By using our smartphones, we can easily turn the lights on in our homes while working in our offices miles away. The sensors which are embedded in the gardening systems help us in watering the plants while we are busy. Before we get there, the thermostat heats up our home, depending on our preferences. Thanks to the advances in smart and connected technologies, such as the Internet of Things, which are simplifying our lives to a great extent.
The Internet of Things, commonly called IoT, includes all physical ‘things’ which are connected to the internet and other devices. IoT devices are embedded with sensors, which help them to gather information about their surroundings and share this information with other electronic devices. By using these devices, the end-user can gain information, solve a problem or finish a task efficiently. This process of sharing real-time data is achievable without the involvement of a person. In today’s world, anything can be converted to form a part of IoT due to the availability of super-cheap computer chips and the ubiquitous presence of wireless networks.
Origin of the IoT
The idea of adding sensors and intelligence to common objects had been proposed in the 1980s and 90s. One of the first devices, which were based on IoT, was a vending machine. Using the university’s local Ethernet, a student could find out the stock of drinks in the machine and whether they were cold. However, due to the slow progress in technology, big and bulky chips and rudimentary communication systems, advancements in IoT could not take place quickly.
The advancement of IoT was facilitated by two factors. 1. Development of RFID tags- chips that use less power and can communicate wirelessly. 2. The increasing availability of broadband internet as well as cellular and wireless networking.
Kevin Ashton was part of a team that worked on a project to link objects to the internet through an RFID tag. He named this technology ‘the Internet of Things’. Adding RFID tags to objects to track their locations was one of the first IoT applications.
Scope and Prospects
It has been predicted by the tech analyst company IDC that there could be 41.6 billion IoT-connected devices by the year 2025. It suggests industrial and automotive equipment would be the largest sector of connected things. Another tech analyst Gartner has forecasted that the number of IoT-connected devices could reach as high as 30 billion by 2025. IoT-enabled smart homes and wearable devices are expected to have a growing market in the near future.
There are several applications of IoT technology. IoT can be applied to almost every technology. It can be used to gather relevant information about the working and performance of an activity that we need to monitor and control at a distance.
Retailers obtain IoT data from in-store and digital channels and apply analytics in real-time to understand consumer behaviour patterns and preferences. They often use smart devices like RFID inventory tracking chips, Wi-Fi systems, and smart shelves to enable them to run their business efficiently.
All phases of the manufacturing process- from supply chain to delivery are connected through IoT, known here as Industrial IoT. It helps in efficient monitoring of production, process, and product data. Factory machines or warehouse shelves are equipped with advanced IoT sensors. The data collected through these undergo big data analytics. The mechanism helps to prevent defects and downtime, maximise the performance of the equipment and boost production yield.
IoT technology captures data in real-time, from wearables and other medical connected devices that monitor exercise and health parameters. This IoT data enables precise diagnosis, monitoring of patients, and better treatment plans.
IoT, with location intelligence and AI, can deliver greater efficiency and reliability for transportation and logistics companies. This technology can improve service quality and reduce costs by monitoring connected vehicles, freight, and other mobile assets in real-time.
5. Smart cities
IoT applications are used to address many real-world issues, for example, traffic congestion, city services, citizen engagement, public safety, and environmental pollution. Smart cities often embed IoT sensors into physical infrastructures, such as street lights, water meters, and traffic signals.
Virtual glasses, fitness bands to monitor calorie expenditure and pulse rate, or GPS tracking belts are examples of wearable technology. Various companies such as Google, Apple, Samsung, and Levi’s have developed and introduced the IoT in items to be worn by a person.
7. Smart homes
A smart home consists of internet-enabled appliances like a smart doorbell, which notifies the user about a visitor, or smart lighting, which deter robberies in homes while the occupants are away. Smart speakers can play music, provide information, or set timers. Smart fridges can monitor the temperature of the compartments or the number of various food items in the fridge.
Use of IoT in Different Continents
Over the last few years, the use of IoT in various domains/sectors across many countries around the world has increased. IoT has taken over the markets. The use of IoT technology in the American, European, and Asia/Pacific region (APAC) has been compared to one another (figure 1).
It can be inferred from the graph that the American continent contributes more in the healthcare and smart supply chain sectors, whereas the European continent contributes the most in the smart city sector. The contribution of APAC in all the sectors is the least as compared to the other regions. It contributes mainly to the smart energy sector.
Concerns to be addressed
One of the biggest issues with the IoT is security. Device sensors may collect personal data about consumers. It has to be ensured that consumer data is kept private and secure against cybercrime and data theft. These devices need to incorporate security features like encryption of data in transit.
Due to flaws in software, IoT devices are prone to hacking. Routers and webcams lack security and are actively targeted by hackers.
This applies to businesses too. When industrial machinery is linked with IoT networks, it becomes easier for hackers to discover and attack these devices. The business networks should ensure data encryption with the security of sensors, gateways, and other components to prevent industrial espionage.
Though IoT is quite useful in bridging the gap between the digital and physical worlds, it can also expose the users to serious threats of cybercrime and data theft.