What is IOT - In Laymans terms
Anyone casually browsing social media, the news or even just the net is going to come across the term IOT more than once a day, but what exactly does this mean to you, your business and your day to day life? Is this largely misunderstood technology the future? Can you use it to improve your business? How do you get access to it and leverage it? This article is meant to demystify IOT, hopefully it will give you a pretty clear idea, in laymans terms, of what it does and how it does it.
IOT or "Internet of Things" has been around longer than you think, it was first coined by Kevin Ashton in 1999 but in reality goes back a lot further than that. It was brought to general public attention in the mid noughties with the promise of internet connected home appliances that will order milk for you before you run out. This is has largely failed to materialize. Before we get to what is has become, lets start with the internet and examine the difference. The internet is very simply, a massive number of interconnected routers and servers. The devices we would traditionally use to access these servers have been PC's and laptops. They are connected to each other via a massive network of undersea cables and satellites. As layman users, there isn't much more you need to know. How does this differ from IOT though? Well IOT refers to the peripheral devices that we didn't traditionally connect to a network, the most relatable example for most people would be the smartphone but as technology allows it, it is becoming so much more.
Networks now include, IP cameras, sensors for temperature, vibration, humidity, motion, and many more, wireless access points with built in diagnostics, smart appliances, cars, the list is potentially endless. And what is the point of connecting all these devices to networks and how does it affect me, the end-user? You may not be aware but if you use a smartphone and apps such as Google Maps, Uber or even Instagram you are already benefiting from the power of IOT. Not seeing it? Well, allow me to elaborate.
IOT is essentially about information. The more devices we have connected to the internet the more data we can collect, the more data we can collect the more we can improve the services that we deliver to you, the end-user. Google for example, if you allow them, will use your GPS data to provide navigation services, traffic updates and custom search results based on places near to you. Uber uses information gathered from users phones to make sure there are enough potential drivers in a certain area at certain times, Instagram also uses location data to tag people and places to share it with relevant followers. All of these things happened in the background while we go about our day, making our lives more convenient and our access to services faster. This is happening today and its powered by IOT. The future is rather exciting though, with the push for smarter, greener cities we will see IOT powered parking spaces, IOT powered air conditioning, IOT enabled traffic lights and many many more. Wouldn't it be nice to access an app to see all available parking space in a 1km radius of your next meeting? Intelligent switching of traffic lights to alleviate congestion? Automated adjustments of your thermostat to reduce your electricity bill? The data to make this possible can only come from IOT.
Businesses are leveraging IOT in different ways, obviously the above mentioned consumer applications are being used by service providers like Google, Microsoft and Uber already, but manufacturing and logistics are investing heavily in IOT and AI as well. In a factory producing hundreds of thousands of components a month, the smallest percentage in improved efficiency can have a huge effect on bottom line. Vibration sensors, motion sensors, an object tracking system, weight sensors and many more, can provide factory operators real time insight into their production lines, allowing for preventative maintenance, improved processes and streamlined systems. All of this translates into better service to their customers and improved profitability. A simple google search for IOT success stories will net you hundreds of real world case studies.
The internet has changed so much of our lives but particularly the way we communicate and has allowed us, as a civilization, to shrink the world to incredibly small proportions. Servers and routers made that possible. Digital transformation is literally changing the way we live and do business in what is being called the 4th industrial revolution. IOT devices are the "servers and routers" of this revolution.