The 101 on the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things abbreviated as IoT is the next step of evolution in the tech world as we know it. By definition, the internet of things entails the wireless connection of any human-made device to the internet. This connection aims at enabling the transfer of data without the need for human-to-human interaction or human-to-computer interaction. In this case, the “things” to be connected includes cars, car engines, refrigerators, ovens, watches, juicers, defibrillators, and any other human-made device used in our everyday lives. The idea, in this case, is to make everything created by man or nature smart. Just like when we had cell phones before the internet now we have smartphones.

The “internet” part of this two parted wave of technology is quite comprehensible, unlike the “things” part. Considering that the thing may be a cow or cat with a biochip transponder, or a truck engine, home blender or even bread toaster connected to the internet with the aid of sensors and actuators. According to recent research findings, there is the anticipation that 26 billion of the IoT devices will have surged into the mainstream by 2020. That means that every person will have approximately four IoT connected devices. This wave of technology will consequently transform business, government, agricultural, transportation, and other forms of operation. So, it is best that you get with the program and get your 101 on what the Internet of Things is basically about.

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The History of IoT

A Coca-Cola machine in Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University was the first to exhibit the use of the concept of the Internet of Things in the year 1982. Local programmers connected the refrigerator to the web to check the number of drinks available and if they were cold. The concept was, however, nameless until 1999 when Kevin Ashton the Executive Director of Auto-ID labs at MIT proposed the name “internet of things.” Ashton stated that he viewed IoT as a vision where the internet would be integrated into everyday objects in the real world. He was making a presentation for Procter and Gamble where he stated how humans are to error; but if computers were tweaked to acquire the data we feed them without our interference, it would reduce cost, waste or loss immensely.

Fourteen years later the internet of things had gone through a technological evolution and could access multiple technologies ranging from the web to wireless communication and micro-electromechanical systems to embedded systems. And with gradual advancements, IoT was able to support the traditional fields of automation, GPS, wireless sensor networks and control systems.

Stages of IoT Structure

The Internet of Things’ most basic unit is an IP address assigned to every “thing” connected to the internet. That led to the expansion of IP address space at initial stages of its development. According to Steve Leibson of the Computer History Museum, this development means that we can assign every atom on earth an IP address and still have enough surplus addresses for more than 100+ other piles of earth. The Internet of Things’ structure entails the following four primary stages of operations;

•    Sensors and Actuators

Sensors involve the specialized structures in your smartphone that can detect changes in your environment such as gravitational pull. Sensors in the Internet of Things system are tasked with the collection of data from the environment such as air humidity in measurements and transform this data into useful information. Actuators on the other hand act to intervene with the environmental conditions that the data originates. It may for instance shut off a power supply or adjust the air flow in a room. The two sort of operate in likeness to the human nervous system.

•    The Internet Gateway

The Internet gateway receives data from the sensors in analog form and digitizes this data before it advances to stage three. The internet gateway consists of a Data Acquisition System (DAS), where data goes through aggregation and conversion. It is at the DAS that data from the sensor is converted from analog to digital in preparation for further processing in the next stage through WI-FI, the internet or wired LANs.

•    Edge IT

The Edge IT entails a processing system that further analyses the already digitized and aggregated data before it is moved to stage four which is the data center. The Edge IT systems of processing are situated in remote offices which in most cases are near where sensors are located take the wiring closet for instance.

•    The Data Center and Cloud

After data has undergone adequate processing, it is at this stage that you then get feedback. However, for data that needs a more in-depth processing or where the feedback required is not urgent it is forwarded to a physical data center or the cloud system. There, more robust information technology systems are tasked with further analysis and the secure storage of that data.

Companies that offer IoT

Some top companies have seen the investment value of IoT even before it matures and they have invested heavily in this technology. Thus making IoT a buzz term no longer but a real-time technological investment. Here is a compilation of some of the most powerful companies invested in the Internet of Things;

•    Bosch

Bosch is well known for conducting micro-electromagnetic sensor business of which IoT is at the center of as from 2105. Bosch sensors are now a common part of smart home-thermostats used within the British and overseas market.

•    Rolls Royce

This is another powerful British manufacturing firm that applies the use of IoT enabled sensors. Rolls Royce uses IoT enabled sensors to monitor its jets engines’ performance to rule out problems before they manifest in the wrong place.

•    Amazon Web Service

AWS is one of the biggest players in providing a platform for the Internet of Things. It provides the largest cloud infrastructure and also enables users to create their own IoT applications to allow them to control their IoT sensors remotely.

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•    HPE

HPE acquired Aruba Networks (a networking vendor) for $3 billion as an attempt to tap into the Internet of Things market. HPE now offers IoT bundles via the IoT platform which is universal.

•    Dell

Dell has fully embraced IoT as a centerpiece of its business. Michael Dell even talked about it in a significant amount of time in his EMC World speech in 2016. Dell said that connected devices would steadily rise in number to about 200 billion by the year 2031. Currently, connected devices are estimated to be about 8 billion.

•    Google

Google got into the IoT market by buying Nest at $ 3.2 million. Nest dealt with the sales of smart fire detectors and thermostats, which means they are embedded with IoT sensors.

•    Microsoft

Microsoft is working on making the Internet of Things applicable in our daily businesses. Its customized windows embedded operating systems is one of its products designed to do so, given that it collects and analyses data.

•    Samsung

The Samsung Company makes its Internet of Things infrastructure equipment such as IoT gateways and Low Power Wide Area technologies. It also provides IoT home products that connect to the home.

Security and Privacy Issues of IoT

It comes as no surprise that these two issues may arise as concerns to the public. People like their privacy and need security. However, with the billions of connected devices where video cameras are a common factor these two issues may be threatened. Steps may have been taken to curb insecurity in the use of IoT, but still with the level of connectivity hacking is a very major threat. Privacy, on the other hand, has a very black and white point of view. To access the Internet of Things, you have to give up your privacy and risk having your personal information collected and probably sold.

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In conclusion, the Internet of Things is a revolutionary creation which in the near future will reshape the engineering, commercial, industrial and scientific sectors for the better. This technology will help save energy, money, lives and time despite its shortcoming on privacy and security.

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