When the first publicly available web page was accessed on August 23, 1991, Tim Burners Lee’s greatest contribution to mankind triggered an avalanche of possibilities which after 26 years has become an indispensable part of our lives. Internet can be a synonym for connectivity but nothing justifies that proposition as much as Internet of Things (IoT).
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the inter-networking of ‘Things’ which are actually connected entities, and can be in any form such as physical devices, vehicles, smart buildings and appliances that are equipped with electronics, software, sensors, actuators and network connectivity which enable them to collect and exchange data. IoT has evolved due to a convergence of multiple technologies, including ubiquitous wireless communication, real-time analytics, machine learning, commodity sensors and embedded systems. The ‘Things’ in IoT refers to a wide variety of devices such as pacemakers, monitoring implants, biochip transponders on domestic animals, automobiles with built-in sensors, air conditioners, refrigerators or coffee machines. These devices collect useful data with the help of various existing technologies and then autonomously help the data to flow between other devices. This makes it possible to automate systems and processes such as automation of lighting, heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) systems, and appliances such as washer/dryers, robotic vacuums, air purifiers, ovens or refrigerators/freezers.
To put it briefly, IoT is ‘the infrastructure of the information society’ which makes it a possibility that devices can be accessed, sensed and/or controlled remotely across existing network infrastructure, and in turn ensuring direct integration of the physical world into computer-based systems resulting in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit with reduced human intervention.
IoT is possible only with the help of sensors and actuators that perform transduction of real-world parameters into bits and bytes so that computers can understand them. This is indeed the genesis of cyber-physical systems which can also include smart grids, smart homes, intelligent transportation and smart cities. Experts estimate that IoT will consist of almost 50 billion objects by 2020.
With IoT it is possible to establish connectivity of devices, systems and services that goes beyond machine-to-machine (M2M) communications with a variety of protocols, domains and applications. The interconnection of these embedded devices is expected to usher in automation in nearly all fields, while also enabling advanced applications like a smart grid and expanding to areas such as smart cities.
The possibilities are endless with the IoT. When IoT solutions are tailor-made with focus on domain specific needs, some other form of IoT is born. For example, the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) is the collection of medical devices and applications that connect to healthcare IT systems through online computer networks. Medical devices equipped with Wi-Fi allow the machine-to-machine communication that is the basis of IoMT. IoMT devices link to cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services, on which captured data can be stored and analyzed. For better healthcare, IoMT includes remote patient monitoring of people with chronic or long-term conditions, tracking patient medication orders and the location of patients admitted to hospitals; in addition to patients’ wearable mHealth devices, which can send information to caregivers. Infusion pumps that connect to analytics dashboards and hospital beds are equipped with sensors that measure patients’ vital signs and are medical devices that can be converted to or deployed as IoMT technology. This can also help prevent an epidemic, understand the demographical needs and then take preventive action.
IoT when combined with other revolutionary ideas has opened windows of opportunities for a ‘truly connected cyber life’. IoT when combined with an IFTTT (If This Then That) command makes the workflow easy and productive. Though there exists privacy concerns about IoT and Internet in general, there is no doubt that the Internet is ubiquitous and will have more and more impact on our lives. It is the ease and seamless integration into our lives is what makes IoT a great supportive ecosystem. As Arthur C Clarke said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, it surely is not an exaggeration that IoT works like magic!