Written by Moghu Agarwal
Internet of Things, or IoT, refers to the trillions of physical devices around the globe that are now connected to the Internet, which store and exchange data. Thanks to the advent of super-cheap computer chips and the ubiquity of wireless networks, it's possible to transform anything from anything as little as a pill to anything as huge as a plane, into a part of the IoT.
Connecting all these different items and attaching sensors to them brings a degree of artificial intelligence to devices that would otherwise be dumb, allowing them to exchange real-time data without involving a human being. Internet of Things makes the world around us smarter and more adaptive, by integrating the digital and physical worlds.
A device in the internet of things can be a person with a heart monitor implant, livestock with a biochip transponder, a vehicle which has built-in sensors to warn the pilot when engine oil is low or some other natural or man-made entity that could be given an Internet Protocol (IP) address and is capable of transmitting data over a network.
Organizations in a number of industries are constantly using IoT to function more effectively, understand consumers in order to provide improved customer support, improve decision-making and maximize the profitability of the business.
How IoT works
The IoT ecosystem consists of web-enabled smart devices that use embedded technologies, such as processors, sensors and communication devices, to capture, distribute and function on the data they collect from the surroundings. IoT devices pass data which they obtain by connecting to an IoT gateway or any other edge nodes where data is either sent to the cloud to be analyzed or locally. Often, these devices interact with other similar devices and act on the information they receive from each other. Devices do much of the work without human involvement, although people can communicate with devices — for example, to set them up, send them directions, or access data.
Connectivity, networking and communication standards used by these cloud-enabled devices are primarily dependent on the particular IoT frameworks deployed.
IoT may also allow the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to make data collection processes faster and more interactive.
Devices and equipment with built-in sensors are linked to the Internet of Things network, which incorporates data from various devices and uses algorithms to share the most relevant information with applications designed to meet particular needs.
These efficient IoT systems can determine precisely what information is relevant and what should be overlooked. This data can also be used to recognize patterns, make suggestions, and identify potential issues before they arise.
For example, if I own an automotive manufacturing company, I would like to know which optional components (for example, leather seats or alloy wheels) are most popular. Using the Internet of Things, I can:
Using sensors to determine which regions in the showroom were the most popular or where buyers remain the longest;
drill down to the existing sales data to identify the products are selling the fastest;
automatically match sales data with the supply, so that popular items do not go out of stock.
The information gathered by the connected devices allows me to make wise choices about which components to stock, based on real-time information, which helps me save time and money.
The power to make processes more effective comes from the knowledge given by advanced analytics. Smart objects and systems mean that you can automate certain tasks, particularly when they are repetitive, boring, time-consuming or even dangerous. Let's look at a couple of scenarios and see what this feels like in real life.
Scenario #1: IoT in your home
Suppose that you wake up at 7 a.m. every day to go to work. The alarm clock does the job of waking you up all right. That's when something goes wrong. Your trains have canceled, and now you have to drive to work. The only drawback is that it takes longer to drive, so you'd have to get up at 6.45 a.m. to stop being late. Yeah, and it's raining, so you're going to have to drive slower than normal. A linked or IoT-enabled alarm clock will be reset on the basis of all these factors to ensure that you get to work on time.
Scenario #2: IoT in transport
Now that you've been woken up by your smart clock, you're going to work. The engine light turns on. You don't want to go straight to the garage, but what if there's something urgent? In a connected vehicle, the sensor that activated the engine light will interact with the others in the vehicle. The diagnostic bus part collects data from these sensors and transfers it to the car gateway, which sends the most important information to the manufacturer's network. The supplier will use the car data to give you an appointment to repair the component, send you directions to the closest dealer, and make sure that the right replacement component is ordered so that it is ready for you when you turn up.
Why IoT is important
The Internet of Things allows people to live and work smarter and have full control over their lives. In addition to offering smart devices for home automation, IoT is important for the market. IoT provides businesses with a real-time look at how their processes actually operate, offering insights into everything from computer efficiency to supply chain and logistics operations.
IoT helps businesses to simplify operations and increased labor costs. It also reduces waste and increases service quality, making it easier to produce and supply products and ensuring consistency in consumer transactions.
As such, IoT is among the most essential innovations in daily routine and will continue to pick up momentum as more businesses understand the ability of smart devices to keep them productive.
IoT benefits to organizations
The Internet of Things provides a range of opportunities to organizations. Some of the benefits are industry-specific, and others are common across several industries. These benefits of IoT allow companies to:
monitor their overall business processes;
improve the customer experience (CX);
save time and money;
enhance employee productivity;
integrate and adapt business models;
make better business decisions; and
generate more revenue.
IoT helps organizations to rethink how they manage their markets and provide them with tools to develop their business strategies. Typically, IoT is most prevalent in manufacturing, transport and utility organizations, using sensors and other IoT devices; however, use cases have also been established for organizations in the agriculture, infrastructure, and home automation industries, leading some organizations to digital transformation.
IoT can help farmers in agriculture by making their work easier. Sensors can collect information on rainfall, humidity, temperature and soil content, and other factors that would help to automate farming practices.
The ability to monitor network activities is also an aspect that IoT can help with. For example, sensors may be used to track events or changes in structural structures, bridges, and other infrastructure. This offers advantages such as cost-saving, time-saving, quality-of-life workflow improvements and a paperless workflow.
Home automation enterprises may use IoT to control and manage the building's electrical and mechanical systems. Intelligent cities can help people reduce waste and energy consumption on a broader scale. IoT impacts almost every sector, including healthcare, banking, retail, and manufacturing enterprises.
Some of the advantages of IoT include the following:
The freedom to access information from anywhere on any computer at any time.
Enhanced communication between linked electronic devices.
Transferring data packets over the wireless link save time and money
Automation of activities that help enhance the quality of business services and the need for human interaction.
Some disadvantages of IoT include the following:
As more devices are connected, the risk of loss of information or sensitive data increases.
Enterprises may eventually have to manage a huge number of IoT devices and collecting and managing the data from all those devices be challenging.
If there's a bug in the system, it's likely that all connected devices would be corrupted.
As there are no international standards of compatibility for IoT, it makes the situation difficult for devices from different manufacturers to communicate with each other.
There are several emerging IoT Frameworks, including the following:
Amazon Web Services (AWS) is an IoT cloud computing platform launched by Amazon. This platform is built to allow smart devices to easily connect to and communicate seamlessly with the AWS cloud and other smart devices.
Arm Mbed is a forum for designing IoT applications built on Arm microcontrollers. The purpose of the Arm Mbed IoT platform is to provide a scalable, linked and safe environment for IoT devices by incorporating Mbed tools and services.
Microsoft's Azure Suite is a platform which comprises of a series of services that allow people to connect and retrieve information from their IoT devices, and also to execute a variety of data operations, such as multidimensional analysis, transformation, and aggregation, and to visualize these operations in a manner that is business-friendly.
Google's Brillo / Weave is a forum for IoT applications to be introduced quickly. The framework consists of two main elements: Brillo, an Android-based OS for the development of embedded low-power devices, and Weave, an IoT-based communication protocol that acts as a communication language between the system and the cloud.
Calvin is Ericsson's open-source IoT framework aimed at creating and managing distributed systems that allow devices to communicate with each other. Calvin contains an application developer system as well as a runtime environment for running applications.
Consumer and enterprise IoT applications
There is a range of real-world implementations of the Internet of Things, ranging from consumer IoT and business IoT to manufacturing and industrial IoT (IIoT). IoT implementations cover a broad variety of vertical implementations, including automotive, telecommunications and electricity.
In the consumer segment, for example, smart homes fitted with smart thermostats, smart appliances, and connected heating, lighting and electronic devices can be remotely operated via computers and smartphones.
Wearable devices with sensors and software can capture and analyze user data and send messages to other mobile technologies in order to make life simpler and more convenient for users. Wearable devices are also used for public safety— for example, to increase response times for first responders in emergency situations by providing optimized routes to the scene or by monitoring vital signs for construction workers or firefighters at life-threatening sites.
In health care, IoT provides many advantages, including the opportunity to track patients more closely by analyzing the data produced. Hospitals also use IoT systems to perform tasks such as inventory control for pharmaceuticals and medical equipment.
For example, smart buildings may reduce energy costs by using sensors that detect how many occupants are in a room. The temperature can be changed automatically— for example, by turning the air conditioner on if the sensors sense that the conference room is full or by turning the heat down if everyone in the office has gone home.
In agriculture, IoT-based smart farming systems can help track, for example, the light, temperature, humidity and soil moisture of crop fields using connected sensors. IoT is also influential in the development of irrigation systems.
In a smart city, IoT sensors and installations, such as smart street lights and smart meters, will help minimize traffic, save electricity, track and fix environmental issues, and improve sanitation.
IoT security and privacy issues
The internet of things links billions of devices to the internet and requires the use of billions of data points, all of which need to be protected. Due to its extended attack surface, IoT protection and IoT privacy are cited as major concerns.
In 2016, one of the most infamous recent IoT attacks was Mirai, a botnet that breached Dyn's domain name server provider and took down many websites for a long time in one of the biggest distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks ever seen. Attackers have gained access to the network by leveraging poorly protected IoT tools.
Since IoT devices are closely related, all the hackers need to do is exploit one vulnerability to access all the data, making it unusable. Manufacturers who do not upgrade their products regularly— or at all — leave them vulnerable to cybercriminals. In addition, connected apps also ask users to enter their personal details, including names, ages, addresses, phone numbers and even social media accounts— details that are invaluable to hackers.
Hackers are not the only threat to the Internet; privacy is another big problem for IoT users. For example, companies that produce and distribute consumer IoT devices may use such devices to collect and sell personal data to users. Beyond leaking personal data, IoT poses a risk to vital infrastructure, including power, transport, and financial services.