Today, the number of devices connected to the internet surpasses the world’s population, marking the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the next major technological advancement. While you might be familiar with the term IoT, understanding its true meaning and potential impact can be challenging. To help shed light on this topic, here’s a comprehensive guide to everything you need to know about the Internet of Things.
Defining the Internet of Things (IoT)
The concept of IoT is not new and has been discussed since the 1980s and 1990s. In fact, the term “IoT” was first coined by Kevin Ashton in 1999. According to Ashton, “The IoT integrates the interconnectedness of human culture – our things – with the interconnectedness of our digital information system – the internet.”
In simpler terms, IoT involves connecting virtually any device with an on/off switch to the internet, as well as any device that can accommodate a built-in sensor. This allows for the connection of objects to other objects and to people. These connected devices collect and share information, which can be used to improve their efficiency. Smart homes provide an excellent example of how IoT works in practice.
How IoT Works
During the 80s and 90s, IoT was an innovative concept that couldn’t be adopted due to the high cost of connecting objects to the internet, and the unpreparedness of technology for such an extensive task. However, with the advancements in technology and the decrease in costs, connecting objects to the internet has become feasible. The adoption of RFID tags and IPv6 have contributed to the development of IoT. In addition, the increasing availability of broadband internet, wireless, and cellular networking has made it easier and cheaper to integrate sensors into devices.
Initially, IoT was mainly relevant to businesses, and the phrase “machine-to-machine” still primarily refers to IoT in the business context. This concept was embraced by businesses as a way to maximize efficiency.
However, IoT is now ubiquitous, including in homes and on streets. Soon, we will be surrounded by the Internet of Things wherever we go.
Internet of Things Examples
Envision waking up to the aroma of freshly brewed coffee in the morning, thanks to your alarm that communicated with your coffee maker. Or imagine being stuck in traffic on your way to a meeting, but your car automatically notifies the other party that you’ll be late. This is all possible when objects are connected to the Internet of Things. By communicating with each other and the internet, these objects can cater to your needs and preferences, making your daily routine more manageable.
Today, there are already many smart devices connected to the Internet of Things, such as smart plugs, smoke detectors, and pet technology, among others, designed to simplify our lives. Some cities are already utilizing IoT technology to enhance efficiency. They’re integrating sensors and modules into streets, sidewalks, parks, benches, and almost everything else to achieve this.
The ultimate objective is to improve efficiency and reduce waste, which will eventually benefit the environment in the face of mounting pollution concerns.
The Future of the Internet of Things
According to research firm Gartner, the Internet of Things is expected to continue to grow and improve over time. This is due to the declining cost of internet connectivity and the increasing ease of integrating sensors into everyday objects.
The development of 5G technology is also expected to play a significant role in the advancement of IoT, as will improvements in artificial intelligence technology.
There are currently many players in the tech and telecommunications industries who are interested in capitalizing on the potential benefits of IoT. As a result, they are heavily investing in the development of IoT technology.
It is likely that in the near future, IoT will be integrated into almost every aspect of our lives, including our streets and public spaces, and adopting it may become a necessity rather than an option for individuals.
Quantifying the Internet of Things
To put it simply, the Internet of Things (IoT) is much larger than the world’s population, surpassing even the expectations of its creators.
According to Gartner, a research and analysis company, by 2020 there will be more than 20 billion devices and objects connected to the IoT. However, other research firms argue that the number could be as high as 100 billion devices and objects.
Regardless of the projections, there are already over 10 billion devices connected to the IoT today, and this number is continuously growing. In 2017, around $2 trillion was spent on IoT connections, and this figure is increasing year by year.
In the future, the general principle will be that any device that can be connected to the internet will be connected.
This means that almost everything will be connected to the IoT – if it can incorporate a sensor, it can be connected, and nowadays sensors can be integrated into virtually anything.
Benefits of the Internet of Things to Businesses and Consumers
Data is one of the most valuable assets for businesses, and the Internet of Things (IoT) will allow ordinary objects to collect data. As a result, it is expected to benefit businesses more than any other sector.
However, the benefits for individuals will also be significant. IoT will make daily tasks and chores more convenient and efficient. By knowing more about your home and immediate environment, you can optimize your day-to-day life.
As an example, your thermostat may adjust the temperature when you arrive, based on your preferences. The degree to which individuals benefit will depend on the specific IoT application implemented by businesses.
Nevertheless, there is no doubt that IoT will revolutionize the way we interact with technology in our daily lives.
Flaws of the Internet of Things
The increasing ease and affordability of wireless connections to the internet have led to many benefits for humanity. However, concerns about privacy and security have arisen due to the widespread connection to the digital world. With the Internet of Things, where virtually every object can be connected to the internet, these concerns are even more pronounced.
While the Internet of Things has many benefits, its drivers have not adequately considered privacy and security concerns. Many objects, such as toasters and coffee makers, are not designed to be patched using cyber-security software, making them vulnerable to hacking.
Since these objects are connected to other objects in your home, your entire home can also be vulnerable to hacking. Compounding this issue is the difficulty of detecting when an object has been compromised, leaving individuals at the mercy of hackers. Additionally, connected objects collect endless amounts of data, giving hackers access to an individual’s entire life.
The risk of cyber warfare is another major concern with the Internet of Things. Key world players have been conducting covert cyber warfare operations against each other, and hacking into vulnerable objects connected to the Internet of Things could have catastrophic effects on individual homeowners.
For example, a hacker could manipulate objects connected to a power station, causing the system to malfunction and affecting all households served by the station.
Even U.S. intelligence has warned American citizens that object connected to the Internet of Things, such as thermostats, could be exploited against them.
The Internet of Things has the potential to connect the physical and digital worlds, ultimately making our lives easier and more efficient. With virtually every device that has an on/off switch (and those that can support built-in sensors) connected to the internet, our homes and streets are on the verge of becoming smarter. This technological revolution could change our lives for the better. However, security and privacy remain major concerns and challenges for the Internet of Things.