What Should You Know About IoT (Internet of Things)?
The Internet of Things consists of millions of devices connected to the web which share and collect data. Processors become cheaper all the time, so there’s no surprise people connect all sorts of devices to the internet, including monitor implants, automobile sensors, and biochip transponders. Virtually any device can be connected to the internet and controlled remotely, becoming a part of IoT.
Most often, this term is used when talking about devices that traditionally hadn’t been connected to the internet, as well as when referring to devices which communicate with the web by itself, with no need for human action. This is also a reason why smartphones and computers are usually not considered parts of IoT, even though smartphones also transmit data from sensors. In contrast, fitness bands and smartwatches are definitely IoT devices.
Examples of IoT in Daily Life
Smart watches are nothing new, however, there are many other devices that also belong to the world of IoT. There are smart devices that can check whether you have some milk in your fridge while you’re at work. Your coffee machine can make a cup of morning coffee right after you open your eyes, and your oven can preheat while you’re driving home from the grocery store. Even though some of these examples may look too futuristic, the truth is that we already live in the world full of IoT devices.
One of the most common examples of IoT is smart thermostats. These heating systems connect to your smartphone so you can control them from miles away. Another good example is alarm systems. For instance, a toolkit from Nest includes a set of sensors, alarms, and a smart thermostat. Some devices may be also controlled by Alexa or Google Assistant. Amazon Dash buttons help people order their favorite products by just pressing a button. Many satnav systems also connect to the internet and update routes depending on the traffic data.
However, applications of the IoT idea expand far beyond smart devices for a personal use. For example, DHL created an IoT tracking and monitoring system. One system tracks vehicles’ movement and warehouses, using various environmental sensors. The whole delivery process becomes much more efficient and safe. Cisco has moved in the same direction and created a connected factory. All the systems and machines are accessed and controlled remotely. It also monitors the whole working process, helping understand what are the weak points and increasing the efficiency of the manufacturing process.
Main Trends and Challenges of the IoT Market
According to statistics, there are about 20 billion smart devices in the world. The popularity of IoT continues to grow, however, it’s not a quick revolution, like many enthusiasts expected a few years ago. The revolution indeed happens, but it moves slowly. However, such a steady growth makes it easy to distinguish top trends of this industry.
- First, IoT will continue to grow. The only thing that may raise questions is where exactly this growth will occur. IoT will likely become a backbone of customer value, with retail joining in and using the opportunities of IoT to create an improved and personalized customer experience. It doesn’t mean that other industries, like supply or health care, are going to lag behind. Wearable devices for patients become more and more popular, and more companies start thinking about the benefits of IoT tracking systems.
- As the industry grows, it also becomes more fragmented. Thus, just like cloud solutions and SaaS programs, this industry may introduce new challenges for companies. Compatibility becomes the main issue so this industry needs clear standards and an understandable system of specifications.
- Fragmentation leads to more concerns about security. The more complex the system of devices, the harder it gets to protect it. Thus, we should expect new security solutions that will help keep data safe.
- The importance of mobile devices will continue to grow. Mobile platforms are crucial for IoT, as they are the main management systems for such an environment.
- Given a massive amount of data created by IoT devices, companies need new, cheaper and faster ways to process it. Thus, edge networking will become a trend or even a sort of necessity. Companies like Dell, HPE, and Cisco are already choosing the edge for computing infrastructures.
- Large amounts of data also mean that companies need to manage this data effectively. This is where AI comes into play, as humans will be not able to manage so much data. In addition, this is what AI was created for. We also should expect the emerging of various real-time data streaming tools.
- As a result of all these tendencies, the market will grow. According to Insider, IoT will likely become the biggest device market in the world, adding $1,7 trillion to the global economy by 2019.
The Most Interesting IoT Projects
Smart fridges, watches, ovens, and toilet seats are all nice and good, but some IoT projects are even more impressive. For example, the Philadelphia Streets Department installed smart trash compactors, which can report when the trash inside reaches a certain level. After this, the trash is compacted, also automatically. All the data is sent right to the Philadelphia Streets Department, allowing employees to monitor the whole situation, immediately defining areas that need any attention.
IoT has also been appreciated by the Santiago de Chile Airport, where sensors and other devices collect such data as baggage arrival times, wait times, occupancy levels, and temperatures. The collected metrics are compared to the normal parameters, and airport managers can immediately react to any problems, from potential security threats to HVAC problems. This system also helps assess performance levels.
Ochsner Health System uses IoT devices and an electronic health record system to monitor health. Multiple sensors collect data and transfer it to the electronic medical record of each patient. Doctors can analyze this data and stay up to date about their patients’ status with no need to drive to the hospital.
Decentralized Solutions for IoT
As we’ve already mentioned above, the growing IoT market also has its flip side, introducing new challenges. One of the main problems is connectivity. As companies develop more complicated solutions with more IoT devices involved, it becomes especially important to create an advanced infrastructure. However, the problem of connectivity has yet been solved. Connecting devices which are far away from each other has its particular requirements. Such a connection must be battery-efficient, cheap, low-bandwidth, and long-range. In this case, such long-range solutions as satellites or cellular networks become too expensive.
Searching for effective ways to tackle IoT problems, experts from two disruptive industries started working together, creating interesting solutions. We are talking about IoT and the blockchain industry. A good example of a decentralized solution is Helium — a startup from San Francisco which established a new concept of a network which offers lots of opportunity for intelligent infrastructures. Helium is a marketplace that connects machines. There are participants who need to connect devices to the internet, as well as participants who provide connectivity. They can buy gateways from the company or build them, according to open specifications. These gateways can be installed virtually everywhere. To connect devices, Helium also developed its own wireless protocol, which is called WHIP. It exceeds all the existing solutions in terms of efficiency and power consumption (it needs as much energy as a LED bulb). In addition, there’s no need for GPUs or other special hardware.
Another challenge of IoT is security, and this issue is addressed by another blockchain project, IOTA. This system was developed specifically for smart devices, providing micropayments between autonomous devices with no fees involved. Data streams can be securely stored, accessed, and purchased. IOTA doesn’t require mining, as users and miners are not responsible for consensus. Users of the network just validate two transactions, with no fees or rewards. Those who issue a transaction perform proof of work and approve other transactions.
Even though IOTA is the most popular project of this kind, it’s not the only decentralized solution aimed to increase security in IoT networks. Atonomi plans to apply Identity Service to all the devices within a certain environment, starting from the manufacturing stage. Users can verify the integrity of the network using a scoring system, and manufacturers act as server operators. Creators of this platform also plan to develop a reputation protocol, adjusting the score of any device depending on its performance compared to the given parameters.
Other good project is robonomics.network which allows direct human-robot, robot-robot communication via Ethereum.
As communication, as well as sensors and processors, becomes cheaper, developers can introduce more IoT devices and create more complicated IoT networks. Although this industry has a number of specific problems, many of which have yet been solved, the growing popularity of IoT solutions and their potential makes many companies and users excited about the new opportunities, pushing developers to create new solutions for security and connectivity. There is no doubt that the IoT market will continue to grow in the nearest future, exploring more industries and introducing new standards of usability and personalization.