As the Internet of Things becomes an increasingly popular topic of conversation, we are here to lay the foundations of what the concept of IoT really is. As people become familiar with blockchain and cryptocurrencies, it is only a matter of time before the IoT becomes deeply ingrained in our day to day living.
The Internet of Things refers to millions of physical devices that connect to the internet and collect and share data. These systems of interrelated computing devices can be as small as a pill or as large as an aeroplane and are able to communicate real-time data. This marks a prominent milestone in the evolution of the Computer Age.
This shift is possible due to a number of factors that have come into play in the last few decades, such as the decreased cost of connecting to the internet and broadband internet becoming more accessible. There is also the added advantage of more devices being built with sensors and WiFi capabilities and how these devices have reduced in cost becoming more accessible to everybody. These factors contributed to making the perfect storm for IoT to ignite.
While the term was coined in 1999 by Kevin Ashton, the IoT era is believed to have only truly begun in 2008 when the world officially had more devices connected to the internet than people.
An IoT device is any natural or man-made object that can be assigned an Internet Protocol (IP) address and transfer data over a network. It can range from smart speakers like Amazon's Alexa and Google Next to a lightbulb, security camera or thermostat that are controlled by apps, from heart rate monitors to sprinklers, and everything in between.
IoT technology is made up of physical devices that consist of networks of sensors, processors and communication hardware. These internetworking components are able to collect, send and act on the data they receive.
The data is then analysed in the cloud through an IoT gateway or other edge device, or communicated to other related devices from where action can be executed. These processes are all automated, however, human invention can occur when setting them up, accessing data or giving the devices instructions. This technology essentially enables the remote monitoring, programming and control of specific data with minimal human intervention.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can also be implemented to assist in making data collecting processes easier and more dynamic.
In a practical example, an IoT device such as a thermometer will collect the data (temperature), this will then be collated and transferred through an IoT gateway or IoT hub from where the back-end system or user interface (e.g. app on a smartphone) will analyse the data and take action.
Already seeing a huge advancement in home and office devices, the IoT movement on a domestic level is big and getting bigger. Home automation is fast becoming a very lucrative endeavour, with the market valued at $44.68 billion in 2020 alone. This ranges from lights to air conditioners to security systems, anything in the home that can be controlled by an app, including smart hubs connecting these devices, like TVs and refrigerators.
IoT devices have also proven their worth among elders and people with disabilities, as they are able to provide assistive technology for sight, hearing or mobility limitations.
While the smart home industry is booming, the industrial use cases are not far behind. IoT in business allows companies to automate processes and can help to monitor the performance of systems and machines in real-time, from supply chain management to logistic operations.
The market has already seen devices used to track environmental conditions (humidity, air pressure, temperature), prevalent in the designs of smart cities. They also prove their worth in the agricultural sector where farmers can use these devices to monitor the water levels of livestock or automatically order new products when the supply is about to run out.
Already over a decade into the movement, IoT is only going to get bigger. With a range of use cases that span almost every sector, it's no surprise that the projected value for the industry in 2028 is over $97 billion. Forecasts also predict that industrial and automotive equipment will present the largest opportunity for growth in the future, while smart home and wearable devices will dominate in the coming years.
However, if the implementation of these devices is not done well this could present a new challenge to the industry. For example, if you have several smart home devices running in your home and need to log into several different apps to use them, this will hinder the growth of that sector.
Any device falls into the category of IoT as long as it collects and shares data enabling smarter working with more control. If implemented correctly, IoT devices may well be a permanent fixture in our lives in the next decade, with analysts predicting that adoption and spending will grow exponentially in the next few years.