What Is the “Internet of Things (IoT)”?

So what’s all the fuss about IOT or Internet of Things?

Well in a nutshell tons of data. When you have vast amounts of data, you have analytics which can help you predict future events because you can identify patterns which tend to be cyclic.

IOT is nothing new — I’ve been building embedded data gathering devices since my first year at uni back in 1982 — the only difference now is that data can be shared instantly using wireless technology or wired connection with larger computers which can run data analysis algorithms on the data.

“Edge” computing which is just the data collection engines, ie microcontroller based systems have more CPU clock cycle, and memory so can do more before transmitting the data to larger systems, ie “the cloud”.

IoT Applications

To further understand the concept of IoT, let’s look at some applications. The term applies mainly to three areas: infrastructure, businesses and consumers.

Infrastructure

Urban and rural infrastructure requires maintenance, monitoring and controlling. Infrastructure IoT (also referred to as Industrial IoT ) uses sensors and network-capable devices installed on bridges, roads, railroad tracks and everything in and outside cities. This is where the term “smart cities” comes from. This application of IoT helps improve the quality of the infrastructure to save time, money and lower construction costs.

IoT infrastructure also assists in improved safety and stability making maintenance and repairs easier and more just in time rather than sending out workers to do random checks.

Businesses (Enterprises)

Enterprise IoT (EIoT) is the use of interconnected devices usually sensors and actuators in the business or corporate world.

Enterprise IoT ranges from manufacturing, energy management, building automation, personnel management and extends even into agriculture and environmental monitoring.
Remote monitoring was one of the earliest applications of IOT. The first known IoT device was a Coke machine (at Carnegie Mellon University in 1982) connected through the internet which reported inventory and would only be refilled when the vending machine reported a certain number of dispensed coke cans.

Consumers

Consumers are probably the most significant use case for IoT devices. Devices created for consumers include vehicles, wearable devices, home automation and home appliances which are internet-ready.

“Smart” homes are now becoming a trend in modern life. Almost everything inside a house like air conditioning, heaters, refrigerators, televisions, light bulbs and all the appliances can be internet connected. I have over 30 IOT devices and increasing year on year.

Human beings love convenience and are willing to pay for anything which makes life easier. So making a home smart adds another layer of comfort to people’s lives.

IoT is also widely used in health care. Many devices exist to aid medication, operation and biological monitoring. As sensors become, ever smaller and more sensitive expect more use cases emerging in the medical field.

Potential Risks for IoT

IoT is now everywhere and growing in adoption at a rapid rate. With the benefits come risks and challenges.

The amount of data generated by sensors is multiplying. All this data needs to be stored and moved from system to system which puts a strain on our existing telecommunication systems.

Faster networks with higher bandwidth are needed. Plus all this data needs to be stored on servers and be quickly accessed.

There are also significant security and privacy risks with the data potentially being accessed by the wrong people (hackers).

This is riskier in connected cars and home/building automation systems where hackers can disable safety systems and create havoc.

IOT product developers are well aware of the risks and built-in security measures to counter any attacks by hackers. Encryption and data protection has come a long way since the birth of IOT when security was considered a second thought during the product development cycle.

IoT in the Future

As of 2015, there are about 13 billion interconnected devices around the world, and it is expected to reach more than 30 billion devices by the end of 2020.

This is an excellent opportunity for companies and individuals who want to start companies. Also, it’s the golden age for embedded and systems engineers or those wishing to enter the field of embedded systems. The demand for these skills worldwide is growing day by day.

IOT will allow for a better and more connected world increasing the rate of technological advances and innovation.

If you’re an engineer, graduate or entrepreneur seize the day.

If you need help sourcing good engineers or if you’re an engineer looking for new opportunities reach out to me directly at lance@runtimerec.com