The Internet of Things: Why Now, Why Me? (Part 1 of 2)
Article by Adam Freed, Co-Founder and CEO, IoT613
At IoT613 we are passionate about technology and how the Internet of Things (IoT) is changing our world. I’ve been asked a number of times, “Why should I care about IoT, it’s all about sensors and networks and I’m not an engineer.” To those with that impression of IoT, I say, you really should care and get involved in the conversation because these changes will affect how we live our lives. Changes have started and will only become more and more ubiquitous. IoT is still a relatively new concept outside of those who work in technology, so in this two-part series, I’ll attempt to clarify what IoT really is at a high level, and to show the human impacts of some concepts and how these concepts tie together. This first part will focus on some background information on IoT.
The Internet of Things is a concept. IoT is considered the third wave of connected communications, with the first being the widespread connection of desktop computers to the internet, with the second wave being the adoption of internet connected mobile devices (i.e., smartphones). In its essence, it uses sensors installed in a wide variety of devices to connect them to the internet. Through that connection, they can communicate with other IoT-enabled devices, computers, or mobile devices. We can control them and read environmental and operational information from them on our computers and mobile devices, or they can change their own operating conditions based on their surroundings or based on information provided by other IoT-enabled devices. Sound confusing? Think about how you control the temperature of your house on your phone through your smart thermostat.
Kevin Ashton of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) coined the term, Internet of Things, way back in 1999! So, if he had this idea so long ago, why is this only coming to light now? We’ve been controlling devices through networks for a long time, but these applications tended to be in large industrial complexes, and everything was connected by wires, or short-range wireless, but communications were directly between the device and a central computer system, rather than through the internet. What’s changed, you ask? Price, size, processing power, and speed, essentially.
High-speed internet connections have become a necessity for most of us and are becoming viewed as another standard utility, like gas or electricity, rather than a luxury. With widespread availability of quality, Wi-Fi connections, communication across the internet to anywhere, anyone, and anything is almost instantaneous, but that only covers part of the reason IoT is expanding now. Advances in microprocessor and sensor technologies have allowed the circle to be completed. It is now affordable to mass produce, very small, very light, electronic hardware that is far more capable of advanced operations in far less time than in previous generations. But the real key comes in leveraging the power of the internet, so that all the complexity does not have to reside in the hardware. Artificial intelligence and machine learning can be housed in cloud servers (distributed networks of powerful computers), easily and quickly accessed by IoT-enabled devices over the internet to allow them to adapt and learn from interactions with users and their environments.
So, in a nutshell, “things” can now connect directly to the internet to communicate with people or other “things”. This will all hopefully result in greater efficiency, effectiveness, and safety in running our daily lives, from transportation, to work, play, and more.
At IoT613 Conference 2018, April 18-20 at the Canadian Museum of History, we’ll discuss a number of applications of IoT, some of which I’ll introduce in the second part of this series.