There are plenty of buzzwords in today’s society, but “the internet of things” isn’t one of them. It should be.
The internet of things (IoT) has been a long time coming, it’s here, and it’s growing. It already affects you in ways you might not even know, and it won’t stop. Here is a list of the five things you must know to be an informed member and user of IoT.
1. What is it?
Kellan Dickens from General Electric says “IoT is a toolkit.”
Brian Dalgetty from IBM says “IoT is just the digitization of the physical world.”
Aleksandar Vukojevic from Duke Energy says “it’s just a bunch of sensors and data.”
If you ask a room of 20 people what IoT is, you’ll get 20 different answers – that’s the unfortunate truth. Plain and simple, IoT is connection between devices.
The devices have sensors in them which allow for a number of tasks. The sensors can measure and provide data about the device. The sensors can also allow for a device to be remotely accessible.
For example, a laundry machine could measure how much water is being used, and at what cost during that time. To conserve resources on a busy night, you could remotely set the machine to wash from work on a smartphone.
Access to the devices’ data coming in from IoT is extremely important too. With this information, individuals can connect to larger circles. In terms of energy, there could be a neighborhood competition to see who uses the least.
Access to the data can also help optimize operations everywhere, increase efficiency, and decrease resource usage. Users will better understand their surroundings, and they can manage their current information more effectively.
2. How does it work?
IoT is enabled by connections between the devices, or machines. The connections between machines are called M2M connections (machine to machine). Information can be sent almost anywhere. If two devices are working together, they may have direct communication between them. Or appliances and electrical systems can send information to a database, or a company’s website.
The information itself may vary in complexity. Some communication could be tiny, like a phone alarm sending a single message to the coffee pot to brew. Other communications could be massive in size and importance, like last month’s fuel efficiency in a vehicle. It’s all about getting devices and data together and facilitating problem solving.
3. Who does it affect?
That is the short answer, and for once the short answer is completely correct. IoT will have its hand in the pocket of every active member of society. From homeowners to college students to entrepreneurs and CEO’s, IoT will change the game.
4. Why is it good?
The executive director of Envision Charlotte, Amy Aussieker, describes the potential for IoT as “a bottomless pit.” There is no doubt about the limitless possibilities in IoT, but the goal is simple. IoT aims to make life easier and enable us to work smarter, not harder.
A weather- and traffic-integrated GPS could allow us more time with the family instead of on the road. IoT can also save us money on our electricity and water bills. We will know our consumption patterns, and be able to change what we want, use less, and be charged less.
Knowledge is power. The physical world becomes digital with IoT. This lets us plug everything into a virtual calculator that, with some working knowledge, can spit out real-life solutions.
5. What are the risks?
With anything so huge and promising, there are comparable risks. IoT involves the creation of lots and lots of data. How to work through all this information and store it and format it usefully will be a challenge in itself.
The quantity of data also poses threats to privacy and security. Individuals and groups may have issues with their data being made public, and see it as an invasion of privacy.
“I don’t care if my neighbor sees how much water my dishwasher uses, but the government probably doesn’t want the world knowing how much money was spent on particular projects here and there,” says Bryan Lampley from Hoffman Building Technologies.
With this privacy threat, it’s easy to worry about the security of data designed to be private from the beginning.
The Internet of Things has come. Know the basics, and you’re ready to go back into the world as an informed member and user of IoT.