Why IoT? What is IoT?
“Why IoT?” and “What is IoT?” have become two of the biggest questions of our time. The question about the necessity of IoT — Internet of Things and its advantages and disadvantages has actually been asked for quite some time.
You could say that the beginning of IoT devices started with the connection of the first computers and remote-controlled devices to the Internet, basically since the Internet has existed. The first so-called “Internet” aka “ARPANET” and associated devices, developed by ARPA and US DoD, served the purpose at the time of connecting three remote time-sharing mainframe computers located at Santa Monica, UC Berkeley and MIT.
Over time, the complexity, size, and standardisation of ARPANET grew with new protocols such as Telnet, FTP, NCP, and so on.
But can we really call this IoT? Well, the name suggests that the Internet of Things is simply lots of “things” (i.e. physical objects with embedded small computers) connected to the Internet. We could say that’s true and not true.
What comes to someone’s mind in 2021 when they think of IoT might be a little more complex, but let’s continue with our tour of the past.
The first real concept of IoT was probably discussed in 1982, with a modified Coca-Cola vending machine at Carnegie Mellon University, which was one of the first institutions to be connected to ARPANET.
The first visions/concepts of IoT appeared in the 90s in magazines like IEEE Spectrum as “integration and automation from household appliances to entire factories”. Projects like Microsoft’s MaW aiming to connect common business machines like fax machines and photocopiers definitely pushed the boundaries for other competitors, even if it eventually failed.
With the release of browsers such as Mosaic, the dot-com era, and the improvement of Operating Systems ‘s user interface, the Internet became popular among broader segments of the population who had not previously used it due to “technical illiteracy.” During the dot-com era, the percentage of households in the U.S. that owned a computer increased from 15% to 35% as computer ownership evolved from a luxury to a necessity. This marked the transition to the Information Age, an economy based on information technology, and many new businesses were created.
Defining the IoT as “simply the point in time when more ‘things or objects’ were connected to the Internet than people”, Cisco Systems estimated that the IoT was “born” between 2008 and 2009, with the things/people ratio growing from 0.08 in 2003 to 1.84 in 2010.
According to research agency Gartner, there are now at least 20.4 billion IoT devices deployed. It’s important to keep in mind that Gartner is sometimes considered one of the more conservative analyst firms when it comes to the growth of the IoT market. IHS estimates 30 billion by 2020, and semiconductor vendor SoftBank predicts a trillion by 2035.
What are IoT devices?
IoT devices are data processing devices that connect to a network and have the ability to measure, transmit, and compute data.
What is an example of an IoT device?
Connected devices are part of an ecosystem where each device communicates with other related devices in an environment to automate tasks at home, in industry, or in government. They can transmit sensor data to users, businesses, or government agencies. Devices can be categorised into three main groups: Consumer, Enterprise, and Government.
A light bulb that can be turned on via a smartphone app is an IoT device, as is a motion sensor, a smart TV, speaker, refrigerator, a smart thermostat in your office, or a network connected streetlight. An IoT device can be as fluffy as a child’s toy or as serious as a driverless truck. Some larger objects can be filled with many smaller IoT components, such as a jet engine that is now filled with thousands of sensors that collect and send back data to ensure it is operating safely and efficiently. On an even larger scale, smart city projects fill entire regions with sensors that help us understand and control the environment.
In a smart home, for example, devices are designed to detect and respond to a person’s presence. When a person arrives home, their car communicates with the garage to open the gate. Inside the house, the thermostat is already set to the preferred temperature, and the lights are set to a lower intensity and color because the smartwatch data shows it’s been a stressful day. Other smart home devices include sprinklers that adjust the amount of water for the lawn based on the weather forecast, and robotic vacuum cleaners that learn which areas of the house need cleaning most often.
The extensive uses of IoT devices are often divided into consumer, enterprise, and government applications.
It is estimated that by 2023 the number of smart home devices will have surpassed 1 billion in the US alone.
Enterprises are often considered the most mature segment of the IoT. Enterprises are expected to begin/continue investing billions of dollars in connected devices and automation, bringing annual spending on IoT solutions in manufacturing to $450 billion by 2023.
The new Industrial Age — IIoT:
- IIoT and Industry 4.0 are the names given to the use of IoT technology in the business environment. The concept is the same as consumer IoT devices at home, but in this case the goal is to use a combination of sensors, wireless networks, Big Data, AI and analytics to measure and optimise industrial processes.
- Industrial IoT (IIoT) devices are designed for use in factories or other industrial environments. Most IIoT devices are sensors used to monitor an assembly line or other manufacturing process. Data from different types of sensors is transmitted to monitoring applications that ensure important processes are running optimally. These same sensors can also prevent unexpected downtime by predicting when parts need to be replaced.
- If implemented across the supply chain rather than just in individual companies, the impact could be even greater through just-in-time deliveries of materials and managing production from start to finish. Increasing employee productivity or cost savings are two possible goals, but the IIoT can also create new revenue streams for companies; instead of just selling a standalone product — like an engine, for example — manufacturers can also sell predictive maintenance for the engine.
- Simply put, the IIoT is defined as a collection of things and platforms that connect manufacturing environments, smart cities, and farms.
- Manufacturing is a perfect example. Some say we’re on the cusp of the next Industrial Revolution — others refer to it as Industry 4.0 — which is driven by the Industrial Internet of Things — IIoT.
- The data collected can be used to automate operations and improve decision making to improve safety, operational efficiency, management, and predictive maintenance.
- The advantages are so significant, in fact, that companies rejecting Industry 4.0 technology are at a distinct disadvantage as they compete with businesses that use technology to disrupt their industries.
Governments’ interest in the IoT stems from the potential these devices have for developing smart cities. Cameras, smart street lighting, and connected meters that provide a real-time overview of traffic, electricity usage, crime, and environmental factors are just a few examples of IoT devices that governments are interested in.
By 2023, annual investment in the government sector is expected to reach nearly $900 billion.
Security is one of the big issues with IoT. In many cases, sensors collect extremely sensitive data — what you say and do in your own home, for example. The security of that data is critical to consumer trust, but so far the security record of the IoT is extremely poor. Too many IoT devices give little thought to the basics of security, such as encrypting data in transit and at rest.
Vulnerabilities are regularly discovered in software, but many IoT devices lack the ability to be patched, meaning they are permanently at risk. Hackers are now actively targeting IoT devices such as routers and webcams because their lack of security makes them easy to compromise and misuse to build huge botnets.
Vulnerabilities have made smart home devices like refrigerators, ovens and dishwashers vulnerable to hackers. Researchers found that around 100,000 webcams can be hacked with ease, while some internet-connected smartwatches for children have security vulnerabilities that allow hackers to track their location, eavesdrop via the microphone or even communicate with the user.
Unfortunately, diverse data types and computing power among IoT devices mean there’s no ‘one size fits all’ security solution that can protect any IoT deployment.
IoT security can only be accomplished with solutions that deliver visibility, segmentation, and protection throughout the entire network infrastructure.
The solution must have the ability to:
- Learn: With complete network visibility, security solutions can authenticate and classify IoT devices to build a risk profile and assign them to IoT device groups.
- Segment: Once the enterprise understands its IoT attack surface, IoT devices can be segmented into policy-driven groups based on their risk profiles.
- Protect: The policy-driven IoT groups and internal network segmentation enable monitoring, inspection, and policy enforcement based on the activity at various points within the infrastructure.
What are the benefits of the IoT for businesses?
The benefits of IoT for businesses depend on the particular implementation; agility and efficiency tend to be the most dependent. The idea is that companies should have access to more data about their own products and their own internal systems, and a greater ability to make changes in the moment.
Manufacturers are adding sensors to the components of their products so that they can transmit data about their performance. This can help companies identify when a component is likely to fail and replace it before it causes damage. Companies can also use the data generated by these sensors to make their systems and supply chains more efficient, as they have much more accurate data about what is really going on.
Enterprise use of the IoT can be divided into two segments: industry-specific offerings like sensors in a generating plant or real-time location devices for healthcare; and IoT devices that can be used in all industries, like smart air conditioning or security systems.
IoT, where are you headed?
The move towards more internet-enabled products is briefly referred to as IoT, meaning that these traditionally “dumb” and non-internet-enabled physical devices are becoming more and more connected and able to communicate and interact with others over the internet. A futuristic world is often imagined as a place where everything in the environment could communicate without human intervention. From the looks of it, that future could be just around the corner.
The next five years will be transformative for consumers, businesses and governments alike.
Tune in next week when we are going to talk about what does the future hold for IoT segment.
HiGroup is a full web and mobile product development agency with a team of tech enthusiasts that help businesses create, develop and deploy business ideas or develop existing into reality that delights their users.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s start a wonderful project together.