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Internet of Things: What’s The Buzz All About?

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For the past few years, the Internet of Things (IoT) has been a hot topic not just in technology circles but among the general public. The average person may find IoT somewhat irrelevant. The concept of “things having their own internet”, may even sound like science fiction with inflated claims or scary outcomes. But with a clear understanding of what really is the Internet of Things, people may just get along with it without minding that it exist because it already has naturally become part of their lives. Who knows, bulky computers in the 70’s have evolved to become our smartphones today.

credits Philips Hue
Consider an internet-connected home lighting system, wherein you can dim, adjust color, and turn on-off your lights, from anywhere using a mobile device. It can even learn your usage patterns and adjust accordingly to your lifestyle, such that it knows when you wake up or when you leave the house to ensure lights are only used when needed. Sounds creepy, right? However, in the long run, using the device may save you money from your rising electric bill or free your time for more relevant activities since you tend to worry less about it.

This example is but a small piece of narrative and can’t even measure up to the humongous potential which the Internet of Things is about to unleash. There are many challenges around the IoT, the most notable is security. But they are seriously being tackled and the benefits seem to outweigh the cons. There’s an unprecedented scale of economic opportunity across several industries, reason why IoT is catching fire in conversations everywhere. According to various market research groups, IoT’s market value is expected to swell at US$ 700 Billion to nearly US$ 2 Trillion with more than tens of billion of devices installed in the next decade.

The proliferation of the internet in the 90’s has changed the way we communicate, work and enjoy. Smartphone penetration and advancement in broadband internet in the past decade have shifted our data usage from desktop PCs to mobile phones. More and more sensors are being stuffed into our phones and embedded into vehicles, hospitals, buildings, and factories. Seems all of these are converging to a perfect category 5 storm which would be named “Internet of Things”.

Now, let’s keep things on the ground, and answer your itching question: what really is the Internet of Things?

Based on works from Postscapes and Harbor Research, we describe in our own words the Internet of Things as:

a system of data-gathering sensor devices (things), that are linked to the internet (connectivity), such that by making sense of those data (process), decisions can be made and actions taken (people).

Note the elements that make up an IoT system:

(1) things, (2) connectivity, and (3) process & people.

The end goal of an IoT system then is to effectively make decision and take action based on an inference of sensor data. This goal is a universal one, which means whatever application or industry you are in, the value of having to know what to do or automatically do certain things (in the case of automated or artificially intelligent systems), is already an enormous benefit to business operations, personal activities, and critical life-or-death scenarios. The sensors and network connectivity (internet) are all crucial elements to this highly valuable goal.

Here’s a couple of  examples to illustrate this definition:

(1) Car with sensors and internet connection

  • The car senses proximity/location of other devices (e.g. other cars, street posts, or even the road marks), as well as communicates with them
  • The internet connection gives the car real-time traffic data or in some cases, collision monitoring
  • Data is used by the car to suggest to driver which roads are not congested, availability of nearby parking spaces, or even avoid accidents, and many more

(2) Crops and soil monitoring for agriculture

  • Sensors for soil moisture, soil temperature, and leaf wetness monitor growth conditions of vegetables or crops
  • These data are visualized by the farmer via graphs or animation in his mobile device
  • Processed data is used by the farmer to decide when to activate irrigation, when to apply pesticide, what crops to plant this season, etc (these activities can even be automated, yikes)

The following infographic from Postscapes and Harbor Research tells a concise story about the Internet of Things. The material is shared under Creative Commons Attribution license.

The time is NOW to take advantage of the available technologies for the Internet of Things. Learn why it matters NOW to take the plunge on IoT.

Tags : analyticsautomationconnectivityinternetinternet of thingsiotmarketpeopleprocesssensors

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