Yes, in case you were wondering and hadn’t done a search – IoT stands for Internet of Things. The phrase was coined by Kevin Ashton in 1999 but it took a number of years for the concept to become reality. Technology had to evolve to the point that there were available: affordable, low-power chips that can communicate wirelessly, broadband Internet, and cellular and wireless networks. Location tracking devices are an example of one of the first components of the IoT. As costs decreased, efforts to connect other everyday items to the Internet expanded until in 2017, around 8.4 billion IoT devices were in use.
Kevin Ashton describes the IoT as, “Sensors connected to the Internet and behaving in an Internet-like way,” as devices make connections and share data.
The Gartner IT Glossary defines it as: a network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or external environments.
Other ways to describe it:
A generic term that describes the connectivity of physical things through the Internet.
Physical devices worldwide connected to the Internet, collecting and sharing data without human involvement.
Stand-alone Internet connected devices that can be monitored and/or controlled remotely.
A network of physical devices embedded with electronics, software and sensors, connected either to each other and/or the Internet and able to exchange data.
So not only are devices other than computers, phones, and tablets connected to the Internet, these devices interact with automated systems to collect and analyze data. Each connected device has a unique IP address and can provide real-time analytics and feedback. These things can offer remote accessibility via smart devices or voice control such as with Google Home. In short, IoT is mainly used to describe the things you wouldn’t necessarily expect to find connected to the Internet.
There are also IoT platforms which LinkLabs describes as the “plumbing” of IoT. These platforms create the bridge between devices and networks. The concept of platforms is quite complex, here are some resources of varying depth if you are interested:
So now that you have a working definition and the example of location tracking devices, let’s expand the “what” and “why” with more examples:
The ability to check who is at the door from anywhere in the house
Appliances, large and small, from ovens to coffee makers
Smart toys – yes, your children’s toys
The ability to provide independence for older people as monitoring and assistance can be provided remotely
Healthcare – a person with a heart monitor implant that regularly communicates data to the patient and physician; a blood glucose monitor connected to a phone, connected to records in the doctor’s office
Increased productivity – tasks can be managed remotely and allow people to work on multiple responsibilities concurrently
Informational Technology and Operational Technology departments will need to work more closely together than before given how each impacts the other in regards to smart technology
Improvement in logistics – inventory, delivery, and item tracking and management
More cost-effective operations resulting in less waste and more accuracy
Decrease in human errors and delays
Agricultural and manufacturing – decrease in cost of operations and increase in efficiency
Biochip transponders in livestock
Data processing improvements - payment, receipts, purchasing behavior, consumer feedback
Real-time information about systems and products is provided when different components in an involved process are connected and communicating (think package tracking)
Real-time data collection and analysis provide greater opportunity for improvement of systems and processes
BOTH PERSONAL AND BUSINESS
Setting or adjusting the thermostat and lights
Security systems and video surveillance from cameras and non-cameras (think spooky teddy bear)
Automobile sensors for tire pressure, fluids, etc.
Location devices that track people, animals, and things
Self-compacting garbage cans (random – acknowledged)
Smart cities can be established – according to TechTarget, a smart city is a municipality that uses information and communication technologies to increase operational efficiency, share information with the public and improve both the quality of government services and citizen welfare. Think security cameras, environmental sensors, and traffic monitoring where smart stoplights respond to changes in traffic, bridges warn automobile sensors of ice, and whatever other Orwellian concepts come to mind!
Whether it presents cost savings, greater efficiency, safety, or a concept that is just plain cool, device connectivity is only beginning. In fact, experts predict that more than half of new business will run on IoT by 2020. And on the personal side, the adoption of connected home devices is expected to be higher than wearables with thermostats projected to have the highest rate of use. Some, however, believe that technology is outpacing common sense. It is certainly moving well ahead of our ability to handle security risks.
Anything connected to the Internet can be hacked and all of these connected devices increase the risk of cybersecurity breaches. The possibility exists that someone could hack into your smart thermostat and gain access to everything else on your network. The IoT has created a connection between the physical and digital worlds which opens a new opportunity for hackers who might not be after information, but rather control of physical things. This gives them the potential to cause physical damage to property and people.
Potential surveillance is a privacy consideration as is location tracking. A balance needs to be found between “easier” and protecting personal privacy. A danger exists not only from traditional hackers, but also from gadget companies that feel justified collecting and using or selling personal data. Consumer behaviors via routers, webcams and speakers are easily hacked then tracked and some devices could even allow inbound communications. There is an argument that the only devices that should be connected are those that will collect data for a specific purpose which will, in turn, benefit the user.
Reliability is another concern. If Internet connections go out and you lose data feed, it will be paramount to have a response plan in place. There is also a need for a new data infrastructure in order to gain useable insights from all of this new data.
IoT challenges encountered during the past few years have made it evident that while technology is fabulous, human oversight of automation is key to ensure that the human element is not dropped. That being said, we have entered a sensor era. As connectivity grows, we will continue to be surrounded by more and more smart things that bring efficiency to our lives and challenge our cybersecurity experts on both sides of the good and bad.
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