The Internet of Things (IoT) Explained in The Simplest of Ways
IoT seems to be the go-to buzzword in conversations about the future and Industry 4.0. Any business that expects longevity, is also considering investing in IoT. According to Statista, in 2018 alone, there were 23.14 billion active IoT devices. But what exactly is IoT? How does it work? If you find yourself stumbling into conversations about IoT, and feeling left out, here’s the Internet of Things (IoT) explained in the simplest of ways.
What is IoT?
Source: Aberdeen.com | An illustration of a smart home network
IoT stands for the Internet of Things and is sometimes referred to as the industrial internet or the Internet of Everything (IoE). It is an umbrella term used to refer to the platform leveraged by all smart devices to “talk” to each other. If your device is connected to the internet and sends information to other devices, it is an IoT device.
How Does IoT Work?
Imagine all of your devices as tiny elves or minions working in a factory. They work all day and by the end of their shift they head out for dinner and tell each other stories of what happened at work. Their stories get passed around and everyone finds out what’s wrong or right with their society and like any community that wishes to improve themselves, they act on it. That’s the basic premise of IoT; groups of devices exchanging information.
Our devices contain sensors that record interactions with their environments and send that information to a cloud. A software parses through and cleans the data then presents the data back to you so you can make decisions based on it. Then there are devices that collect all that information and act upon it automatically. With all the information gathered around your house, your coffee machine of the future could predict what time to start brewing (or the suggested amount of sugar and creamer) with data from your fitness tracker, and how warm you would prefer it, with data from your thermostat.
Why Are Industries Taking IoT Seriously?
Source: VentureBeat.com | Masayoshi Son, (CEO of Softbank) compares IoT to the Cambrian explosion of life.
IoT devices are like the ultimate mirrors. When you look at a mirror, you can see your appearance and adjust according to what you see. But with IoT devices, you can see the reflection of your behaviours and other statistics to make decisions based on it.
The problem with collecting data is that it is hard work. When it comes to census taking, you need an army of surveyors to commit to field research. If your devices can collect data for you as you go on your daily life, the process of data collection and analysis becomes shorter so you can focus on decision making. By equipping all of your everyday devices with sensors, engineers could work on design flaws based on the environment or behaviour of the masses. We no longer need to rely on human observation and manual key in of information but we could focus on decision making.
According to Wired Magazine, by 2025 we will have a trillion devices connected to each other. The CEO of Softbank, one of the world’s leading tech investor, Masayoshi Son compares IoT to the Cambrian explosion of life. Industries are rushing toward IoT so they could find as much information about customer preference as they could and create the best product or experience possible to reflect it. In addition, industries are using IoT in their production line, fixing it, and thus making the process cheaper.
What Other Examples of IoT Devices Out There?
Fitbit, an example of an IoT device that has achieved mainstream success.
The agriculture industry is one of the early adopters of IoT, especially smaller farms. Today, most of the industry’s processes could be automated. Rather than wondering why crops are dying, farmers could now check soil conditions and rotate crops accordingly. All this reduces waste and loss for farmers.
IoT devices have also been an integral part of the healthcare industry. Some have achieved mainstream notoriety like Fitbit. It’s so popular that many don’t talk about it in the context of IoT devices but talk about it like a fashion accessory. For the unacquainted, the smartwatch acts like a fitness tracker, monitoring everything from your heartbeat, amount of steps taken per day, and even your sleeping periods. When aggregated that information could help doctors make diagnoses. Other similar IoT devices could also allow doctors to monitor patients’ health remotely, reducing hospital occupancy and allowing doctors to attend to more critical patients.
Then there are smart city experiments. For example, the city of Toronto in 2018 worked with Google’s Sidewalk Labs to help their city council to determine what kind of buildings to build, which roads to be converted to pedestrian-only areas, and what public areas are underutilised. Sidewalk Labs calls it “radical flexibility.”
Whether you’re a business finding ways to improve your product or another student trying to understand conversations about IoT, hopefully, this brief primer serves as a useful introduction to the Internet of Things.
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