The Internet of Things. Of Things. When you hear it said or see it written, it might make you wonder what these things are and why they matter. If you aren’t familiar with the idea, it might even make you think that there is another Internet out there, something that exists within the realm of some abstract collective of interconnected things. In fact, the Internet of Things (IoT) isn’t separate from us and our daily use of technology, rather it’s in almost everything we use today.
What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?
Some of the most common examples of IoT include smartphones, smart-home devices like thermostats, and (increasingly) toys. Look around the Internet, and you’ll find that most definitions of IoT essentially paraphrase this constantly evolving description from Wikipedia:
“The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects or “things” embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity, which enables these objects to collect and exchange data. The Internet of Things allows objects to be sensed and controlled remotely across existing network infrastructure, creating opportunities for more direct integration between the physical world and computer-based systems, and resulting in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit; when IoT is augmented with sensors and actuators, the technology becomes an instance of the more general class of cyber-physical systems, which also encompasses technologies such as smart grids, smart homes, intelligent transportation and smart cities. Each thing is uniquely identifiable through its embedded computing system but is able to interoperate within the existing Internet infrastructure.”
At the end of this description is a quick sentence that makes a bold prediction: “Experts estimate that the IoT will consist of almost 50 billion objects by 2020.” That’s 50 billion objects in a world that currently has a population of just over 7.3 billion people. Of course, some of those objects include the ubiquitous phones that we all rely on, but along with the more common objects, IoT will also include the devices that communicate with one another without human input and that are vital for keeping businesses optimized and efficient enough to keep pace with the vicissitudes of the marketplace.
Today, IoT devices are already used to help patients track their health and communicate more directly with their physicians, they are also used to make it easier for companies to inspect facilities and to track shipments around the city and the world. At this year’s CES, where tech companies always try to showcase or introduce their latest breakthroughs, IoT devices were all over the place in the form of connected smart-TVs (including a 98-inch, 8k behemoth), wearable tech, toys and smart-home innovations.
What’s notable about the growth of IoT is that it happens not just with traditional tech companies, but also within industries that have long specialized in other fields. Textile manufacturers and educators, for instance, have found that IoT can help them improve not only the products or services they offer but also their own infrastructure. There are now smart shoes that can warm up your foot via a smart-phone app and educational programs that make mobile learning more intensive and instructive.
Security and the Internet of Things
IoT devices can easily be used almost anywhere in the country (or the world). Of course, that ubiquity also brings up security risks, since any time a device is connected to the Internet it exposes itself to the potential whims of hackers. The caveat, then, is to make sure that if you develop an IoT solution, that you take into account the type of security you will need to keep your data safe and secure. You don’t want hackers to be able to hack private client information just as much as you don’t want to leave your facility vulnerable to prying eyes.
Is your company Internet of Things ready?
As with other technologies, it may be that despite your expertise in your field, you need help finding and taking full advantage of the IoT for your business. You might know all about fitness, for examples, but have never developed an app, much less one that can communicate across platforms. If your company is poised to develop an IoT solution for your business or your clients, make sure you find a company that not only knows how to develop the solutions you need, but that also understands the implications of developing an IoT solution that is secure, efficient, easy to use, and capable of handling and organizing all the data you might collect. Working with loads of data can be tricky, especially when it comes to translating complex data into useful programs that are elegant, simple and user-friendly. Be diligent and make sure you find the right company to help you develop the software you need for your company to claim its place in the IoT marketplace.