Internet of Things (IoT) Everything You Need to Know

Internet of Things

The internet of things, or IoT, is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers (UIDs) and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.

Over the past few years, IoT has become one of the most important technologies of the 21st century. Now that we can connect everyday objects—kitchen appliances, cars, thermostats, baby monitors—to the internet via embedded devices, seamless communication is possible between people, processes, and things.

By means of low-cost computing, the cloud, big data, analytics, and mobile technologies, physical things can share and collect data with minimal human intervention. In this hyperconnected world, digital systems can record, monitor, and adjust each interaction between connected things. The physical world meets the digital world—and they cooperate.

Internet of Things (IoT)

A thing in the internet of things can be a person with a heart monitor implant, a farm animal with a biochip transponder, an automobile that has built-in sensors to alert the driver when tire pressure is low or any other natural or man-made object that can be assigned an Internet Protocol (IP) address and is able to transfer data over a network.
Increasingly, organizations in a variety of industries are using IoT to operate more efficiently, better understand customers to deliver enhanced customer service, improve decision-making and increase the value of the business.

What Technologies Have Made Internet of Things (IoT) Possible?

The “Internet of things” (IoT) is becoming an increasingly growing topic of conversation both in the workplace and outside of it. It’s a concept that not only has the potential to impact how we live but also how we work. But what exactly is the “Internet of things” and what impact is it going to have on you, if any?

There are a lot of complexities around the “Internet of things” but I want to stick to the basics. Lots of technical and policy-related conversations are being had but many people are still just trying to grasp the foundation of what the heck these conversations are about.

While the idea of IoT has been in existence for a long time, a collection of recent advances in a number of different technologies has made it practical.

  • Access to low-cost, low-power sensor technology. Affordable and reliable sensors are making IoT technology possible for more manufacturers.
  • Connectivity. A host of network protocols for the internet has made it easy to connect sensors to the cloud and to other “things” for efficient data transfer.
  • Cloud computing platforms. The increase in the availability of cloud platforms enables both businesses and consumers to access the infrastructure they need to scale up without actually having to manage it all.
  • Machine learning and analytics. With advances in machine learning and analytics, along with access to varied and vast amounts of data stored in the cloud, businesses can gather insights faster and more easily. The emergence of these allied technologies continues to push the boundaries of IoT and the data produced by IoT also feeds these technologies.
  • Conversational artificial intelligence (AI). Advances in neural networks have brought natural-language processing (NLP) to IoT devices (such as digital personal assistants Alexa, Cortana, and Siri) and made them appealing, affordable, and viable for home use.

So What Is The Internet Of Things?

Simply put, this is the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cellphones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of. This also applies to components of machines, for example, a jet engine of an aeroplane or the drill of an oil rig.

As I mentioned, if it has an on and off switch then chances are it can be a part of the IoT. The analyst firm Gartner says that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices… That’s a lot of connections (some even estimate this number to be much higher, over 100 billion). The IoT is a giant network of connected “things” (which also includes people). The relationship will be between people-people, people-things, and things-things.

What is an example of an Internet of Things device?

Pretty much any physical object can be transformed into an IoT device if it can be connected to the internet to be controlled or communicate information.

A lightbulb that can be switched on using a smartphone app is an IoT device, as is a motion sensor or a smart thermostat in your office or a connected streetlight. An IoT device could be as fluffy as a child’s toy or as serious as a driverless truck. Some larger objects may themselves be filled with many smaller IoT components, such as a jet engine that’s now filled with thousands of sensors collecting and transmitting data back to make sure it is operating efficiently. At an even bigger scale, smart cities projects are filling entire regions with sensors to help us understand and control the environment.

The term IoT is mainly used for devices that wouldn’t usually be generally expected to have an internet connection, and that can communicate with the network independently of human action. For this reason, a PC isn’t generally considered an IoT device and neither is a smartphone — even though the latter is crammed with sensors. A smartwatch or a fitness band or other wearable device might be counted as an IoT device, however.

example of an Internet of Things device

The reality is that the IoT allows for virtually endless opportunities and connections to take place, many of which we can’t even think of or fully understand the impact of today. It’s not hard to see how and why the IoT is such a hot topic today; it certainly opens the door to a lot of opportunities but also to many challenges. Security is a big issue that is oftentimes brought up.

With billions of devices being connected together, what can people do to make sure that their information stays secure? Will someone be able to hack into your toaster and thereby get access to your entire network? The IoT also opens up companies all over the world to more security threats.

Then we have the issue of privacy and data sharing. This is a hot-button topic even today, so one can only imagine how the conversation and concerns will escalate when we are talking about many billions of devices being connected. Another issue that many companies specifically are going to be faced with is around the massive amounts of data that all of these devices are going to produce. Companies need to figure out a way to store, track, analyze and make sense of the vast amounts of data that will be generated.

What Is Industrial IoT?

Industrial IoT (IIoT) refers to the application of IoT technology in industrial settings, especially with respect to instrumentation and control of sensors and devices that engage cloud technologies. Recently, industries have used machine-to-machine communication (M2M) to achieve wireless automation and control. But with the emergence of cloud and allied technologies (such as analytics and machine learning), industries can achieve a new automation layer and with it create new revenue and business models. IIoT is sometimes called the fourth wave of the industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0. The following are some common uses for IIoT:

Industrial IoT (IIoT)
  • Smart manufacturing
  • Preventive and predictive maintenance
  • Smart power grids
  • Smart cities
  • Connected and smart logistics
  • Smart digital supply chains

Unlock Business Value with IoT

As IoT becomes more widespread in the marketplace, companies are capitalizing on the tremendous business value it can offer. These benefits include:

  • Deriving data-driven insights from IoT data to help better manage the business
  • Increasing productivity and efficiency of business operations
  • Creating new business models and revenue streams
  • Easily and seamlessly connecting the physical business world to the digital world to drive quick time to value

What Are IoT Applications?

  • Business-Ready, SaaS IoT Applications
  • IoT applications are prebuilt software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications that can analyze and present captured IoT sensor data to business users via dashboards.
  • IoT applications use machine learning algorithms to analyze massive amounts of connected sensor data in the cloud. Using real-time IoT dashboards and alerts, you gain visibility into key performance indicators, statistics for mean time between failures, and other information. Machine learning-based algorithms can identify equipment anomalies and send alerts to users and even trigger automated fixes or proactive countermeasures.

With cloud-based IoT applications, business users can quickly enhance existing processes for supply chains, customer service, human resources, and financial services. There’s no need to recreate entire business processes.

What Are the Top IoT Applications?

The ability of IoT to provide sensor information as well as enable device-to-device communication is driving a broad set of applications. The following are some of the most popular applications and what they do.

  • Create new efficiencies in manufacturing through machine monitoring and product-quality monitoring. Machines can be continuously monitored and analyzed to make sure they are performing within the required tolerances. Products can also be monitored in real-time to identify and address quality defects.
  • Improve the tracking and “ring-fencing” of physical assets. Tracking enables businesses to quickly determine asset location. Ring-fencing allows them to make sure that high-value assets are protected from theft and removal.
  • Use wearables to monitor human health analytics and environmental conditions. IoT wearables enable people to better understand their own health and allow physicians to remotely monitor patients. This technology also enables companies to track the health and safety of their employees, which is especially useful for workers employed in hazardous conditions.
  • Drive efficiencies and new possibilities in existing processes. One example of this is the use of IoT to increase efficiency and safety in fleet management. Companies can use IoT fleet monitoring to direct trucks, in real-time, to improve efficiency.
  • Enable business process changes. An example of this is the use of IoT devices to monitor the health of remote machines and trigger service calls for preventive maintenance. The ability to remotely monitor machines is also enabling new product-as-a-service business models, where customers no longer need to buy a product but instead pay for its usage.

What Industries Can Benefit from IoT?

Organizations best suited for IoT are those that would benefit from using sensor devices in their business processes.

Manufacturing

Manufacturers can gain a competitive advantage by using production-line monitoring to enable proactive maintenance on equipment when sensors detect an impending failure. Sensors can actually measure when production output is compromised. With the help of sensor alerts, manufacturers can quickly check equipment for the accuracy or remove it from production until it is repaired. This allows companies to reduce operating costs, get better uptime, and improve asset performance management.

Automotive

The automotive industry stands to realize significant advantages from the use of IoT applications. In addition to the benefits of applying IoT to production lines, sensors can detect impending equipment failure in vehicles already on the road and can alert the driver with details and recommendations. Thanks to aggregated information gathered by IoT-based applications, automotive manufacturers and suppliers can learn more about how to keep cars running and car owners informed.

Transportation and Logistics

Transportation and logistical systems benefit from a variety of IoT applications. Fleets of cars, trucks, ships, and trains that carry inventory can be rerouted based on weather conditions, vehicle availability, or driver availability, thanks to IoT sensor data. The inventory itself could also be equipped with sensors for track-and-trace and temperature-control monitoring. The food and beverage, flower, and pharmaceutical industries often carry temperature-sensitive inventory that would benefit greatly from IoT monitoring applications that send alerts when temperatures rise or fall to a level that threatens the product.

Retail

IoT applications allow retail companies to manage inventory, improve customer experience, optimize supply chain, and reduce operational costs. For example, smart shelves fitted with weight sensors can collect RFID-based information and send the data to the IoT platform to automatically monitor inventory and trigger alerts if items are running low. Beacons can push targeted offers and promotions to customers to provide an engaging experience.

Public Sector

The benefits of IoT in the public sector and other service-related environments are similarly wide-ranging. For example, government-owned utilities can use IoT-based applications to notify their users of mass outages and even of smaller interruptions of water, power, or sewer services. IoT applications can collect data concerning the scope of an outage and deploy resources to help utilities recover from outages with greater speed.

Healthcare

IoT asset monitoring provides multiple benefits to the healthcare industry. Doctors, nurses, and orderlies often need to know the exact location of patient-assistance assets such as wheelchairs. When a hospital’s wheelchairs are equipped with IoT sensors, they can be tracked from the IoT asset-monitoring application so that anyone looking for one can quickly find the nearest available wheelchair. Many hospital assets can be tracked this way to ensure proper usage as well as financial accounting for the physical assets in each department.

General Safety Across All Industries

In addition to tracking physical assets, IoT can be used to improve worker safety. Employees in hazardous environments such as mines, oil and gas fields, and chemical and power plants, for example, need to know about the occurrence of a hazardous event that might affect them. When they are connected to IoT sensor-based applications, they can be notified of accidents or rescued from them as swiftly as possible. IoT applications are also used for wearables that can monitor human health and environmental conditions. Not only do these types of applications help people better understand their own health, but they also permit physicians to monitor patients remotely.

Pros and cons of IoT

With the Internet of Things (IoT), we can understand the context (the time and place of the customer) to identify when we’re certain the customer needs help or an incentive to purchase, and we can respond proactively.

Dan Mitchell Business Director for the Global Retail and CPG Industry Practice SAS

Pros and cons of IoT

Some of the advantages of IoT include the following:

  • ability to access information from anywhere at any time on any device;
  • improved communication between connected electronic devices;
  • transferring data packets over a connected network saving time and money; and
  • automating tasks helping to improve the quality of a business’s services and reducing the need for human intervention.

Some disadvantages of IoT include the following:

  • As the number of connected devices increases and more information is shared between devices, the potential that a hacker could steal confidential information also increases.
  • Enterprises may eventually have to deal with massive numbers — maybe even millions — of IoT devices, and collecting and managing the data from all those devices will be challenging.
  • If there’s a bug in the system, it’s likely that every connected device will become corrupted.
  • Since there’s no international standard of compatibility for IoT, it’s difficult for devices from different manufacturers to communicate with each other.

IoT standards and frameworks

There are several emerging IoT standards, including the following:

  • IPv6 over Low-Power Wireless Personal Area Networks (6LoWPAN) is an open standard defined by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). The 6LoWPAN standard enables any low-power radio to communicate to the internet, including 804.15.4, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Z-Wave (for home automation).
  • ZigBee is a low-power, low-data rate wireless network used mainly in industrial settings. ZigBee is based on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 802.15.4 standard. The ZigBee Alliance created Dotdot, the universal language for IoT that enables smart objects to work securely on any network and understand each other.
  • LiteOS is a Unix-like operating system (OS) for wireless sensor networks. LiteOS supports smartphones, wearables, intelligent manufacturing applications, smart homes and the internet of vehicles (IoV). The OS also serves as a smart device development platform.
  • OneM2M is a machine-to-machine service layer that can be embedded in software and hardware to connect devices. The global standardization body, OneM2M, was created to develop reusable standards to enable IoT applications across different verticals to communicate.
  • Data Distribution Service (DDS) was developed by the Object Management Group (OMG) and is an IoT standard for real-time, scalable and high-performance M2M communication.
  • Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP) is an open-source published standard for asynchronous messaging by wire. AMQP enables encrypted and interoperable messaging between organizations and applications. The protocol is used in client-server messaging and in IoT device management.
  • Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP) is a protocol designed by the IETF that specifies how low-power, compute-constrained devices can operate in the internet of things.
  • Long Range Wide Area Network (LoRaWAN) is a protocol for WANs designed to support huge networks, such as smart cities, with millions of low-power devices.

IoT frameworks include the following:

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS) IoT is a cloud computing platform for IoT released by Amazon. This framework is designed to enable smart devices to easily connect and securely interact with the AWS cloud and other connected devices.
  • Arm Mbed IoT is a platform to develop apps for IoT based on Arm microcontrollers. The goal of the Arm Mbed IoT platform is to provide a scalable, connected and secure environment for IoT devices by integrating Mbed tools and services.
  • Microsoft’s Azure IoT Suite is a platform that consists of a set of services that enables users to interact with and receive data from their IoT devices, as well as perform various operations over data, such as multidimensional analysis, transformation and aggregation, and visualize those operations in a way that’s suitable for business.
  • Google’s Brillo/Weave is a platform for the rapid implementation of IoT applications. The platform consists of two main backbones: Brillo, an Android-based OS for the development of embedded low-power devices, and Weave, an IoT-oriented communication protocol that serves as the communication language between the device and the cloud.
  • Calvin is an open-source IoT platform released by Ericsson designed for building and managing distributed applications that enable devices to talk to each other. Calvin includes a development framework for application developers, as well as a runtime environment for handling the running application.
Security for IoT
Security for IoT

IoT security and privacy issues

The internet of things connects billions of devices to the internet and involves the use of billions of data points, all of which need to be secured. Due to its expanded attack surface, IoT security and IoT privacy are cited as major concerns.

In 2016, one of the most notorious recent IoT attacks was Mirai, a botnet that infiltrated domain name server provider Dyn and took down many websites for an extended period of time in one of the biggest distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks ever seen. Attackers gained access to the network by exploiting poorly secured IoT devices.

Because IoT devices are closely connected, all a hacker has to do is exploit one vulnerability to manipulate all the data, rendering it unusable. Manufacturers that don’t update their devices regularly — or at all — leave them vulnerable to cybercriminals.

Security for IoT
Security for IoT

Additionally, connected devices often ask users to input their personal information, including names, ages, addresses, phone numbers and even social media accounts — information that’s invaluable to hackers.

Hackers aren’t the only threat to the internet of things; privacy is another major concern for IoT users. For instance, companies that make and distribute consumer IoT devices could use those devices to obtain and sell users’ personal data.

Beyond leaking personal data, IoT poses a risk to critical infrastructure, including electricity, transportation and financial services.

History of the Internet of Things

The term “Internet of Things” was coined by entrepreneur Kevin Ashton, one of the founders of the Auto-ID Center at MIT. Ashton was part of a team that discovered how to link objects to the internet through an RFID tag. He first used the phrase “Internet of Things” in a 1999 presentation – and it has stuck around ever since.

Ashton may have been first to use the term Internet of Things, but the concept of connected devices – particularly connected machines – has been around for a long time. For example, machines have been communicating with each other since the first electric telegraphs were developed in the late 1830s. Other technologies that fed into IoT were radio voice transmissions, wireless (Wi-Fi) technologies and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) software.

Then in 1982, a modified Coke machine at Carnegie Mellon University became the first connected smart appliance. Using the university’s local ethernet or ARPANET – a precursor to today’s internet – students could find out which drinks were stocked, and whether they were cold.

Today, we’re living in a world where there are more IoT connected devices than humans. These IoT connected devices and machines range from wearables like smartwatches to RFID inventory tracking chips. IoT connected devices communicate via networks or cloud-based platforms connected to the Internet of Things.

The real-time insights gleaned from this IoT collected data to fuel digital transformation. The Internet of Things promises many positive changes for health and safety, business operations, industrial performance, and global environmental and humanitarian issues.

So what now?

Conversations about the IoT are (and have been for several years) taking place all over the world as we seek to understand how this will impact our lives. We are also trying to understand what the many opportunities and challenges are going to be as more and more devices start to join the IoT. For now, the best thing that we can do is educate ourselves about what the IoT is and the potential impacts that can be seen on how we work and live.

The internet of things is also a natural extension of supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), a category of software application programs for process control, the gathering of data in real-time from remote locations to control equipment and conditions. SCADA systems include hardware and software components.

The hardware gathers and feeds data into a computer that has SCADA software installed, where it is then processed and presented in a timely manner. The evolution of SCADA is such that late-generation SCADA systems developed into first-generation IoT systems.

The concept of the IoT ecosystem, however, didn’t really come into its own until the middle of 2010 when, in part, the government of China said it would make IoT a strategic priority in its five-year plan.

NOTE
This is not meant to be a formal definition of the Internet of Things, like most terms we define on matrixdisclosure.com but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of IoT term that will help our readers to expand their word mastery.

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