What You Need to Know About IoT

The Internet has subtly broken geographical barriers. It has connected people all around the globe that has made communication more dynamic. Today we live in a world where some of our devices are connected to each other and to us, for example wearable fitness devices that connect to our scales or smartphones that connect to our lights. Broadband Internet is become more widely available, the cost of connecting is decreasing, more devices are being created with Wi-Fi capabilities and sensors built into them, technology costs are going down, and smartphone penetration is sky-rocketing. All these have led to the emergence of Internet of Things.

The Internet of Things, commonly abbreviated as IoT, refers to the connection of devices (other than typical fare such as computers and smartphones) to the Internet. It is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. Cars, kitchen appliances, and even heart monitors can all be connected through the IoT. And as the Internet of Things grows in the next few years, more devices will join that list.

Simply put, the concept of IoT is basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cellphones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of. It is estimated that 20.4B smart devices will be connected to the IoT by year 2020. By enabling devices to communicate with each other independently of human interaction, the Internet of Things will open new revenue streams, facilitate new business models, drive efficiencies and improve the way existing services across many different sectors are delivered. It will represent a very important demand-side stimulus that helps finance the deployment of mobile broadband networks around the world.

How do Internet of Things devices connect?

IoT devices use a variety of methods to connect and share data: homes and offices will use standard wi-fi or Bluetooth Low Energy (or even Ethernet if they aren’t especially mobile); other devices will use LTE or even satellite connections to communicate. However, the vast number of different options has already led some to argue that IoT communications standards need to be as accepted and interoperable as wi-fi is today.

One likely trend is that, as the IoT develops, it could be that less data will be sent for processing in the cloud. To keep costs down, more processing could be done on-device with only the useful data sent back to the cloud — a strategy known as ‘edge computing’.

IoT Explained

A complete IoT system integrates four distinct components: sensors/devices, connectivity, data processing, and a user interface.

First, sensors or devices collect data from their environment. Next, that data is sent to the cloud. The sensors/devices can be connected to the cloud through a variety of methods including: cellular, satellite, WiFi, Bluetooth, low-power wide-area networks (LPWAN) or connecting directly to the internet via ethernet. Once the data gets to the cloud, software performs some kind of processing on it. Next, the information is made useful to the end-user in some way. This could be via an alert to the user (email, text, notification, etc).

Next week, we shall be discussing the application of IoT and how it impacts businesses and individuals. The reality is that the IoT allows for virtually endless opportunities and connections to take place, many of which we can’t even think of or fully understand the impact of today.