The Internet of Things (IoT) has been waiting in the wings for a couple of decades but now you can email your fridge to find out if you need milk, and remotely adjust the thermostat in your house - amongst other things.
But now the Internet of Things has actually arrived.
It's real. I recently had a new boiler installed, and had the option to install a thermostat which I could adjust remotely through an app on my mobile phone. But with all the hype surrounding it, how the heck does the IoT work?
Internet of Things terminology explained
This article explains the components of the Internet of Things:
- Endpoints. These are the actual devices that control or sense the environment, like your thermostat;
- Simple hubs. These connect endpoints to broader networks and allow the product to adapt to the user's behaviour (e.g. remembering that you like the heating on all day at weekends);
- Integrating hubs. These co-ordinate all the appliances in your home (electric window-blinds, solar panels, the fridge, the central heating);
- Networks and cloud services. These control access to the appliances connected to the Internet of Things;
- Enhanced services. These will use aggregated data from the Internet of Things to inform other systems, like traffic control or insurance (for example).
Companies may adopt different roles in relation to the Internet of Things:
- Enablers. They will build the technology;
- Engagers. They will provide services to customers;
- Enhancers. They will provide integrated systems;
- Embedders. They will be the end-users of the Internet of Things.
If you are in the business of software, medical appliances, manufacturing, logistics, or packaging, your business environment could be transformed by the Internet of Things. It could transform your workplace and your customers' experience of your product. So it's time to develop a strategy for leveraging the potential of the IoT.
Are you ready?
The IoT has its technological roots in the decades-long effort to monitor and control the physical environment in which people work and play. Its most basic components are embedded devices that have existed for years: thermostats that sense ambient temperature and control heating and cooling systems, sensors that manage braking systems in automobiles, pacemakers that regulate the heart, airplane black boxes that track flight paths, and location devices that monitor the whereabouts of industrial equipment. In the past, some of these devices were wired together into more complex systems. But it wasn’t until they were provided with some intelligence, connected to the Internet, and empowered by a new wave of technological accessibility—through cloud computing, smartphones, and the prototyping capabilities of digital fabrication—that the IoT came into being.