What is it?
The Internet of Things (IoT) in simple terms is a network where physical devices can exchange data with each other. It is the idea of connecting things together without requiring human to human or human to computer interaction. The collection of data would come from the built-in sensors within the device, and the connectivity type would be via some common ones today such as wifi or bluetooth. The vision of IoT that is being built is to have a massive expansion of device connections that go beyond computers, such as thermostats or parking meters. The concept of this came out around the year 2010. IoT has evolved since then to become an unstructured machine-generating data entity to be analyzed to help drive improvements. Just to name some of the IoT platforms out there: Google Cloud IoT, AWS IoT, Cisco IoT, and IBM Watson IoT. This concept has a wide variety of applications in various fields. Leveraging the power of the internet, IoT can solve day to day problems very easily.
How does it work?
Any device or physical object with built-in sensors are connected to an Internet of Things platform. These sensors can collect data and sort them to what is most valuable for it’s use case, then this information and analytics can be shared across multiple applications via the internet. An example of this could be a sports watch, where it can track a multitude of data via heart rate sensor. This can give the user important information to make user’s lives easier and more comfortable.
The type of connectivity, networking, and communication protocols used are dependent on the specific IoT application that is needed. Typically devices that use IoT should be able to do most of the work without human interference, but sometimes they can be interacted to setup/give instructions. Currently the main methods of connecting devices is via wifi or bluetooth, when connected it can then use it’s built in sensors to give feedback to the user and collect data to send to the IoT platform that the manufacturer is using.
IoT has a numerous amount of benefits that applies to organizations and individuals, just to list some: monitor overall business, improve customer experience, save time and money, enhance employee productivity, integrate business models, make better business decisions, generate more revenue, improve daily life, have accurate important data on hand, etc. This amount of data can encourage anyone on how they approach their current methods, as the data is pretty hard to argue against. Overall, this is a big impact on improvement in general.
Some current devices using IoT being used in some cities are utility companies, such as those smart meters that some people might have seen around. These smart meters monitor water, gas, and energy consumption, giving cities valuable data that lets them adjust the needs and improvements of their city. There are stats on some of these cities seeing massive improvements, such as residential waste being cut down by over 15%, after deploying out these new devices that use IoT. This shows how powerful important accurate data can be when used properly to improve daily life.
The future potential?
This has a big effect in the future of technology. IoT plays a huge role in influencing the consumer’s experience with a device. For businesses, IoT can help them improve and make decisions about their product as important data can be collected and sorted using IoT. There are no limits to the market of IoT estimations, as application is endless.
Automation of daily tasks, especially in the health industry, could potentially save an obscene amount of money that could be put into further developing health technology or medicine. Overall, the cons of IoT seem to be impactful as the future is heading to a data reliant era. As technology progresses faster and faster, massive amounts of data will be a big influence on it’s growth. The more data that can be collected, the more accurate the analytics will be on telling how to improve management, quality, time, and several other benefiting factors.
A big impact IoT will have in the future are city applications. Cities can become smart cities, where buildings and utility structures all would have sensors to monitor. These sensors can be used to monitor building health (in the case of weakened building material), manage traffic during peak hours, accidents, or rain, and they can be used to automatically switch street lights on and off depending on the actual brightness that is current out on that day. There are an endless amount of use cases for IoT in a city to create an efficient city that min and maxes their resources.
Because IoT can collect sensitive data on people, it is vulnerable to hacks, this makes it unsafe for sharing such sensitive data. This raises concerns as companies that manufacture devices with IoT sometimes do not put time and resources into putting the right security models in place. There are a few high costs that come along with IoT: power consumption, and cost of wireless connectivity.
As IoT grows bigger and bigger, the more compatibility issues will come about. Since a multitude of devices are being connected to each other, different manufacturers might have different standards when it comes to how they handle data on a technical level. Even bluetooth devices sometimes have compatibility issues because of a manufacturer’s software. This could potentially lead to a monopoly in the market where users will have to buy certain appliances to fit certain needs because of compatibility between device to device.
Devices that use IoT require a user’s information to be inputted usually, that information is then stored onto a profile that is yours and is then collecting data under it. That data is constantly being accumulated and being held on the internet to be used for determining what could be improved in general or for experience. The information is constantly being thrown around through several connected devices so that there are multiple access points to this collection of data. This would raise a lot of questions about security as all it takes is one failure of a device, or a person with knowledge on how to access this information.
As mentioned in the drawbacks, the security of IoT is typically up to the company of the product or device. It is relied on how much time and effort that company will put into protecting their users against security and privacy issues. These companies are the ones that will be tracking, analyzing, and storing massive amounts of product/device and user data. Since IoT has the capability to collect massive amounts of data, including highly sensitive data, it would be in everyone’s best interest to reduce the amount of security and privacy risks that IoT will come with in the future.
Because IoT devices are very closely connected, all it takes is one vulnerability exploit to manipulate all of the data across multiple devices. It would require a lot of maintenance and upkeep to prevent these security risks as all devices would need to be updated constantly against vulnerabilities.
There has been already a big case on IoT where Facebook had been accused of wrongfully collecting data on their users. Definitely there should be some oversight on data collection. However, companies should not be completely blocked out of collecting some data from their users as it is one of the most effective ways of improving their product or service.
IoT will become a very big thing in the future, as it is rapidly growing for a relatively new technology. Data will become more and more valuable as time progresses, as it is a powerful asset for growth. The more data that is available, the more efficient the application will become. Since IoT has a good amount of security and privacy issues, it will become important to focus on those problems as equal as the technology itself. There will also need to be some sort of regulation against data collection, as the data being stored and collected are highly sensitive information.