To anyone who doesn’t know about the Internet of Things (IoT), here is a short beginners’ guide to IoT.
Say hi to IoT
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of things or objects with built-in sensors, computing devices and software that are connected to each other over the internet.
An IoT ecosystem consists of web-enabled smart devices that use sensors to collect, transfer and process data from their surroundings. IoT devices transfer the sensor data via an IoT gateway that leads data to the cloud or a network protocol that easily connects the sensors to the cloud.
Advances in data science, machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) as well as the explosion of data have boosted the capabilities, and thus, the appeal of IoT. In fact, the combination of IoT with Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have paved the way for so many disruptive innovations.
“IoT, Big Data, and AI all feed into each other and create an ecosystem of automation – IoT devices collect data on millions of criteria, which is then collated in the cloud, and used to train and improve AI algorithms.
As such, ensuring that people understand how IoT, Big Data and AI interact and improve each other is the most important thing we can do to bring real improvements to our lives.”Article contributor Charles Towers-Clark summed up the holistic nature of IoT, Big Data and AI on Forbes.
Although IoT may seem like a new fancy thing, this concept of connected devices is not new and has been around for a long time, even as far back as the late 1830s when the first electric telegraphs were developed. Other technologies that fit this concept were radio voice transmissions, wireless technologies and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) software.
A notable mention is the modified Coke machine at Carnegie Mellon University as the first connected smart appliance in 1982. Using the university’s local ethernet, students could check which cold drinks were in stock.
But it was only in 1999 that the term “Internet of Things” was first used by Kevin Ashton, a co-founder of the Auto-ID Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). To appeal to cool trends, he used the word “internet” in his presentation about linking objects through RFID to Procter & Gamble (P&G). The term has stuck since then.
The importance of IoT
The concept of connected devices is so important in today’s world that even Mr Bean understood the need to integrate his alarm clock with a hose of steam aimed at his feet to wake him up.
The following are the benefits of IoT for anyone using it:
- Automated collections and transfers of data with minimal human intervention, which can help save time, energy and money.
- Accessible data from anywhere and anytime.
- Real-time monitoring of operations, which helps businesses make better decisions about business processes.
- Helps consumers to live and work smarter.
- Inspires businesses to think out of the box.
However, IoT is not perfect, which means that there are also some disadvantages:
- Prone to privacy and security risks.
- Concerns about employment losses.
- A bug in the system can affect every connected device.
- Challenges of dealing with the resultant data deluge.
- No international standard of compatibility for IoT, leading to difficulties in connecting devices from different manufacturers.
Use cases for IoT
IoT has plenty of data-driven applications. Here are some of them.
IoT is the backbone of the water supply use case, which involves gathering the sensor data about water supply via the Wireless Sensor Network (WSN), SCADA and Automated Meter Reading (AMR) systems.
- WSN is used to monitor water quality.
- SCADA is spread throughout the water supply system to inform operators and managers if the water treatment facility is secure and in top condition without needlessly putting patrollers on shift.
- AMR removes the trouble of manual meter reading and billing by automatically gathering and transferring data to the database.
All the WSN, SCADA and AMR data are then combined in one Big Data system to determine water safety, water disruption, access to water and precision irrigation.
Wearable trackers in the healthcare context can be used to automate the monitoring of the patients’ health conditions, trigger real-time emergency alerts and also automate the collection and transfer of health data into Electronic Health Records (EHRs).
Wearable trackers are also applicable in the sports world, whereby an athlete’s well-being can be monitored to ensure that the athlete’s performance is optimised.
IoT sensor data, combined with machine learning, can be used to efficiently schedule the sweeping and emptying of rubbish bins by detecting the fullness of rubbish bins and forecasting when the bins will become full.
We know that more work needs to be done to improve public transport using Big Data tech, especially with regards to crowding levels and waiting times since they are important aspects of public transport convenience, with or without the pandemic.
Passengers can refer to public transport occupancy data to avoid crowds. Such public transport occupancy data can be derived from counting the number of passengers in trains and buses in real-time using people counting tech. There are several people counting methods that use sensors to gather occupancy data including motion, pressure, weight and heat sensors.
The best cycling navigation tool requires a combination of many different data sets and technologies. Among the data sets is on-bike sensor data to automatically collect cycling behaviour and the surrounding conditions without requiring the cyclist to enter the data manually.
IoT is a long-term idea of connecting devices, sensors and software to simplify life in extraordinary ways. It may not have started off using the Internet to connect but the technological advances over the decades have enabled IoT to live up to its name.
Although using IoT comes at the expense of privacy, security, data quality and other complications, IoT has allowed many industries and users to reap the benefits of automation, accessibility and innovation.