The International Data Corporation says that the Internet of Things is expected to grow into an eight trillion market by the year 2020 with a 7.9 percent compound annual growth rate to follow.
According to the IDC, the Internet of things (IoT) will be instrumental in changing everything in the world of information and communications technology and expects that cars, smart cities, and houses will promote growth along with the accompanying infrastructure. The IDC added that the Internet of Things coupled with machine-to-machine (M2M) data, will come together under the big data umbrella with initial projects being launched and others underway that will bring endless possibilities in the years preceding 2020.
Business Insider Intelligence reports that the “Internet of Things will account for a vast number of connections that include 1.9 billion devices currently with 9 billion devices by 2018. By 2018 the number of devices will be roughly equal to the number of smart TVs, tablet PCs, smartphones, wearable computers, and PCs combined.” Many consumers are yet to become aware of all the possibilities the Internet of Things will bring over the next five or six years.
If you are unsure of what the Internet of Things concept is all about, in this article we will provide you with a general understanding and overview of the Internet of Things and how the concept represents a significant step forward in the history of the Internet.
What is the Internet of Things?
The primary aim of the Internet of Things concept is to extend the capabilities of the existing Internet to include remote control functionality, connectivity that is always on, data sharing, and other technologies that are transferred to products in our physical environment. This means that electronics, appliances, cars, power and gas utilities, and other items in the physical world will be embedded with sensors that are constantly connected.
Information networks that are created by a new concept for connectivity will help to improve business processes and generate innovative business models. Additionally, it will help to reduce costs associated with maintaining information systems and mitigate risks.
The word “thing” in the Internet of Things can refer to a human being with a pacemaker in their heart, a car equipped with alert sensors, a kitchen appliance, and anything else than can have an IP address assigned to it with the capability to transmit data over a network. Instead of our devices being dependent upon us for information, computers can gather information without any intervention from a human being. The end result is the capability to keep track of everything to help reduce costs, waste, and loss. You would always know when things need to be repaired, replaced, or when foods are past their freshness date, to name a few examples.
In order for products in our everyday environment to integrate with the Internet, it is necessary to have some type of way to establish the connection. This is typically accomplished using embedded sensors and RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chips. Additionally, other technologies are implemented which include barcode scanning, Bluetooth connectivity, and wireless technology.
The Origin of the Internet of Things
The Internet of Things has a history dating back to 1999 when a technologist by the name of Kevin Ashton pointed out that almost 100 percent of the information being made available on the Internet has been collected by human beings. The data and information includes images, text, videos, and other information that was aggregated by people.
Ashton predicted that this would change in the near future as devices equipped with new technologies would provide the capability to collect information independently without human intervention. He continued to mention that the technologies would start out as simple RFID tags and low power sensors for object tracking and data collection.
The type of data being collected would include motion detection, air quality, temperature, and a wide variety of other types of information. Additionally, sensor technology would be capable of controlling power sources, video cameras, heating systems, lighting, and much more.
Kevin Ashton gave a name to the above systems and called it The Internet of Things. He then followed up by establishing a number of business initiatives and companies and set out to prove his theory.
Although Kevin Ashton didn’t name the concept until 1999, the Internet of Things has been underway for a few decades. For example, the first appliance with Internet connectivity was established in the early 1980s at Carnegie Mellon University. The appliance was a Coke machine equipped with an Internet connection to allow the programmers to establish a connection to determine the status of cold drinks inside the machine.
Since the establishment of the Internet of Things, over the years the progress has been somewhat sluggish. This mostly due to consumer acceptance of the concept that you can control household appliances over the Internet. Or, view a sensor that tells you when your car tires are running low on air and believing that your refrigerator is capable of letting you know when food items have reached their expiration date, and more.
It has only been until recently, that the idea of the Internet of Things has started to finally come to fruition and is about to become part of the mainstream. This is mainly due to the influx of smartphone and tablet PCs that are being equipped with the exact technologies that were predicted by Kevin Ashton in 1999. These are technologies such as RFID, sensors, wireless communications, and Bluetooth which allow us to convert devices to remote controls and other functions that create an Internet of Things.
The Internet of Things as Mainstream
The Internet of Things becoming mainstream also presents a new generation of challenges since data is being collected with no human intervention. The end result is a large volume of data generated by the Internet of Things that must be captured, routed to the appropriate destination, analyzed, and then handled in a timely manner. This problem is already being addressed using innovative technologies that make up the Internet of Things.
An example of the technological innovations being explored is the use of wireless sensor networks that monitor the progress of things such as temperature conditions and air quality to help scientists accurately conduct experiments. For example, the technology was recently implemented for a grain growing experiment in Australia to determine what grains grow the best in different types of environments.
Without using the wireless sensor network, the experiment could become very complex since it would require the grains to be planted country-wide in order to determine growing conditions for specific environments. Instead, the wireless sensor network can be used to monitor the growing process before sending the information and data back to the laboratory for analysts to conduct the experiments and determine the results.
Other innovative technologies are being used in various transportation hubs that have wireless sensors installed on their networks. The technology keeps commuters updated on the exact location of transportation sources such as buses and trains, to let commuters know exactly when they can expect their transportation to arrive. The technology is capable of providing updates in real-time and also reports on the status of traffic conditions, in addition to the exact location of transportation sources.
Manufacturers of sporting gear are also deploying innovative technologies to track athletic performance and the progress of workouts. The information is sent to a centralized server location to allow users to see where improvements can be made in their performance.
These are only a few examples of how the Internet of Things is beginning to evolve and become mainstream. Another contributor to the growth in IoT is the inception of IPv6.
The Role of IPv6 in the Internet of Things
IPv6 is a technology that increases the Internet address space. This IPv6 an important part of the expansion of the Internet of Things. An IP (Internet Protocol) address is a numerical identifier for every device that connects to the Internet. Without a unique IP address for each device, it would be impossible for devices to communicate with one another over the Internet.
With more and more devices connecting to the Internet, the demand for more IP addresses has caused the current IPv4 protocol to become depleted. To allow more devices to communicate over the Internet, a new protocol known as IPv6 (IP version 6) has been implemented which also contributes to the growth in the Internet of Things.
The IPv6 protocol is known as the next generation of the Internet since it enables an increased number of devices to connect to the Internet. The original concept of IPv6 was to solve the problems associated with the IPv4 protocol such as lack of increased capabilities, restricted mobility, device collection of data, and much more. It has also promoted the Internet of Things with the capability of devices to collect data without any human intervention.
Technology experts have noted that under the IPv6 protocol, you could assign an IP address to each atom that makes up the earth’s surface and still have enough IP addresses leftover to assign addresses to more than one hundred new earths. This raises concerns over data privacy and security since human beings can potentially assign an IP address to every “thing” in the Internet of Things on the earth.
What Is Next?
The Internet of Things has shown a lot of potential in a variety of ways. Especially since the increased adoption of smartphones and tablet PCs within the last few years. However, in order for the Internet of Things to move forward there are policies, business concerns, and technical challenges that must be addressed.
Those who have demonstrated early acceptance of the Internet of Things will be required to verify that business models which are driven by sensors are capable of creating higher value. Additionally, issues associated with data security and information privacy will need to be reviewed as well. Especially when it comes to meeting compliance regulations for data use and storage of consumer information.
There is also the concern of the legal liability over data breaches and data loss that may occur as the result of poor decision making on the part of device-to-device communications. Standards which support the use of sensors will need to be in place to ensure that data can be transmitted seamlessly between devices and sensors in order to promote widespread use of the technology.
Additionally, software capable of collecting and analyzing data will need to be improved to handle large volumes of data to aid in accurate decision making processes, management of business operations, and effective product development, among other concerns. The change in the way information is being collected and processed will have a huge impact on various structures within an organization in terms of optimizing business processes.
Organizations of all sizes can start implementing new technologies as a move toward the Internet of Things and in an effort to position their business for new changes. The changes will replace the conventional approaches that are no longer producing satisfactory results.
An industry that is a prime target for this type of technology are energy consumption utilities that can test emerging technologies on a small scale. Additionally, well established enterprises can begin to establish partnerships with providers of new and emerging technologies that are helping to create new capabilities associated with the Internet of things for targeted industrial sectors and other industry areas.