The Internet of Things

Picture by WikiPedia

IoT or Internet of Things—is it real? One reads about coffee machines automatically starting your toaster, and warming your car so it is ready when you leave for work. Is that what the IoT is all about?

Let’s take a closer look at where the IoT is really at.

An Overview
The IoT is certainly real and major companies are investing in it. It is too big a subject to cover in a blog post—please do read the overview paper in Wikipedia. It is a heavy read but not too technical, and gives comprehensive references.

Traditionally it has been we humans who have communicated over the internet. By contrast, the foundation of the IoT is “machine-to-machine” communication. Wherever there are a lot of electronic “things”, there is a potential for IoT. So for example, around a patient in hospital we have a lot of electronic equipment. It is not surprising to see IoT applications in healthcare with caregivers being informed of a patient’s condition via smartphones. For the same reason, we are increasingly seeing IoT applications in motor vehicles. Retail locations too are also increasingly applying IoT to improve our shopping experience.

Data Processing
It is the small applications like the tongue-in-cheek smart toaster/coffee maker example, that we normally read about in the press. But it is the large-scale applications that I find really exciting. A good example is the Underground system in London which allows operators to monitor the state of the system in real time and even spot potential problems before they occur.

The video below gives an overview of the New Orleans 911 system:

The key to making such large IoT systems work is cloud data processing and artificial intelligence technology. Large amounts of information are collected from IoT devices. This information needs to be processed and presented so that we humans can make sensible decisions. It is only logical that Microsoft is one of the leading companies in this field (see the Fast report).

Smart Cities
Like the London underground and the New Orleans 911 systems, there are many applications of IoT at the city level. Be sure to view the videos on Microsoft’s CityNext website of innovative examples worldwide.

The Takeaway
The IoT is real and is growing exponentially. It has the potential of enhancing our lives at all levels. But it also introduces vulnerabilities. Concerns include security and privacy intrusion.

A search on Google or Bing will return many thousand articles on the IoT and there are already many books available on Amazon.

If you are technical and like to tinker with things, then take a look at “The Internet of Things: Do-It-Yourself at Home Projects for Arduino, Raspberry Pi and BeagleBone Blacknow available on Amazon.