The Internet Of Things (IoT)
People were so in awe as that internet thing took off and as they discovered Facebook, Youtube and Ebay. They were sure it just couldn’t get any cooler. Surprise! The internet just pulled an all-star move and got even better. Now we are faced with an even bigger, even more involved internet.
We call this version the IoT or the ‘Internet of Things.’ The simplest explanation is that IoT is a term used to describe the phenomenon associated with products that are linked to the internet.
The IoT has three major parts:
- The products, or ‘things’
- The communication networks that connect them
- The programs that control the flow and use of the data stream
The idea is that these things, connected by sensors, RFID tags, and IP addresses- communicate, analyze and exchange data to improve their function and convenience. As more and more things get linked to the internet, the web grows and the sheer amount of data that passes through that web grows as well. As a result, with every new IoT connection, the internet gets bigger and it gets smarter.
“When wireless* is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole……… and the instruments through which we shall be able to do this will be amazingly simple compared with our present telephone. A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket.”
– Nikola Tesla (1926)
IoT and M2M
What is even cooler than the image of a global brain, (if you can believe that there would be anything cooler, that is) is that these products don’t just communicate with some web based program that you have to log onto to retrieve the data. It’s not all about the data collection. These IoT products are passing that data back and forth and communicating with each other. An example of the way this can affect you in the future is in the automobile industry.
Imagine that you are driving home from a weekend visit and when get close to home, your car announces that you need to stop for eggs, milk and bread (data it gathered from the fridge, no less) and then it proceeds to plot the course to the nearest store that carries the brands you like most.
This is a prime example of M2M or Machine to Machine, communication and it’s not science fiction. There are already products like this that are linked to the internet. The Egg Minder Wink App-Enabled Smart Egg Tray will tell you when it’s time to buy eggs.
You can check how many you have via your smart device and a sensor will indicate which are the oldest so you know which ones to use up first. It won’t be long before an automatic M2M is an included feature.
The History of the IoT
Tesla may have conceived of a wireless net in 1926, but a lot more went into the birth of the IoT. First, there was the invention of the ARPANET which went live in 1969. An information revolution in the form of dial-up internet came next. Then in 1989, Dan Lynch, President of Interop, announced that if John Romkey could bring a toaster online, it would get prime placement in the next year’s exhibition. Romkey succeeded and in 1990, that toaster was turned off and on via TCP/IP networking.
The internet continued to grow and more and more things were brought online until in 1999, the phrase ‘The Internet of Things’ was coined by Kevin Ashton during a presentation he made at Proctor and Gamble to illustrate the connection between products RFID codes and the internet. The phrase caught on and the IoT became an idea that companies all over the world thought worthwhile looking into. Sometime between 2008 and 2009, it came to the attention of the Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group that more things were connected to the internet than people and the Birth of the IoT era began.
If IoT is already here, why don’t I see it?
“The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it”.
–Mark Weiser ‘The Computer for the 21st Century’ (1991)
These are products that we use every day and the improved tech is just creeping slowly in with updated designs and cool new features that you may not have even known was an option until now. Many of them have been working to improve your life long before you even knew that they are part of the IoT.
The first IoT product that comes to mind is the home security system that detects intruders; then gives the police details including images while simultaneously texting you to tell you there is a problem at home. Other devices that we are seeing now include automated electric meters, sprinklers that track weather forecasts and smart cars.
The number of developers involved in IoT activities will reach 1.7 million globally by the end of 2014, according to ABI Research.
Where Can We Expect to See the IoT in the Future?
The IoT is being designed to be integrated into every part of our lives. We’ll use IoT products at home and in our community; we’ll benefit from IoT while we travel and we’ll find that IoT will revolutionize healthcare as we know it. Soon, the entire world will be connected and it really will seem like ‘It’s a small world, after all.’ Every bit of data ever collected, every person and everything will be no further away than your nearest IoT device.
“In the next century, planet earth will don an electronic skin. It will use the Internet as a scaffold to support and transmit its sensations. This skin is already being stitched together. It consists of millions of embedded electronic measuring devices: thermostats, pressure gauges, pollution detectors, cameras, microphones, glucose sensors, EKGs, electroencephalographs. These will probe and monitor cities and endangered species, the atmosphere, our ships, highways and fleets of trucks, our conversations, our bodies–even our dreams.”
- Neil Gross, “The Earth will Don an Electronic Skin” (1999)
IoT for Consumers
In the spirit of being right on the cutting edge- here are some IoT favorites:
This technology enables you to make your not-so-smart, appliances, well, smart. Neurio uses WiFi, power sensors and a cloud service to make your home more efficient by figuring out what your appliances are up to and how they use energy. The best part about Neurio? You don’t have to buy a bunch of smart products or install sensors on every device. That’s where Neurio’s smart technology comes into play. It uses advanced pattern detection algorithms to do all the work.
The Angel Sensor is a flexible wristband that is comfortable enough to wear 24/7. It has 4 sensors that work with open source software to monitor your vitals.
The idea is that if you are informed about how the choices you affect your body, you will make better choices for your health. Angel connects to your blue tooth enabled devices using either an accompanying app or, because Angel software is opens source, you can probably find new apps to customize your Angel experience.
Keyless just got a whole lot more interesting! Bitlock starts out as a simple keyless locking device that uses your smart phone to detect when you are near, then unlocks with a touch of a button. It goes on to a kickass app. that runs in the background and keeps track of where you left your bike, plans routes, calculates calories you’ve burned and enables remote sharing. The device is waterproof and has a 5 year battery life which is monitored by the app. and notifies you when it needs replacing.
IoT for Social Change
It’s easy to get caught up in the consumer hype of IoT. However, some of the biggest changes that IoT will bring to the world will be in the places where the internet has barely began to touch and the people who will benefit most may not even understand what cyberspace is.
“… the IoT promotes a heightened level of awareness about our world, and a platform from which to monitor the reactions to the changing conditions that said awareness exposes us to.”
— Brendan O’Brien, Chief Architect & Co-Founder, Aria Systems
IoT isn’t just about the convenience of the wealthy nations; it is also about the health of the developing countries. This is evident when you look at the company Sarvajal. Sarvajal is dedicated to providing safe, clean water to the poor communities in India.
They do this with Water ATM’s. These ATM’s use sensors, cellular connectivity and solar power to provide clean, life sustaining water which has been filtered using reverse osmosis and ultra violet rays- at an affordable cost to people who would otherwise be condemned to drink dirty, contaminated water from rusty pipes and poorly maintained wells.
Named for the human rights activist, Natalia Estemirova who in 2009, was kidnapped and murdered in Chechnya. In response to this horror, the Swedish organization, the Civil Rights Defenders developed the Natalia Project. The Project links durable wristbands with the internet, particularly Social Media, to alert a global network when a Civil Rights Defender is attacked. This alert is enhanced by GPS and GSM, so it works as a lifeline for an activist who would otherwise be alone and vulnerable. This technology opens the door to a new generation of personal protection that may prove to be an effective deterrent to attackers as the forcible removal of the wristband triggers an alert.
The IoT- The internet Improved
The IoT, using M2M communication is getting bigger and smarter all the time. So smart in fact, that as these devices communicate with each other and share data, they are also responsible for making choices and learning patterns. This is the very definition of artificial intelligence. IoT and AI go hand in hand as the web grows to accommodate these products.
“The only way to keep up with this IoT-generated data and gain the hidden insight it holds is with machine learning.”
-Mark Jaffe, “IoT Won’t Work Without Artificial Intelligence” (2014)
The growth of the IoT isn’t going to stop, either. There are as many potential applications as there are people to imagine them. The IoT has a future in Environmental Issues as it collects and analyzes data as well as suggests alternative behaviors to make the best impact on the environment. As with any new toy, artists have already found ways to use the IoT to create masterpieces like the Minneapolis Mood detecting Mimmi.
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