What is The Internet of Things?

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The-Internet-of-ThingsAccording to expert predictions, the Internet of Things (IoT) will be the most important technology-market trend in the coming decade, and expected to stimulate the global economy and generate business opportunities to the tune of a trillion dollars. 

The internet, cloud computing and developments in small low powered/low cost sensor & control products are combining into what is popularly becoming called the Internet of Things. Every 15 years there appears to be a seismic breakthrough in technology – the mainframe in 1965, the PC in 1980, world wide web in 1995 and IoT in 2010. The internet began very much with people-to-people communications focussing on giving you information to search or send. This has migrated through people-to-object where it was presented in pre-digested form for browsing, and onto object-to-object where in many cases it happens without us even recognising it. Like the GPS/traffic update system in your car for example, you don’t have to constantly respond and tell the system how you are progressing along any preselected path, it knows via input from other connected devices and takes you from A to Z seamlessly.

IoT-DevicesAs the technology matures, new automation devices are developed that dynamically communicate with each other and provide an almost unlimited potential scope, like intelligent buildings. Imagine you have a meeting with clients at your office but you have little time to prepare. Before you get to the office you can set-up the air conditioning, lighting and boot-up the computer through an app on your phone. After work, there’s no scrabbling around for keys in the dark – you’ve switched on the porch light and unlocked the door with the press of a button, and maybe even turned on the TV, the oven was already warming from an earlier instruction and you know the food is available because your fridge downloaded a contents list earlier so you could decide what to eat, all whilst sitting in your robot-driven taxi!

These are relatively obvious applications that may already exist, but what about disaster prevention whereby intelligent environmental monitoring systems could not only warn of impending danger but automatically take some instant avoiding action. But the real benefit will be achieved if we take a much wider view, by collecting, monitoring and analysing real-time data which is reliably transmitted and analysed to build those short-term scenarios in advance.

Methods of obtaining weather & disaster data aren’t new, but the old technology like paper charts or manual readings isn’t sufficient to cope with the volume, speed or scope that we need now with population density and complexity of modern city living. Historically many prevention schemes were only instigated after a disaster had already befallen that area. IoT makes it possible to collect and distribute reliable data and provide intelligent processing at an affordable cost for current warning systems such as urban flood, river, landslide, bridge, earthquake, lake and coastal erosion.

As technology develops at an exponential rate, performance increases and costs fall so we can link almost anything to anything. As we speak governments like China and the US have national IoT programmes for smart healthcare, intelligent transportation, intelligent factories & homes, intelligent environmental monitoring, security & control/immigration.