide more information that could not have previously been collected easily. For instance, knowing that you are low on milk or printer ink could save you another trip to the store in the near future. Furthermore, monitoring the expiration of products can and will improve safety.

Time

The machine-to-machine interaction provides better efficiency; hence, accurate results can be obtained fast. This results in saving valuable time, and in today’s modern life, we all could use more time. Instead of repeating the same tasks every day, it enables people to do other creative jobs.

Money

The biggest advantage of the Internet of Things is saving money. If the price of tagging and monitoring equipment is less than the amount of money saved, then optimum utilization of energy and resources can be achieved by adopting this technology and keeping the devices under surveillance. We can be alerted in case of possible bottlenecks, breakdowns and damages to the system. It all leads to saving and conserving energy and cost.

Better Quality of Life

All the applications of this technology culminate in increased comfort, convenience and better management, thereby improving the quality of life.

All right then, let’s connect!

References

  1. Internet of Things.” Wikipedia.
  2. Kline, Daniel B. “Our Favorite Internet-of-Things Stocks for 2016.” The Motley Fool, February 10, 2016.
  3. Pierce, David. “The Internet of Things Is Everywhere, But It Doesn’t Rule Yet.” Wired, December 19, 2015.
  4. Griffith, Erin. “How to Invest in the Internet of Things.” Fortune, December 4, 2014.
  5. Burrus, Daniel. “The Internet of Things Is Far Bigger Than Anyone Realizes – Part 1.” Wired.
  6. Burrus, Daniel. “The Internet of Things Is Far Bigger Than Anyone Realizes – Part 2.” Wired.
  7. ‘Quality in Work’ Leads to ‘Quality in Lives’.”