Most likely you may not have heard the expression before, yet the term was first documented back in 1999 so not entirely new, and it refers to the connectivity or interconnection of all sorts of embedded devices, systems and services that goes beyond mere machine to machine communication. The important thing is that it is able to interoperate within the existing internet infrastructure.
Well, you say, how does that affect me?
Let’s look at a couple of examples. One of the early uses was to modify a Coke vending machine enabling it to report its inventory and whether the newly loaded drinks were cold. Another familiar to you is your credit card with RFID chip that allows you to pay by merely flicking your card over the eftpost machine so the data of your purchase and your personal details are transmitted to your issuer.
But it goes much further than that. Barcodes, QR codes, NFC [near field communication], digital watermarking are other technologies using internet communication, and in theory if we were all equipped with some form of identifier then computers could easily manage and inventory us.
At present it is probable that quite a lot of livestock is fitted with implants to check their whereabouts and progress and health so the farmer is instantly aware if there is sickness or other problems in his herd, and instant and ceaseless stock control in supermarkets via bar codes we live with every day.
Research tells us that nearly 26 billion communication devices will be on the internet by 2020 and 30 billion devices will be wirelessly connected to the Internet of Things also by 2020. As an example I read that Apple have presold more than 2 million smart watches already and they too will be connected via the IoT. In last year’s budget the UK government allocated £40million for research into the Internet of Things.It is seen as the next information revolution and is referenced to medical devices, urban transport and household appliances.
The ability to network embedded devices with limited CPU, memory and power resources means that loads of applications in every field you can think of will become common place, and you could imagine that intelligent shopping systems will allow you to receive special offers on your phone specific to your shopping habits and preferred products, even where to find the items you need that your fridge has transmitted to the phone.
It must be the dream of marketeers to target specific products to specific customers in line with the customers’ mindset, tailoring adverts and content to appeal using data from the various data mining activities previously mentioned in other posts.
It also has a place in monitoring our eco systems for water, atmospheric and soil conditions and not forgetting the early alarm systems for earthquake or tsunami events. How about checking bridges, rail tracks, or the wind farms to help reduce operating costs and ensure timely maintenance.
Within industry the networking of machinery to optimize e.g. the capacity to increase productivity or safety or product supply to the machines, maintenance prediction or maximise reliability of the total plant are all enabled.
In the home we now see the ‘home automation systems’ that control lighting, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, appliances, communication systems, entertainment ditto and security devices for added convenience, comfort, energy efficiency and security. You can use your phone to lock/unlock your house, set alarms, even visually check that all is well whilst you are on holiday or find free parking space in town.
I am sure you can think of oodles more that the ’Internet of Things’ comprises, the vision is there but there are many legal questions yet to be sorted and for all that, our needs as human beings haven’t changed.
Meanwhile, sleep well.