By Mukhtar Ahmad Farooqi
The “Internet of things” (IoT) is becoming an increasing popular topic of conversation among educated and tech savvy people. It’s a concept that not only has the potential to impact how we live but also how we work. The Internet of Things or more precisely the internet of devices is all about connecting devices over the internet and letting them ‘talk’ to us, applications and each other. The Internet of Things doesn’t necessarily have to be connected to the internet; it can also be a network of things. Technically speaking, the Internet of Things (IoT ) is the network of physical objects—devices, vehicles, buildings and other items— embedded with electronics , software , sensors , and network connectivity that enables these objects to collect and exchange data(Wikipedia). IoT is a combination of sensors, people and processes, and connectivity.
The IoT allows objects to be sensed and controlled remotely across existing network infrastructure, creating opportunities for more direct integration of the physical world into computer-based systems, and resulting in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit. These devices often called “connected” or” smart” devices, can sometimes talk to other related devices through a process called machine-to-machine (M2M)communication, and act on the information they get from one another. Humans can also interact with the gadgets to set them up, give them instructions or access the data, but the devices do most of the work on their own without human intervention.
The term IoT was first coined by the British entrepreneur Kevin Ashton 1999 while working at Auto-ID Labs referring to a global network of objects connected to radio-frequency identification (RFID). The concept of a network of smart devices was discussed as early as 1982, with a modified Coke machine at Carnegie Mellon University becoming the first internet-connected appliance that was able to report its inventory and whether newly loaded drinks were cold. But, the concept of the Internet of Things first became popular in 1999, through the Auto-ID Center at MIT and related market-analysis publications. The RFID was seen by Kevin Ashton as prerequisite for the IoT at that time. “Things” in the IoT sense can refer to a wide variety of devices such as heart monitoring implants, biochemical transponders on farm animals, electric clams in coastal waters, automobiles with built-in sensors, DNA analysis devices for environmental/food/pathogen monitoring or field operation devices that assist firefighters in search and rescue operations.
According to Gartner, Inc. (a technology research and advisory corporation), there will be nearly 26 billion devices on the Internet of Things by 2020. Not only the internet of things applications are enhancing our lives but also are giving us more control by simplifying routine work life and personal tasks.
Applications of IoT are currently seen in education, retail, logistics, food, management and pharmaceuticals. Once upon a time , we just dreamt of these but now with technological advancement and research what seemed once to be sci fi is becoming a reality. Some of the examples where IoT is currently in use are:
The classic example is the Smart refrigerator that can read RFID tags on grocery items as they’re put inside, then look up those tags via the Internet to identify milk, eggs, butter, and other items that we bought. The fridge tracks usage, then alerts owners when they’re running out of groceries or need more food .The refrigerator can even place a grocery order automatically (via Amazon Fresh). Similarly, that smart fridge could warn about products nearing (or past) their expiration dates;
Another example is wristwatches with sensors that can track the wearers’ heartbeat and pass on the information to our smartphones via Bluetooth. The smartphone can store that data on cloud after which it can be accessed at any point of time to view a report card of how our heart has been behaving for over a period of a week or a month;
Products like the cellular communication enabled Smart Belly smart trash use real-time data collection and alerts t municipal services when a bin needs to be emptied. This information can drastically reduce the number of pick-ups required, and translates into fuel and financial savings for community’s service departments;
Using our smartphones’ range of sensors(Accelerometer, Gyro, Video, Proximity, Compass, GPS and so on) and connectivity options (Cell, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC), we have a well-equipped Internet of Things device in our pocket that can automatically monitor our movements, location, and workouts throughout the day;
Smart thermostats such as Google’s Nest Learning Thermostat, can tell us when we leave the house and lower the temperature accordingly so as not to waste energy, as well as adapting and learning based on our routine and how long it takes to heat our house;
IoT’s another application is in industry for maintenance and repair as Sensors installed inside equipment will monitor if any parts have exceeded their designed thresholds, and will automatically send reports to owners and manufacturers if they have. Early predictions on equipment malfunctions can be made with parts and service maintenance can be automatically scheduled ahead of an actual part failure;
Another example is the band we usually wear to keep us up-to-date about our health and fitness level;
Driver less cars like those manufactured by Google that use sensors while driving on road are also based on the IoT concept;
Intelligent shopping systems, for example could monitor specific users’ purchasing habits in a store by tracking their specific mobile phones. These users could then be provided with special offers on their favorite products or even location of items that they need, which their fridge has automatically conveyed to the phone;
Got an important phone call and left the TV on? The house could turn the TV off (to save power). Sensors in a bed (or an alarm clock)could notify other devices when we wake; in turn, they could open drapes, start the coffeemaker, and discretely turn on the TV in the breakfast nook for news, weather, and traffic;
When the clothes dryer finishes, maybe an alert appears on your TV so we can grab items before they wrinkle;
If it’s dark outside a sensor in our front door lock could turn on the inside lights before we step inside like all cars have been doing things like that for decades.
Besides some examples given above, IoT is one of the platforms of today’s Smart Cities and Smart Energy Management Systems. IoT is more than smart homes and connected appliances, however. It scales up to include smart cities like connected traffic signals that monitor utility use, or smart bins that signal when they need to be emptied and industry with connected sensors for everything from tracking parts to monitoring crops. It can do surveillance through a camera at home to see what, for example, our baby is doing. In the future, its application can be seen to monitor and controlling operations of urban and rural infrastructures like bridges, railway tracks, on- and offshore- wind-farms. There’s a lot of scope in the future, such as repair work for electronics with no moving parts like television sets. Since it is a completely electronic device, there is no need for a repair guy to come over. We can simply connect it to the internet and let it be repaired over the cloud.
As per the report published in PC World , to become an emerging player Samsung is developing a new operating system for the Internet of Things, hoping to make a bigger role for itself in the millions of smart home appliances, wearable’s and industrial equipment that are coming online. The OS which will be open source and hasn’t yet been named will help devices to execute simple tasks quickly without human intervention. For example, the software could instruct a door lock to open and the lights to turn on.
We are in the early stages in the creation of an Internet of Things and its future will not be possible without the support of IPv6 and the above examples provide just a glimpse into what is possible when we combine sensors, actuators, and networked intelligence.
—The author can be reached at: [email protected]