A Guide to the Internet of Things

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shutterstock_155472707It sounds like something out of a science fiction movie – a world where everything is connected via the Internet. But the Internet of Things (IoT) is not just the figment of a screen writer’s imagination. It is fast becoming a reality.

What is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things is a concept that describes a world where everything is connected to the Internet via sensory devices. It is a world where all things not only communicate with each other, but possess a form of ambient intelligence that allows them to act autonomously. It is a view of the world as one big information system.

When did the IoT begin?

Digital innovation expert, Kevin Ashton, is credited with first postulating the idea of the Internet of Things in 1999. But devices have been ‘talking’ to one another for many years, using wireless technologies, micro-electromechanical systems and the Internet.

Industrial robots and nanotechnology in medicine are examples of inanimate objects communicating with each other and acting autonomously, and the emergence of new technologies such as Bluetooth, WiFi and QR codes has seen the number of interconnected objects grow exponentially in the past few years.

Where will the IoT lead?

The Internet of Things is expected to grow from the 1.9 billion devices in use today to a staggering 9 billion devices by the year 2018.

The development of Internet Protocol version 6 is likely to fan this rapid growth. IPv6, which provides an ID and location system for computers on networks, has dramatically expanded the available address space on the Internet. So much so in fact, that experts predict we could now theoretically assign an IP address to every atom on earth a hundred times over.

If everything on the planet had an IP address, the possibilities would be mind-boggling. If everything were constantly gathering, analysing and exchanging information, we could eliminate waste entirely, reduce costs dramatically and be able to accurately predict failures long before they happened.

Areas where the IoT would be highly beneficial to society include:

  • Waste management (recycling)
  • Energy management (electricity and water usage)
  • Logistics (supply chain monitoring)
  • Agriculture (soil and water monitoring)
  • Manufacturing (assembly lines)
  • Traffic control (parking and congestion management).

To date, the IoT has been mostly about machine-to-machine (M2M) communication, but as the boundaries between humans and machines become less clearly defined, we could see a future where everything and everyone is connected via IP addresses.

Then the Internet would cease to be something on the other side of a computer screen and be all around us in everything we see, do and experience. This would truly be the Internet of Things.

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