The Internet of Things or IoT is the extension of the power and interconnectivity of the internet between physical objects or “things” in order to receive and transmit data.
In other words, it is the network of devices such as smartphones, computers, smart thermostats, security systems all the way to your google home mini. As more devices become available to the market, the list of devices that are included in the IoT is always growing.
It’s a concept that impacts the way we live every single day. As the connection to the internet becomes more vital every day, it’s important to understand the IoT as it is the system that heavily impacts our lives.
History of the IoT
The very beginning of the IoT started out with the addition of sensors and intelligence to basic objects. This discussion began throughout the 1980s to 1990s. The earliest stages of this may have begun previous to these years as the first electric telegraphs were developed in the late 1830s.
Radio voice transmitters, wireless technologies, and other data acquisition software helped feed into the idea of a network of connected devices. In 1982, a modified Coke machine was created at Carnegie Mellon University as the first “smart appliance”. Using local ethernet, students at the university could view drinks that were stocked in the machine and see if they were cold or not.
In any case, the reason why this discussion lasted a long time is that the technology level during that time simply wasn’t up to par in terms of creating the devices people had in mind.
Different styles of processors that were available during that time were cheap to make and cheap to harness the power and were constantly being disposed of. The development of RFID tags and IPv6 were necessary steps towards the overall development of the IoT.
The term “Internet of Things” was coined in 1999 by British technologist Kevin Ashton. He was a founder of the Auto-ID Center at MIT.
However, at the time, devices were still not up to the standard of this network vision and did not come to be until about a decade later. Ashton was part of the team that helped the discovery of linking objects together through an RFID tag.
How Does IoT Work?
The way IoT works is through a platform that helps innovate the management of assets, optimizing different operations and facilities, system engineering, and improving software and production. This integration of data throughout many devices helps share valuable information across multiple applications to address certain needs.
The implementation of an IoT platform can help indicate where certain information can be useful and where it can be ignored. This can aid in detecting certain patterns, make recommendations based on data, and specify problem areas before they occur. This gathering of data is where IoT really strives.
The data collected can be transferred between devices to a meeting point. This meeting point can be within a data center or cloud storage or simply onto devices themselves. Moving this data can be done wirelessly or through a wired connection.
Processing this data to a data center or via cloud storage is convenient, however is not always an option. In the instance of device shutoff among other examples, this can prove to be too great for data centers and can interrupt the flow of data transfer.
Also, wirelessly depending on the size of the file, it can take a long time for this data to make its way from one device to another. Smarter devices with updated technology do a better job of going through the process of sending data, processing it, analyzing it, and returning it to the next location than others.
If data is being processed wirelessly, the closer the devices are to each other, the faster the data can transfer.
In a nutshell, IoT devices collect data and send it to another device through internet processing. This data is analyzed centrally by a data center. Instructions based on this analysis are returned to the devices and are therefore transferred.
How Big is the Internet of Things?
When speaking about how “big” the Internet of Things is, it can be seen in different ways. Regarding the number of devices this can makeup, the list is always growing. To a business, the network of devices can range depending on the size of the company.
This can also relate to how much money is put in a certain network. Depending on the network size in a home, at the workplace, in a country or in the world, this number may vary.
The global market for IoT solutions reached about 212 billion USD at the end of 2019. In 2020, the estimated forecast of IoT solutions worldwide is estimated to be about 418 billion dollars. It is estimated to grow to around 1.6 trillion US dollars by 2025.
Why IoT is Important?
The growing network of the IoT is important because it helps people’s day to day operations. Whether that is for a business or in their personal lives, the IoT connects us to our devices which ultimately connects us to information. This information can help us live and work smarter and gain control over many aspects of our lives.
IoT is incredibly important for businesses as it provides
- Data to improve systems
- Information to improve workflow
- Gives teams insight on processes such as machine performance to data collection
- Easy transfers between different devices
- Ability to recognize patterns and problems
IoT can help companies automate certain processes which can ultimately reduce labor costs, reduce waste, and improve deliverables. Tasks that don’t require a physical person but can be done without as many extra expenses through an IoT solution can benefit a company greatly.
These deliverables can range from information and data internally as well as provide transparent visibility into the distribution of products to consumers.
As companies continue to grow their network and business, IoTs will grow as well since they provide such major benefits to companies and can keep businesses competitive in their marketplace.
By establishing a base IoT and growing from there, companies set up a base of devices that help improve processes and data information transfers.
( Also Read: What are IoT Sensors? How Does it Work )
In today’s world, connected appliances can relate directly to smart home devices. As more devices become “smart” their ecosystem can branch into other devices and create a home network to help automate our lives. An example could be the Google Home or Amazon Alexa smart home ecosystem.
Smart Home Security Systems
In addition to smart home devices, security systems have become “smarter”. With traditional keypads and lock and pad still in place, remotely monitoring the security of a home or office becomes easier through an IoT system.
Companies such as ADT and Comcast utilize this to help give customers the ease of mind just in case “they forget to close their garage”.
Autonomous Farming Equipment
Relating to a machine, autonomous farming equipment is an example of an IoT in an industry and environment where technology is not as prominent.
Closely related to factories, autonomous equipment in the farming industry can help boost productivity as less labor needs to be implemented as parts of the workflow are completed by machines. An example could be tractors that don’t require a driver to seed more into fields.
Wearable Health Monitors
Ranging from a smartwatch to a dedicated health monitor, wearable technology is becoming more widely available with more models being available to the public. These devices can send information to a smartphone or computer for better analysis.
These devices are not the most accurate, however, provide enough information to users to help them make educated decisions regarding their health. Examples could be an Apple Watch that monitors your BPM throughout the day.
Smart Factory Equipment
Similar to autonomous farming equipment, smart factory equipment can relate to autonomous units that produce more products at a higher rate than the normal time of labored workers. These can be programmed to monitor inventory and quantity while reducing labor costs long term.
An example could be machines that help streamline the assembly of cars while labor costs are used to quality check the vehicles after completion of a task.
Wireless Inventory Trackers
When in a retail store or a business that carries a lot of inventory, a wireless tracker becomes essential for monitoring assets. This typically happens more with physical products; however, digital products also benefit from a wireless tracker.
An example of these trackers would simply be scanned barcodes into a system or a POS system to keep tracking of items sold or returned.
Ultra-High-Speed Wireless Internet
The baseline for an IoT solution, having ultra-high-speed wireless internet helps the transfer of data between devices, and ultimately users help tremendously. This fast movement of information can provide people with information that can be vital for their company or personal health and success.
Biometric Cyber Security Scanners
Relating to security, having biometric cybersecurity scanners can help provide a company with insight on their own security. By having a secure system, one doesn’t have to worry about information being leaked and having peace of mind when working with certain projects that are high-level.
An example could be a fingerprint scanner when entering a secure building in the work office or even a complex passcode system that can only be accessed at a local network.
Shipping Container and Logistics Tracking
Having tracker monitoring on shipping containers helps provide security and ease of mind to companies transporting large amounts of product. Scanning individual products have one layer of security, however, tracking larger containers can add that extra layer of security to two companies working together to ensure a product is transferred on time and in its full completion.
What Industries Can Benefit from IoT?
Manufacturing businesses gain a huge competitive edge by using IoT solutions that help streamline product line monitoring. This can aid in the detection of machine failure so that it can be avoided or at least prepared for.
These sensors can measure production output and can track if this will be affected in a negative way. This can reduce operation and labor costs and improve asset performance. This management will lead to less wasted effort and resources and can boost productivity for the business.
Automotive industries can utilize IoT solutions to greatly improve their business. In addition to similar sensors and tracking like manufacturing companies, the automotive industry can benefit in the detection of the failure of vehicles that have already been produced.
By creating a sensor that can track products that have been through production (rather than still being produced) automotive businesses can stay accountable for their product’s lifespan. This information helps keep companies in check as well as providing transparency and ease of mind to customers.
Transportation and Logistics
Logistics and transportation systems benefit from the variety of IoT. As many vehicles are traveling carrying inventory, sensors can help monitor their activity and the variance of transportation with vehicles can hinder a company when they are not using IoT.
When variance elements such as the weather, vehicle availability, driver availability, and accidents, IoT can monitor this data in order to adapt to any situation. IoT can also help track the contents of the inventory being transferred, which ultimately protects them and their integrity.
Retail companies always need assistance in managing inventory and stock numbers, improving customer experience, streamlining supply chain operations, and reducing costs while still boosting productivity. Data collected from these various business departments can help provide accountability to employees, leadership, and customers as updated information are sent throughout many different devices.
An example could be monitoring the stock of a certain item and notifying customers when an out of stock item becomes available again, garnering a sale or monitoring items low on stock and informing consumers of any promotions to help boost more traffic to their target audience.
In the public sector, service-related atmospheres can benefit from an IoT solution. Government-owned resources can use an IoT solution to notify users of any mass issues in their network. This can range from a mass outage or smaller interruptions in service.
This data can then be collected to monitor if there are any patterns in order to search for these solutions before, during, or after they occur. This can also help with recovering from wider issues to ensure service isn’t interrupted for very long.
Any solutions that benefit in boosting the productivity and operations of healthcare are welcome. IoT provides solutions that can help monitor resources and tools in a massive network. Doctors, surgeons, nurses, and other healthcare workers can pinpoint assets such as wheelchairs, gurneys, and medical tools to assist them in the workplace.
Additionally, medical tools that monitor a patient’s health can help provide information to a device that healthcare workers have on their body to help them multitask in a way that is still beneficial to the patient. This can help monitor the health of the patient, provide valuable information to healthcare workers, and ease of mind to the patient’s loved ones.
Benefits of IoT for Business
Advance Customer Service and Experience
In consumer experience, being able to track activity at a storefront (online or brick and mortar) can help provide companies with information regarding their products and service.
Being able to follow up on consumers post-purchase (checking on warranty and exchange rate and usage) can also provide companies with the right information on data that can help boost their service levels to customers.
Increase Business and Revenue Opportunities
With more resources being streamlined by processes that require less labor force, this increases business opportunities by freeing up time, money, and space for employees to work towards the improvement of a company. With new resources and tools, workers can develop more automation with another IoT solution or help provide for the company in different ways.
Perk Up Business and Workplace Safety
By increasing safety measures, this gives employees a sense of mindfulness when working with certain projects. As more businesses implement IoT services, it’s easier to monitor what really needs monitoring and prioritize which projects require more security. This can provide more safety to a company’s projects, employees, and integrity as a whole.
Increase Productivity Levels and Add to Competence
The more resources and tools are dedicated to IoT solutions, this can help ensure that these processes make the company more efficient which ultimately translates into higher productivity and success. As long as they are integrated into a company in the right way, it will always benefit them.
Help to Analyze Consumer Behavior
By monitoring consumer behavior, this can lead to data that showcases patterns that can help a company serving customers in a better way. This can also possibly lead to new products that a business can create in order to fully provide to a customer’s needs.
Trimming Down Operating Costs
By reducing the cost of operation, this frees up resources to boost other parts of a company, such as marketing, advertising, distribution, or manufacturing. Employees can focus their time and efforts in different areas as they see them need improvement in order to boost all aspects of a business rather than just one area.
Backing Business Models with Data
To help justify business plans and company policies, IoT solutions can back this up with raw data. By using the numbers, it’s much easier to monitor where certain areas need work. This can help pinpoint flaws in business models faster and indicate areas that are already successful with a business aspect in mind.
Empowering Smart Device Applications
Ever since the introduction of smart devices, they have eased our minds and provided easier access to our lives. They help our day to day operations personally and can also provide a great impact on businesses when implemented correctly. IoT solutions back up the notion of smart devices in our daily lives.
Disadvantages of IoT for Business
Not all industries are compatible with an IoT solution. The ones mentioned above typically benefit the most, however, their industries almost require it to be successful. Some may not require it and therefore research must be done to see how much IoT should really be implemented.
While the education of technology begins to get more accessible, with updated technology more and more new features are added every day. This requires more training and education on their uses which can provide a struggle to those trying to catch up.
While having many devices and information spread out can be beneficial, it also gives a potential hacker more opportunities to find a loophole within the security and hack a device. This opportunity increases as more devices are added to a network.
In addition to having more devices and the opportunities to be secure, this also can jeopardize the safety of employees in possession of these devices and information. This can be an issue when holding high-level information.
Where Does the Internet of Things go Next?
The most fascinating part of the Internet of Things is the vast potential it has. With the forecasted numbers in the trillions in just a few years and with the minds of incredible people developing new networks, technologies, and features every day, who knows where it will go.
Smart devices, augmented reality, virtual reality, automated machines, and wearable tech to name a few are becoming more widely available to the public. More devices are being supported as solutions for many scenarios, which makes the possibilities of their support endless.
Miguel Pobre is a freelance content creator based in Portland, OR. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Journalism and a minor in Business Administration. Alongside writing, Miguel has a passion for photography and design. Connect with him on LinkedIn.