The Internet of Things - We're already there!
Updated: Apr 17, 2020
The 'Internet of Things' or IoT as it has been abbreviated doesn't sound very technical and that is because it is not supposed to be.
Humans have been interacting with technology for decades, however we are now in entering an era where human beings and technology start to get closer and merge. IoT is receiving a growing focus both in the workplace and outside of it and has the potential to impact how we live, how we work and how we make decisions.
Without even realising, we are already there and IoT is making this possible. So what is IoT?
Due to the proliferation, lower costs and accessibility of high-speed internet communications, coupled with smarter and smaller WiFi and cellular communications such as 3G or 4G as well as widespread usage of smartphones, more and more devices are being created with the ability to connect to the internet. These devices are the 'things' in IoT.
These devices could be a mobile phone itself or a sensor in a car, a pedometer tracking wristband, a heating thermostat, a Smart-TV, an IP Camera, washing machine, refrigerator, home security system, physiological or medical sensors and so on. The list is potentially limitless. And it is this unlimited potential that has created a market for not only IoT, but also Big Data and In-Memory Databases to efficiently manage the vast amount of information that is being created by these devices every second.
The term 'wearables' has also increased in usage. Wearables are also classed as IoT hardware - smart connected devices that you simply wear - such as an Apple Watch, a Fitbit wristband or Google Glass.
When we think about it, we may already be benefiting from IoT. Having recently purchased a new home, I wanted to use this opportunity to create a connected home - and I would use devices classed under IoT in order to do this. Here is what I did:
Home Heating System
I wanted to be able to control the heating of my home in a smarter way. Traditional thermostats have not evolved greatly since they were invented and I therefore came across a product called Nest. Nest is a smart, connected thermostat that allows me to control my home temperature from anywhere in the world using my smartphone.
The thermostat itself is connected to my home WiFi network, and is constantly monitoring the temperature both inside the home, and outside the home using weather reports from my local area. It is also monitoring movement to indicate whether the house is occupied.
The device then communicates all of this sensory data to the company's cloud servers where the information is downloaded to an app on my iPhone. And using this information, I can communicate with the thermostat remotely in order to turn the heat up or down, or the thermostat can decide itself as it has learned my temperature preferences. Pretty smart, and a perfect example of IoT.
Fitness Tracking Wristband
I have been wearing a FitBit wrist band for a couple of months now and it has made a difference to my lifestyle. The device monitors movement activity of the individual wearing it such as steps, active minutes, exercise and even sleep. This information is then sent to the corresponding app on my iPhone where the data is churned into meaningful insights when coupled with additional data around food intake, body weight etc.
These insights could be how many calories I've burned, how many I need to burn on a daily basis in order to reach my target weight. The data is also gamified creating challenges that make staying active fun and engaging - especially with others who are wearing the device, thereby creating a community where you are able to benchmark yourself whilst providing motivation. This is a perfect storm that has unlimited potential.
Blood Pressure Monitor
I purchased a Blood Pressure Monitor for my mother. She is a retired nurse so is naturally interested in healthcare, but I wanted to bring her closer to her smartphone and an IoT connected device - as well as try out a cool new connected gadget for myself!
I purchased a QardioArm based on reviews and it has lived up to expectations. The device is quite simply a blood pressure monitor that we've been using for decades, except it has a connected chip and processor that captures data relating to the subject's blood pressure, heart rate and date/times. This data is then sent to the corresponding app on a smartphone, where it is processed and delivered to the end-user in a format that is simple to understand. It will provide a history of your blood pressure, analyse trends such as periods when blood pressure is commonly high and will also correlate this data with other variables such as sleep patterns and food intake. This data can then be emailed or automatically send to your Doctor - simple.
Remote Lighting / On-Off Power Switches
Using a product by Lightwave, I have been able to control the power and heating of my home office with my smartphone.
The possibilities of just the three devices I have mentioned are endless. Imagine a future connected environment all around you, where your Blood Pressure IoT device provides information to your Doctor, and your doctor responds by providing a diet and exercise routine straight to your FitBit wristband, where your activity is fed-back to your doctor to monitor blood pressure and heart rate. A future where your smartphone is aware of your geo-location, and feeds this information to your connected home heating thermostat to tell it to warm up the house as you're 5 minutes away - maybe have a cup of coffee ready. A future where your car diagnostics sensors inform your garage of a fault, and advise you what to do before you even know there is an issue.
The potential of IoT within the personal landscape has endless possibilities, but it is the business, medical and industrial landscape where the only limit is our imagination. Jet planes, engines, other transportation, bridges, oil-rigs, real-time optimisation of manufacturing and production, healthcare, ATMs, energy and space travel - the list is endless. Gartner predicts there will be over 100 billion IoT connected devices in the world by 2020.
There are several planned or ongoing large-scale deployments of the IoT, to enable better management of cities and systems. For example, Songdo, South Korea, the first of its kind fully equipped and wired smart city, is near completion. Nearly everything in this city is planned to be wired, connected and turned into a constant stream of data that would be monitored and analysed by an array of computers with little, or no human intervention.
Billions of IoT connected devices also brings a plethora of challenges relating to the management, processing, analysing and tracking of the vast amounts of data and of course security. Cloud Security is a big concern today, so we can only imagine the challenges and opportunities that IoT will bring in order to create secure environments.
The one aspect that all of these IoT devices and apps have in common is the user experience. Without a humanised, intuitive user-experience, we have a tendency to shy away from technology. When technology feels like it is part of us, and responds to our needs smartly, naturally and almost invisibly, we find it easier to embrace it, hence the opening line: IoT doesn't sound very technical and that is because it is not supposed to be.
This is not the future, this is today. The IoT is already around us.