Imagine waking up in the morning, your alarm goes off and simultaneously sends a signal to your coffee maker to brew your coffee. Your outfit for the day made ready depending on your mood, hot water bath set up with your choice of music and your day’s plan prepared for you next to your breakfast table. Internet of Things is not just a catchy phrase. The wheels of this concept have already been set into motion. IoT is expected to grow and expand as more and more devices get connected, intended on making people’s lives easier.
‘Internet of Things’ refers to the interconnection of objects with each other and the internet. It is no more a futuristic term. It is something we can see happening around us. The technology of IoT has been in making even before we had computers, in the form of basic machine-to-machine communication. Now we see Amazon’s Alexa emerge as our personal assistant, informing us of real-time data and getting things done for us at our voice command. IoT has the capability of turning everything into ‘smart’. From smart cities, connected
cars, home automation, IoT has the full potential to impact our daily lives.
But when exactly did this come into existence?
The very initial records of people imagining communications between machines and people took place in the early 1800s. Machines provided direct communication as early as 1830 when the telegraph came into being. Calculations took place from mechanical to electronic calculators in the 20th century. ARPANET ( Advanced Research Projects Agency Network ) created by the United States Defense Advanced Research Project Agency
(ARPA) in 1969 served as a testbed for new networking technologies, linking many universities and research centers (Foote, Foote and Foote, 2017). It is said that Automatic Teller Machines or ATMs are known to be an initial IoT object that went on the internet as far back as 1974. In fact, a modified Coke machine at Carnegie Mellon University in the year 1982 became the first smart appliance connected to the internet that could tell whether the newly loaded drinks were cold. In the 1980s, commercial service providers began supporting the public use of ARPANET giving rise to our modern-day internet. Tim Berners-Lee proposed the World Wide Web in 1989. Tracking with the help of GPS emerged in 1993 with an efficient system of 24 satellites, giving way to more private and commercial satellites as well. The very existence of satellites and landlines makes for
basic communications for the IoT. (YouTube, 2017) (Forbes.com, 2017) The naming of this concept, however, officially took place in 1999 in a presentation to Proctor and Gamble by Kevin Ashton. (Forbes.com, 2017)
IoT is evolving systems using multiple technologies- from the internet to wireless communications and from micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) to embedded systems. Basically, any device connected to the internet with an on/off switch is a part of the Internet of Things.
In layman’s language, IoT comprises anything that could and can be connected via the Internet. What is the Internet? It is a stream of ginormous amounts of data packets flowing across webs and tubes of the network. Futurists say, ‘ Anything that can be connected, will be connected’ (Forbes.com, 2017). So now let’s image city all the way connected to the internet(Forbes.com, 2017)
With such a system in place, any problem can be tackled without any delay at all. A tire may be ready for you in your nearest garage even before you acknowledge a puncture and plan on going to the garage. In fact, we may be able to solve a lot of problems ourselves with the aid of IoT, or the problems may even get solved themselves. But the point that is being missed here is, how are these problems noted, messages generated, and what happens when there is no problem encountered? The answer is, enormous amounts of data is continuously being generated and transferred all the time. In fact, when there is no problem encountered, data notifications saying ‘No Problem’ is also being transferred. But where is this being transferred to? How does this work? All the data that we generate, receive and transfer is divided into smaller data packets containing the information and the address. All the data packets are mixed an sent to the next switching house like our service provider. From there, all the data packets are streamlined according to their addresses and sent to the data center at the receiving end (For example, Google’s or Facebook’s data center). Similar switching processes
happen when we receive the data. TCP(transfer control protocol) ensures there is no delay, change in order, missing or duplication of data.
Where is this data stored?
All the data that we are generating or receiving is physically stored somewhere! Either, data centers -like Google’s data center which holds an enormous amount of data that it displays and what its users generate; cloud computing-which works by sharing data over all of its users by renting a part of their user’s data holding space; or other ways in which data is stored.(Business Insider, 2017)
But, the amount of data that will be generated in an IoT integrated system, connecting cities and states altogether will be way more than the present. Hence, one of the biggest problems that development of IoT might face is its data holding capacity. Will we be able to develop our hardware to hold an enormous amount of data generated every minute? The need of the hour is to develop the entire system together- the plan, software, infrastructure, interface and hardware. Hence, we need to build great software and hardware with an advanced backend having multiple security levels.
Applications of IoT (Postscapes.com, 2017)
Examining the current trends of research and application in the field of Asset Tracking and IoT, we observed that major work is being done for security. Small scale IoT Asset Tracking projects such as tracking hospital equipment and machines within the parameter of a hospital using RFID(Radio Frequency Identification) chips and scanners, all connected to the internet, is a growing motion. Another example that is currently in the process of implementation in various schools is tracking the location of students before reaching and after leaving school. RFID chips and scanners are installed in the school and bus gates and on the id cards are given to the students. This way, every time the child is entering the bus, reaching the school, or leaving, the parent gets notified and can decide when to go receive their child. If there is an issue with the security of the child, he/she can be tracked via the id card he/she is carrying.
Another larger-scale application of IoT Asset Tracking is with big industrial equipment, machines and automobile transporters. With equipment and machines, if the sensors and chips detect any fault(for example overheating, vibrations, energy loss) it can directly notify the company responsible for maintenance and as well as the dealer company. This way any delay and further wear and tear can be prevented. Large problems have been seen in terms of the quality of commodities, like oil, grain, etc. being tampered with. IoT enabled security systems are making their way into the market. With this, as soon as trucks, tankers and other industrial equipment are locked, a system-generated security code is sent only to the client and the dealer. Any tampering with the commodity or the lock will be noted and notified to both parties.
Moreover, we have observed crime rates are the highest in automobile theft. IoT enabled lock systems attached to your smartphones or any other internet-enabled system of your choice is connected to your vehicle. In case of theft, the vehicle can be tracked. Also, the system enables you to switch off the engine of your vehicle using your smart device. Security is one of the biggest markets of IoT. Plans towards safer, protected homes involve installing motion sensors, glass break sensors, etc. With security alarms turning
on, you as well as your nearest security help can be notified. One futuristic product of IoT Asset Tracking under development is tracking company assets for better maintenance and management. This works for the company by helping it track all its sold and installed assets, calculating and knowing the product’s life, helping it make decisions based on the product’s yearly depreciation, appropriate selling price and making effective business decisions. For example, if a product is sold and tracked via the company, after a few years of its market depreciation, it can be exchanged with the better product, deducting its remaining market value.
What happens next?
It is said that by the year 2020, the number of things connected to the internet is likely to exceed 50 billion. That is the kind of power with which the future is gushing at us. Not only will it make life easier, secure and productive, the more information and data, the easier it is to make the right decision. With its efficiency, it will save time and money. But with IoT emerging, the complexity is only growing and there is a possibility of failure. With more and more devices being connected, it is certain that the Internet of things will affect our already crowded and overworked life. There will be an information overload that may or may not require human attention but the constant, bugging notifications will be inevitable. Privacy and security is the top concerns (Forbes.com, 2017), IoT opens up a gateway for hackers to access and misuse private data. Humans will become dependent on technology and in case of failure of the system, all of us will be on the road to ‘dystopia’. We say that IoT will ensure energy efficiency and cost reduction, but the overall consumption of electricity will increase as more and more IoT devices will continue to come on the table. Automation of daily tasks will lead to employment issues in society.
The question we should ask is, Is complete automation of all devices necessary? A device like a refrigerator, with a lifespan of 10-15 years, only needs to keep its contents cool. Is there really a need for it to interact with the user? By doing so, we only end up reducing its lifespan to 5-10 years. Do we really need to move beyond that and apply automation and in turn decrease the device’s lifespan? (YouTube, 2017) It is interesting how there is a shift in the vision of IoT. Initially made for people and making their lives simpler, the target is drawn towards things, not only connecting them to one another but making them capable of communicating themselves. In the coming years, IoT will change the way it is appearing today. It is quite possible that it may remake everything, from cars to health care, homes and cities. The goal should be to make IoT move in a more humanistic way. I think it is safe to say that the Internet of Things may soon become Things of the Internet or the Internet of Everything.
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