With the advancement of wireless technologies like 2G,3G & LTE, Bluetooth, Cloud Computing etc it has become possible to connect more and more devices with each other and make them communicate. Also, broadband internet is becoming more widely available, the cost of connecting is decreasing, more devices are being created with wifi capabilities and sensors built into them, technology costs are going down & smart phone penetration is sky-rocketing. This has given the birth to Internet of Things (IoT) or M2M.
What is Internet of Things (IoT)?
In a very simple words, IoT is connecting any device with an on & off switch to the Internet (and/or with each other). This includes everything from cell phones, coffee makers, aircons, cars, washing machines, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of.
The analyst firm Gartner says that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices. That’s lots of devices communicating with each other.
Stuart Taylor, Managing Director-Service Provider vertical from Cisco explains IoT being a combination of 5 technology pillars which are instrumental in making the concept of Connected World a reality.
- Wireless: As I mentioned above, advancements in wireless technologies is the key to the concept of IoT. Today’s High speed networks has made it possible for people & devices to communicate without the need of a wire. It is possible to collect & transmit information for things that are moving (cars, trains etc); things which are remote (oil wells, farms, golf courses etc).
- Big Data: Once billions of applications, sensors & devices are connected to the internet they will generate zettabytes of data. This enormous data if processed properly will help us to do amazing things. This has also given birth to today’s advanced data analytics tools & softwares which are capable to manage this vast amount of data & reveal amazing relationships and insights. As a result, machines will be able to intelligently interact with each other.
- Cloud: Cloud Computing is the glue that holds the IoT together. Cloud provides an efficient and cost-effective means to process & store all the data created by IoT which in turn allows all the sensors to communicate with applications, control & monitor devices across multiple networks, anytime & anywhere.
- Devices: The devices are the “Things” in the Internet of Things (IoT). Lots of R&D efforts are being put in across the globe to come up with devices which can be internet enabled, can be connected to the network & Cloud, consumes less power etc. Best example of this is the investment Google is putting in in developing Connected Cars.
- Security – With the involvement of internet or network comes the security threat. In recent times there has been lots of hacking incidents globally which poses a big question onto security of IoT. How to ensure that the Connected Cars where the rider has no control over it won’t get hacked by a hacker? Regulators and Sensor/device manufacturers will have to come up with a way to secure IoT.
The applications of IoT are far & wide, for example, lets say you went on a holiday and suddenly realised that you have forgotten to turn off your aircon in the living room. You might get worried about it during your holiday but thanks to IoT, because your aircon is connected with you mobile phone via an app and both these devices can communicate with each other you will be able to switch the aircon off with just one click on your mobile phone.
Another example, ambulances are now being connected with hospital hence if the ambulance is carrying a patient having a heart attach to hospital, while its on the way the built-in ECG monitoring device in the ambulance connected to the hospital will transmit the heart condition data of the patient to the doctors sitting in the hospital in real-time and by the time the ambulance carrying the patient reaches the hospital, the doctors are aware of his condition and potential treatment actions they are going to take.
Traffic stoplights adjust to real-time conditions automatically to improve the flow of traffic.
Finally, with these advancements, the concept of Smart Cities is picking up quickly. Such cities has digital technology embedded across all city functions and mainly in sectors of transport, energy, health care, water & waste.
Obviously, IoT will raise our standard of living and it will help to improve our quality of life. We will be able to have more information which will eventually help us to take informed decisions in a timely manner & cost effective manner. Our world will be more energy efficient which is currently need of the hour when we are running out of energy resources.
However, there are some challenges which we will face with the implementation of IoT. The biggest challenge to IoT according to me will be the security. With billions of devices being connect together how can we make sure that their information stays secure? Today hackers or cyber terrorists are on the lookout of how to gain control of networks for their ill motives. Imagine an airplane’s navigation or engine system which is connected via sensors being hacked by some terrorist group on the ground and they take control of the airplane. How someone can hack the waste management system of a smartcity and endangers the safety of the entire city.
Another challenge will be the complexity of the IoT systems. With the Internet of Things, system failures could sky rocket. For instance, a bug in the software of a company’s automatic raw material ordering system can end up ordering the inventory everyday instead of placing the order once a month.
Finally, at present there is no regulatory body governing the standards of IoT and compatibility for tagging & monitoring equipments. Governance is critical for the success of any revolutionary technology to ensure that standards are in-placed and same standards are being followed globally so that the end users get consistent & quality products.
In conclusion, I see IoT as the game changing technology in near future and by 2020 I believe our globe will see lots of connected devices & smart cities which will improve human beings standard of living. There are challenges as mentioned above but various global companies & governments are making necessary investments onto R&D to overcome them. Noting is impossible and we are set to see a great revolution with IoT in our life.