From its nascent stage when the concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) took its first tottering steps to the present where it has become an integral part of everyday life, IoT has come a long way.
This post will go into the details of the many facets of IoT, from what it is to its evolution, history, and how it has made the world a better place to live in.
What is the Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things (IoT) defines the network of things – various physical objects – that have sensors, software, and other technologies embedded in them. These help devices (things) to seamlessly connect, interact, and exchange data with other devices and systems over the Internet. These things cover a wide spectrum ranging from sophisticated industrial tools to simple household devices of everyday use. Studies show that there were almost 10 billion IoT devices around the globe in 2020, a figure that is slated to grow exponentially to 22 billion by 2025.
The Functioning of IoT
An IoT environment consists of Internet-enabled smart devices with embedded systems that include communication hardware, sensors, and processors. These are used to collect and take action on data that is collected from their ecosystem. The sensor data collected by IoT devices is shared with another IoT gateway or device to be either analyzed locally or in the cloud. The devices often communicate with other IoT-enabled devices too and act on the data collected from one another.
Even though the process is done automatically without human intervention, people can interact with the devices to set them up, access data, or give instructions for their functioning. The networking, connectivity, and communication protocols are not standardized. The functioning of each IoT device is based on the particular IoT applications used. In many instances, the process of data collection by IoT devices is made easy and seamless by the use of Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
The History of IoT
The concept of the IoT and the idea of adding sensors and intelligence to common everyday objects was first mooted in the 1980s and the 1990s. However, apart from an Internet-enabled vending machine, not much progress was made in this direction. The main roadblocks were the absence of the required technology and there was no way that the devices could communicate effectively with the slow and big chips available then.
What was needed to make IoT truly effective was processors that were cheap, power-thrifty, and disposable to make it cost-effective enough to be linked up to billions of devices. This problem was partly solved with the adoption of RFID tags that were low-power chips that could communicate wirelessly. What also helped was the development and increasing access to cellular and wireless networking as well as broadband Internet.
The development of the required IoT technology was fast-tracked after the introduction of IPv6 that could provide IP addresses for every device that would ever be needed globally.
The Importance of the IoT
The IoT has now developed into one of the most significant and critical technologies of the 21st century. By connecting everyday things like cars, thermostats, kitchen appliances, baby monitors, and many more via embedded devices to the Internet, communication between people, processes, and objects has been optimized. Now, physical things can collect and share data without any human touch because of big data, analytics, advanced mobile technologies, low-cost computing, and the cloud.
In the modern Internet-driven environment, digital systems have been tuned to monitor, record, and regulate all interactions between connected objects further maximizing the efficacy of the Internet of Things.
How IoT is making Lives Better and Safer
IoT has touched every facet of human lives. Here are a few areas and industries that have benefitted immensely from the evolution of this technology.
- Consumer Applications: A very appropriate example of IoT functioning is smart homes fitted with smart appliances and thermostats that control heating, lighting, and electronic devices, all controlled through smartphones and computers. Smart buildings and homes reduce costs of energy as sensors can judge the ambiance and the number of people in a room and adjust the temperatures accordingly.
Another area is wearable devices with sensors that collect and analyze user data and inform the wearer in case of emergencies, helping fast responders to act swiftly.
- Manufacturing: Production line efficiencies can be monitored with sensors detecting any impending failure. It helps in reducing operating costs and improving asset performance management.
- Automotive: This industry has taken a quantum leap in efficiencies because of IoT. Sensors can detect vehicle failures and alert the driver of the details with recommendations. Automotive manufacturers and suppliers can gather information from IoT-based applications on how best to keep their cars running.
- Healthcare: Hospital asset tracking today is another key beneficiary of IoT applications. Doctors and assistants can know about the exact location of a patient through wheelchairs embedded with sensors. Any hospital asset can be tracked in this way helping in proper usage as well as financial accounting of the assets.
- Retail: A wide range of activities is conducted in the retail sector through IoT applications. These include managing inventory, optimizing the supply chain, improving customer experience, and reducing operational costs. For example, weight sensors fitted to smart shelves can collect RFID-based information and send the data to IoT platforms to alert the store managers of low stocks.
- Agriculture: IoT-based farming systems can track temperature, light, soil moisture of crop fields, and humidity. It can also control and automate irrigation systems.
- Government work: Public sector-owned utilities use IoT applications to inform users of any disruptions in power and water supplies, especially in the case of an impending mass outages. Data is collected through sensors for deploying resources to get the utilities back on track.
These are just a few instances and there is hardly any sector that has not been touched by the benefits of IoT applications.
The Global Market for IoT
The global Internet of Things market is projected to grow exponentially soon. Estimates put this from $381.3 billion in 2021 to $1,854.76 billion in 2028 at a fast clip of around 25% in this period.
IoT applications in the future will increase business efficiencies, open up new revenue-generating avenues, and facilitate new business models.