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The Internet of Things

Published on: 11/10/2018

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a concept revolving around a network of objects connected to the internet.

It is essentially the convergence of operational technology and information technology, incorporating every item connected to the internet.

To be part of the internet of things, an item, person or animal can transfer data over to a network without needing a human-to-human interaction. Many of these interactions are machine-to-machine, allowing a network of devices connected to the cloud.

The IoT essentially expands on machine-to-machine communication, connecting people, systems and applications together.


How did The Internet of Things Begin?

The phrase was first used in 1999 by  , working alongside the prestigious MIT school and Proctor & Gamble, where he assisted in developing their supply chain technology. He presented the idea of using the internet to make objects ‘smart’, using data to speed up the complicated supply chain for huge companies.

However, the idea of ‘thinking objects’ has been around since the 1970s. The first internet connected appliance was a vending machine located at Carnegie Mellon University. In the early 1980s, programmers at the university used early internet networks to determine if cold drinks were still stored in the machine.


What is the Internet of Things Used for?

Many updated ‘smart’ household items are used as leading examples of the Internet of Things, such as smart toasters and smart lightbulbs. However, it has been applied to a huge variety of items across many sectors.

Data collected by the IoT network can be used to:   

Increase Efficiency

Data from traffic sensors can help control traffic flows in large and congested cities.

Improve Services Through Customer Data

Customer data is used to improve both customer service and purchase journeys. 

Make Smart and Informed Decisions

Popular fitness trackers collect health data and aids users in making better decisions about their health. Data can now be used for personal improvement and setting (and tracking!) realistic goals.

Help Lower Energy Outputs

A ‘smart’ building using temperature sensors can change the amount of energy it uses depending on how many people are in that building and what the outside temperate is. In fact, one of the biggest rises in IoT devices has been the popularity of ‘smart meters’ in people’s homes.

Automating Systems

The Internet of Things is now being used increasingly on ‘smart farms’, where sensors can monitor crops and automate irrigation systems to ensure the highest crop yield possible.

Simply Making Life Easier

An analysis of IoT behaviour by Harvard Business Review defined a gap between industrial IoT and ‘human’ IoT, and found that those who use the IoT in their home favour devices which ‘make home life easier, more distinctive, and more pleasant’. 


What are the Criticisms of The Internet of Things?

With the popularity of the concept currently snowballing, a major criticism is that we are simply creating too many devices which can connect to the internet which do not need to be. It is true, some mundane devices have become punchlines – a smart milk bottle with its own app, anyone?

Concerns about security and data privacy is a leading criticism of the IoT network. Because of the nature of connected networks, private data collected by one device can be quickly spread and integrated into others – great for efficiency, maybe not for protecting personal data.

The world is catching up with the security issues of the IoT, but many discussions still need to be had about protecting, anonymising and sharing data across networks.

Threats come from ‘botnet’s which can be created using out-of-date IoT devices and send malicious attacks to other devices, causing chaos. Large scale botnet attacks have already happened.


What is the Future of the Internet of Things?

The network is growing at a huge rate - Gartner predicts 20.8 billion items will be connected to the Internet of Things by 2020.

The IoT will be a huge part of ‘Industry 4.0’ – the next great industrial revolution, this time based on automation and technology.  As more uses are found for smart objects and analysing data to streamline processes, the IoT will continue to be one of the fastest growing and most exciting technological revolutions since the creation of the internet itself. 

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