Internet of Things 101: Everything you need to know about the Internet of Things
By now, most of us know what a smartphone is. In all likelihood, you have your own iPhone or Android that you are constantly interacting with. Simply put, a smartphone is a cellular device that can connect to and interact with the Internet.
In addition to the smartphone, there are countless examples of “smart” devices that exist in contemporary society. From smart television sets to smart home alarm systems, it is becoming rather normal for certain everyday devices to connect with the Internet in one form or another.
Not only are such devices able to connect to the Internet, but they can often connect to and communicate with one another as well. For example, you can (and often do) send information from your cellphone to your laptop in a matter of seconds. This notion of connected devices is what is referred to the “Internet of Things” (IoT) — and it is a growing phenomenon.
The first documented instance of a functional smart device was back in 1982, when Carnegie Mellon University programming students connected a Coke machine to the Internet with the intention of keeping track of inventory and temperature. This innovation has saved soft drink vending companies millions of dollars. Vending machines are a cash business and IoT allows companies to dramatically reduce theft and increase efficiency.
Flashing-forward to today: there exists billions of intelligent devices that are able to connect to the Internet in some way. At current rates, it is estimated that we will reach up to 30 billion total smart devices in the next five years!
In the case of the Internet of Things, the term “thing” can fundamentally mean anything and everything. Virtually anything can become connected to the Internet in some way, and in all likelihood, almost everything will eventually partake in the connection of systems. In the near future, almost all of the objects in our surroundings will be connected to the Internet and, in turn, to one another. By virtue of these connections, the objects will be able to communicate to one another and work together in ways we never thought possible.
Imagine for a moment: a smart fish-tank that can sense when it is time to be cleaned, or sends your phone an alert when your fish has stopped moving for a certain period of time. There might also be a smart hat that can tell you the temperature outside along with your current location, by using GPS signals. This kind of advancement (and beyond) is likely where our society is heading.
In order to be considered a “thing” among the Internet of Things, an object must be given a specific identity that differentiates it from other alike objects. What this means is that for one object to communicate with another specific object, this item must have an explicit identifier in order to be characterized. The object must also be given the ability to communicate in some form — likely through transmitting waves. The “thing” should also be set up with senses that can report back to another entity.
For example, a traffic camera is given a specific identity, as it is the only camera located in a specific place. One must be able to differentiate this camera from another. The camera is given the ability to communicate information back to something else, whether it be a person, device, or another system. It can also be given the sense of sight (and possibly hearing) in order to take in useful information.
Surprisingly, even human beings have potential to become a “thing” among the Internet of Things. Imagine a heart monitor implant in a person's body that keeps track of the individual's heart rate and location. This device would be able to instantaneously communicate with a computer at the local hospital if any unusual activity takes place. This phenomenon has the potential to improve healthcare systems' efficiency and effectiveness. Heart monitors are just one of many potential improvements we are likely to see in the healthcare system.
With these images in mind, what does the future hold for the Internet of Things? We are still in the initial stages of this phenomenon. The connections and interaction between objects by virtue of the Internet will only continue to spread.
This phenomenon is going to change society. It will change the way that we interact with objects, the way we go about daily tasks, and even the way that we communicate with one another.
The rapid spread of this new and innovative technology can offer many benefits to our world and human experience overall.
First of all, it is guaranteed to make the majority of our tasks far more efficient. Because countless objects will be able to communicate with one another automatically, many lengthy tasks that exist today will be significantly condensed or even completely eliminated. We are already seeing the evidence of this newfound efficiency in our world today. This is especially beneficial to businesses looking to cut time costs, and will continue to be useful in the future.
The Internet of Things can also allow us to monitor and keep track of just about anything. If something is among the IoT, it can never be lost. Anything that has been tagged can be located for you by a simple Google search.
Although IoT may seem far-fetched, consider how far technology has advanced in the past decade. No one would have imagined the extent in which the Internet has taken over our lives today.
Although there are many potential optimistic outcomes of the spread of IoT, there is no question that there will be some downfalls. The first major concern is the lack of privacy for citizens. If everyone and everything is under constant surveillance and monitoring, the concept of privacy will simply become non-existent.
We are already seeing the results of this occurring in our society. Think about it: your smartphone is likely keeping track of where you are, what you are saying, and what you are searching. We need to make sure that the government and corporations value our privacy.
Security is also a major issue in the age of connectivity. Anything connected to a network is a potential target for hackers. As the IoT grows, so must the security systems which protect your network.
The Internet of Things has already begun to change our society. New smart technologies are popping up everywhere we turn, and are ultimately changing the way that we interact with the world.
The Internet dramatically altered our lives since its introduction. The Internet of Things will broaden this impact. Things previously outside the realm of consideration will become part of the “system.”
This marvel will take businesses, individuals, healthcare systems, and home automation to new levels we may have never have formerly imagined. Efficiency, control, and the ability to monitor are only the beginning.
Even though this phenomenon has such positive potential, it goes without saying that there are some downsides: however, the potential benefits far outweigh these risks. Understanding how our globalized world connects is essential in the twenty-first century. Your children will grow up and interact in this new world. You now know the Internet of Things 101, and are ready to experience its impact!