The Internet of Things (IoT) – the Internet Randomized
Before there were smartphones, YouTube or Twitter, there was the Internet of the 1990s, the foundation technology that began the decade as something of a curiosity. By the end of that decade the Internet had proven itself to be such a transformational force that in 1999 another new term was coined to describe its far-reaching effects: the Internet of Things (IoT).
Today the term has grown to encompass an array of technologies, including mobile devices, the Cloud, and a variety of platforms and applications; all powered by Big Data, Business Intelligence and Analytics, and our own whims. IoT is the Internet randomized, creating in its wake smart homes and workplaces, smart infrastructure and vehicles, smart cities and global communities, smart retailers and even smarter consumers.
The Trajectory of IoT
A survey by Gartner projects that by the end of 2016 there will be 6.4 billion connected devices worldwide, and that by 2020 the number will soar to 25 billion. A survey by Cisco estimates 50 billion connected devices by that year. Cisco also predicts that IoT commerce will reach $19 trillion by 2025.
The International Data Corporation (IDC) conducted a survey on IoT spanning 15 countries with responses from 2,500 large businesses, and found that 73 percent had already deployed IoT or planned to do so in coming year. Healthcare was the most popular area for IoT, followed by transportation and manufacturing.
In light of the trends, it is not surprising that other observers have predicted that IoT devices will soon outnumber employees in half of all large companies; and that traffic will surpass 44ZBs within the next five years.
The Internet of Things is steadily evolving into the Internet of Everything, integrating the way we live, work and beyond. The result is a never ending list of IoT Use Cases. Given Below are some areas that are bound to touch our lives the most:
Some Cool Applications & Use Cases
Smart home IoT technology allows homeowners to monitor remotely a wide range of sophisticated devices, including safety alarms, acclimatizers, taps and geysers, fans, ovens and other vital electrical systems and hardware.
Appliances can prompt owners when they need attention or even supplies. A washing machine currently on the market uses an IoT connection to reorder detergent via an Amazon account.
Homeowners can use their connected devices to monitor energy usage of appliances, control lights and garage doors, control thermostats and receive feeds from security cameras.
Fitness, Health and Well-Being
IoT smart medical and healthcare devices such as heart rate monitors, pacemakers, hearing aids and fitness trackers, help consumers keep vital health parameters under constant surveillance.
IoT also allows doctors to virtually monitor these devices, making care easier and more accessible than ever before. In smart homes, specialized sensors can be installed that will continuously monitor the vital signs or the elderly or infirm.
It has been estimated that by 2020 a quarter billion vehicles worldwide will be connected to the IoT. The benefits of IoT-empowered vehicles include proactive hazard detection, automatic detection of engine problems, and integration with traffic maps allowing dynamic rerouting.
There are plenty of sales opportunities for businesses, too: Data sent from a vehicle to the dealership allows the business to remind the owner it is time for an oil change, or even time to trade in the vehicle for a new model.
In urban areas, IoT means improved traffic management, waste management, water distribution, environmental monitoring and security. Automatic alerts can reduce traffic pollution and congestion, warn of weather conditions, and mitigate noise. IoT can also help monitor infrastructure such as railway tracks and bridges. Most importantly, IoT integration of emergency services promotes safety and efficiency.
Smart Grid for Energy Management
A smart grid is designed to collect information and statistics related to electricity supplier and consumer behavior automatically, resulting in the creation of flexible energy-optimizing strategies. IoT integration allows smart devices to communicate with utilities, enabling energy providers to send out prompts regarding usage, waste and suggestion for saving energy.
Connecting personal devices to hospitals and other medical facilities is an important way to ensure the health and safety of consumers. Going one step further, integration of health insurance companies into this interconnected system streamlines paperwork and speeds the delivery of services to patients.
IoT allows manufacturers to benefit from faster responses to market forces, efficient production, real-time plant monitoring, as well as optimization of supply chain networks and utilization of resources. In addition, digitized control systems and automated sensors ensure plant safety and assist in automating manufacturing processes.
IoT has moved beyond the factories and cities, and is becoming a dominant presence on farmland and pastures. Remote monitoring of livestock on the move and real-time scrutiny of farms with controlled automated actions like watering, application of fertilizer, harvesting and more, add to the productivity of agricultural land.
IoT feeds retailers' huge appetite for information about customers and prospects. IoT-enabled systems feature proximity-based advertising looping wearables, phones, beacons and other sensor-based devices that generate data specific to visitors and their preferences, allowing the targeting of shoppers with relevant suggestions and offers.
As IoT devices proliferate, companies hungry for information about consumers are creating platforms to lure these devices, device manufacturers and their owners. Some notable platform players in the industry are - Google with its Google Cloud platform, Apple created Home Kit, and Samsung has Artik.
Most of these companies are building standards-based APIs for devices to connect to. Yet every device OEM needs to use a different set of APIs to connect to each platform – and that causes fragmentation.
Motley Fool analyst Chris Neiger has defined IoT as "essentially the addition of nearly everything around us – cars, kitchens, factory conveyor belts, shipping containers, jet engines, and more – to the Internet. Connecting all of these things to the Internet will allow us to collect and analyze data like never before and automate operations."
Even the simplest device can be plugged into the IoT. For example, your smartwatch and home baby monitor can be part of this vast global network, just as easily as your thermostat, TV or printer. In fact, as we'll see below, the connection of devices with weak security protocols creates massive vulnerabilities for the system.
Issues Preventing Adoption of IoT
Even as its popularity accelerates, IoT does face headwinds that have the potential to slow further adoption of the technology.
Security vulnerabilities related to IoT became obvious to a wide audience in late October, when an attack on key U.S. Web sites was attributed to hackers who used connected devices as a conduit for malware.
An estimated half million devices, ranging from home DVRs to security cameras, were used to enable a distributed denial-of-service attack on domain name server Dyn, which soon affected a range of prominent online companies, including Amazon, PayPal, Netflix and Twitter.
With so many devices, access controls and touch points in an IoT system, these types of security vulnerabilities are likely to increase. Concerns about the security of devices and data are one of the key sources of apprehension in adopting this otherwise compelling concept.
Complex Standardization & Fragmentation
IoT is a mix of sensors, miscellaneous hardware, devices and applications communicating with each other via the network over wide distances – across cultures, populations and national boundaries. Consequently, shared standards need to be in place for exchange of data, networks and the devices.
Although IoT standards remain fragmented by the needs of diverse devices, platforms, data, infrastructure and the vendors facilitating them, there are significant efforts underway to reduce the fragmentation. In late October, for example, two key IoT security standards groups, the Open Connectivity Foundation and the AllSeen Alliance, announced they were merging and adopting uniform standards.
We believe fragmentation will persist, although consolidation is inevitable and will happen slowly over time. Despite the risks, the IoT industry will flourish. Meanwhile, manufacturers will find it difficult to make money on devices alone, but will profit by monetizing data and providing IoT services.