What is the “Internet Of Things”

What is the “Internet Of Things”

With the emergence of home automation startups such as Nest and Apple’s HomeKit, you may have been hearing the phrase ‘Internet of Things’ discussed in tech circles. The phrase explains the ability of objects, such as household whitegoods or your home’s air conditioning unit, being controlled by the internet and more importantly, your smartphone.

Whilst the phrase may be unfamiliar to some, the ‘Internet of Things’ is not a new concept. In 1999 at Proctor and Gamble, the term was first used by Kevin Ashton in regards to radio frequency identification (RFID). Ashton introduced the concept of giving objects an ID number, which could then be used to track, and store data.

This concept of ‘connecting of things’ has evolved into the ‘Internet of Things’ and according to Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group, the Internet of Things came into existence between 2008 and 2009 when there were more ‘things or objects’ connected to the internet than people were.

Shortly after came the introduction of the smart phone. The handheld device changed the way the internet interacted with people completely and paved the way for the Internet of Things to be fully developed and utilised.

What is part of the Internet of Things?

For an object to be considered part of the Internet of Things, it must do three things:

  • Connect
  • Compute
  • Communicate

phone toothbrush
Image: independent.co.uk

For example, there are numerous advances being made in the medical field in regards to microbots that can connect to a person’s central nervous system, and compute information about their heart, blood, bones, and even DNA.

That data can then be sent back to an external device, which can then analyse and interpret that data. This advanced connectivity takes the internet one step further and humans are able to benefit from the information acquired.

The Internet of Things and home automation

Home automation is one area that is undergoing a dramatic transformation largely due to the Internet of Things concept. With objects such as your fridge or television talking with your smartphone, your house will be able to complete tasks without you even being at home.

Indeed, the technology has developed to a point where it is affordable and simple to implement into many household appliances. The devices are able to collect information and relate it to other devices throughout your home. For example, a refrigerator can inform your mobile phone that you are out of milk, and your mobile could set a reminder for when you next go to the grocery store; or you are able to turn on your air conditioner and adjust your thermostat so by the time you arrive home, the house will be toasty and warm.

iphone home
Image: blog.nxp.com

Your appliances will speak to each other

Currently, computers and the internet rely on human input for information. The Internet of Things removes humans from technological data collection completely, and instead devices are able to interact with each other, share information and use that information without assistance.

Also known as ‘Machine to Machine interaction’, it is the Internet of Things that connects the two devices together. This development describes the collecting of information, and analysing and using it in a way that relates directly to other elements of information.

A case in point, aeroplanes have been communicating with each other for years, but adapting that technology into smaller items, such as cars has not been financially practical. The Internet of Things is allowing the technology in planes to be converted to the automobile.

As the digital age continues, and we are seeing smart infrastructure and science, medicine and the military adapting and utilising smart technology, the Internet of Things is rising in popularity.

Other uses for the Internet of Things

The medical space has also latched onto the Internet of Things in a big way. For example, there have been further enhancements in the field of prosthetic limbs, where scientists can use the Internet of Things to connect the brain to an electronic prothectic limb, giving a person full control of their limb again.

stethoscope iPad
Image: blogs.windriver.com

There are also developments for nano-bots that are small enough to slip into DNA cells and the intention for those enhanced DNA cells being able to grow, or repair themselves with the assistance of technology. Fertility issues could be solved with ‘Sperm-bots’ that attach themselves to male sperm and are able to assist with the reproductive procedure, sending information back to doctors on the quality of the sperm, egg and conditions. Of course, these developments open up huge legal and ethical issues, and the Internet of Things will be at the forefront of the discussion.

Alongside medical developments, the end-goal of the Internet of Things is to assist humans with information, which is believed to make our lives easier, cheaper and better. If computers could gain information about everything, without human assistance, it could greatly reduce waste, cost and loss. We would know when things needed updating, replacing or repairing.

There are seemingly no limits to how far the Internet of Things can take society. Yet, the concept is not without controversy. Moderation and ownership of information, privacy and control issues, regulations and security issues are all areas that need to be evaluated before the Internet of Things takes hold. Science and technology are still in the relatively early stages of the Internet of Things, but it is inevitable that it will be in full force soon. There are many positives, but the moderating of gathered information must be decided before it becomes too late.