What is it?
The Internet of Things may sound like the title of a sci-fi movie or book. That’s not too far from the reality the concept represents: a network of physical objects have IP addresses to connect to the Internet, and these objects are able to communicate with each other as well as with Internet-enabled devices and systems. In more technical terms, physical objects like heart monitors and kitchen appliances are in fact embedded with sensors and actuators that are linked through wired and wireless networks usually using the same IP that connects the internet.
Why an Internet of Things?
On list of mind-blowing advances we’ve made this decade, this is definitely one of the understated contenders. The Internet of Things crept up on us and subtly became part of the fabric of everyday life as we quickly became used to smart homes and smart cars. The concept, however, was in fact first talked about back in 1999! The idea, after all, is an obvious one – even though humans aren’t as adept as machines are at data capturing in the real world, for a very long time computers and the internet were quite dependent on humans for data in the form of typed words, recordings or digital picture uploads.
So, if instead we had computing machines gathering all this data themselves, if the process was more automated, that would greatly reduce much of the waste, loss, cost and errors that result from human data entry. If, for example, we wanted data on when a particular machine parts needed to be replaced, it would be a lot easier if a sensor was automatically monitoring the situation throughout to let us know the wear and tear situation. And that’s just a tiny example of the application of the Internet of Things.
How It Evolved
But before we move on to talk application, let’s spend a little time on how IoT developed. From the mixing pot of wireless technologies, micro-electromechanical systems, microservices and the internet was born a way for machine generated data to be mined and analyzed for insights. Plus, ever since we went beyond IPv4 to IPv6, we realized an enormous increase in address space. To paraphrase Steve Leibson, the huge address space expansion virtually means that every single atom on the earth could be assigned an IPv6 address, and we still wouldn’t run out of addresses for another 100 earths. Simply put, it’s possible to assign an address to literally every object, or thing, we have on the planet.
The Endless Practical Applications
Now, practically speaking, it might be easier to list the industries that don’t employ IoT than ones that do. Healthcare, transportation, agriculture, management, all of these and more are benefitting from the implementation of IoT technology. Said industries are making use of the new information pathways that have opened up, thanks to the physical world itself transforming into a type of information system, one that provides large volumes of data to computers for analysis, often without even any human intervention. Tracking products has never been easier – RFID tags are a very popular example of sensors placed on products moving through supply chains in order to help improve inventory management. Sensors in infrastructure and reporting on environmental conditions like the weather can provide accurate reports of real time events. The scope for the IoT is honestly as wide as human imagination itself