The world is changing around us every single day. Just as we breathe, read and speak, a new idea is born or being materialized. But some ideas are always bigger than others. Some ideas change and shape our collective future as we know it.
When we talk about exciting ideas and inventions, we are always in search of the next big thing. Our thirst for the extraordinary is unquenchable. Talking about BIG IDEAS, one such idea which might not be so well known right now but which is bound to revolutionize and change our world altogether is the idea of ‘Internet of Things’ or IoT.
I’m sure you haven’t heard of it. Or even if you have a vague idea what it might be, you do not understand the potential this idea holds for the future. The IoT is the future, of all things, for all people!
The Internet of things is the inter-networking of physical devices, vehicles, buildings, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity which enable these objects to collect and exchange data.
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The IoT revolves around increased machine-to-machine communication; it is built on cloud computing and networks of data-gathering sensors; it is mobile, virtual, and an instantaneous connection; and very soon it is going to make everything in our lives from streetlights to seaports ‘smart’.
Simply put, this is the concept of basically connecting any device with a switch in it to the internet. This includes everything from cell phones, coffee machines, washing machines, juicers, toasters, headphones, lamps and almost anything else you can think of. This also applies to components of machines.
So basically, the internet lies at the core of this concept. There was a time when the internet wasn’t so readily available everywhere and to everyone, nor was Wi-Fi a reality and speed a choice. This is not that time.
Fast and reliable broadband internet is available everywhere now and to everyone. Since the internet is required to connect every device known to us, and it is easily available, the cost of connecting decreases. This makes IoT a cost effective and easily achievable idea.
The IoT is a giant network of connected things and it also includes people. The relationship will be people-to-people, people-to-things, and things-to-things. Although the focus right now is on machine-to-machine communication (M2M): devices talking to like devices. Whenever the talk of smart machines arises, the reference is not limited to M2M. It also refers to sensors.
More and more devices are being created with Wi-Fi capabilities and sensors built into them. Look around you, everything you own now either has Wi-Fi or sensors or both. Cell phones, cars, cameras, watches are just a few examples. Technology costs are going down every day due to mass production and smartphones have become a staple of our everyday life. All of these things, when brought together, are creating the perfect environment for the concept of IoT to become a reality.
Talking of sensors, they do not quite fit into the category of machines. Sensors work in a very different manner as compared to machines. A sensor is an electronic component, module, or subsystem whose purpose is to detect events or changes in its environment and send the information to other electronics, mostly a computer processor. It is basically a device that detects and responds to some type of input from the environment around it.
The specific input could be light, heat, motion, moisture, pressure, or any one of a great number of other environmental phenomena. The output is generally a signal that is converted to human-readable display at the sensor location or transmitted electronically over a network for reading or further processing. The purpose of a sensor is to measure, to evaluate; in short, to gather data.
Sensors and the Internet are a working base for the idea of ‘Internet of Things’ to work. IoT comes together when sensors and machines work in connection with each other. So, the whole concept revolves around sensors sensing the environment, gathering data about that environment and then translating that collected data into output or work performed by machines.
All the information gathered by all the sensors in the world would be meaningless if there isn’t an infrastructure in place to analyze it in real time and translate it into some sort of meaningful output.
Cloud-based applications are the key to using leveraged data. The ‘Internet of Things’ doesn’t function without cloud-based applications to interpret and transmit the data coming from all these sensors. The cloud is what enables the apps to go to work for you anytime, anywhere.
An example of this whole concept is the use of sensors in buildings, roads, and other such structures. If we start using smart cement i.e., cement equipped with sensors to monitor stresses, cracks and other effects of weather and time-related wear and tear, it could alert us beforehand to problems occurring inside it and therefore, save us from massive loss of life and money. Smart devices can make us proactive in our overall approach towards managing things. And this is only one example of the use of IoT.
If a certain road you are traveling on at night has a massive tree lying on it and you are at high speed, there are very high chances of you getting into an accident. Now consider the same road but with sensors in it, which will detect the anomaly that is the tree, something that is not supposed to be there under normal conditions, and which will also detect movement of your car towards that static load all while sensors relay this information and computers add it up, to conclude that you are in grave danger.
This information is directly communicated to you and also to your car via the wireless internet. Once your car knows there’s a hazard ahead, it will instruct the driver to slow down, and here’s how the IoT is different from everything we know right now, even if the driver does not slow down due to any reason, the car, which is a part of the whole system, will itself slow down for the driver! This is just one example of sensor-to-person, sensor-to-machine, and machine-to-machine communication.
Information from sensors on the road connect and communicate with machines in the car to be translated into action. It is like everything around us is talking to each other!
Imagine the alarm clock in our mobile phones wake us up in the morning and also notify the coffee machine in the kitchen to start brewing coffee! The TV switches on when our favorite show is on air or the sprinklers start watering your lawn only when the soil reaches a certain amount of dryness.
Imagine you being notified on your smartphone just as your son turns onto the driveway on his hoverboard and his hoverboard notifies the front door to unlock itself and the microwave to heat up the pasta from the evening! The possibilities are countless and very exciting.
There are countless examples of how the concept of IoT can be incorporated around us in every single thing we do and see in the world around us. The world as we know it will not be the same anymore. We will have smart cars and smart homes, smart roads, bridges and buildings, smart coffee machines and washers. In short, smart cities and a smart world!
The concept of the internet of things is going to be a huge and fundamental shift in our everyday life, in the way we perceive and do things, in the way we live and exist. It is a complete overhaul of life on Earth as we know it. Yes, it is that big a deal!
When machines and everything around us start becoming ‘smart’, it will require a major shift in production and services. Imagine the shift in the energy sector from hydro and nuclear to solar. The equipment that is powered by solar energy is not the same as that used for the former two types of energy sources. This is a very small example as compared to IoT. IoT will cause the greatest shift in the world around us in every single thing as we know it and the process is already well underway.
‘Internet of Things’ is a massive technology trend that is taking place right now all around us. It is so big that we might not even be able to fully comprehend its impact on our lives in its entirety. The reality is that the IoT is a gateway towards endless opportunities but also a lot of challenges. As with any new technology, and such a huge life shift, the IoT does not come without its problems. The biggest problem that anyone can guess is our privacy.
As our world gets more and more tech-dependent, and people everywhere are caught up in a social media storm where our whole lives are literally up on the World Wide Web, privacy already is a big issue. With everyday things relying more on the internet and with the emergence of more inter-connected devices, this concern will rise unless something fool proof can be done about it.
Hackers could simply hack into your coffee machine in order to get access to everything connected to your network. That is one scary thought and such concerns will be a major roadblock in the way of IoT’s success unless something concrete surfaces to quell such concerns.
All that said, the internet of things is a very exciting topic under discussion in all hi-tech and future-tech circles. It is only a matter of time before it starts impacting our lives and changes our world in a way we never thought possible a decade ago. The future holds great potential for this technology. We are excited, and so should you be!