• Zev Isert

The Basics of Internet of Things (IoT)

What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?


“By 2020, 1.7 MB of new information will be created each minute for every human” (IBM). Much of this data will be created by devices connected to the internet, as “there will be 64B IoT devices worldwide by 2025” (Statista).


The Internet of Things is a network of interconnected devices that collect data on humans and the world around them. Internet of Things devices can communicate with each other about the data they are collecting and do not need humans to facilitate; this process is called machine-to-machine communication. The devices use the information they collect to perform independent actions, most of which do not require human instruction.


The data collected by IoT devices is commonly used to find insights for decision making and to create more efficient outcomes.


How does IoT work?


IoT devices use communications hardware, sensors and processors to collect data from the world around them. IoT devices commonly use Wifi or Bluetooth for connectivity.


IoT devices are usually connected to an IoT platform, for example a dashboard where the information the devices are collecting can be viewed. IoT platforms may also allow you to interact with devices, set them up, and give them instructions. Other examples of an IoT platform include apps and websites.


Examples


At Home

The app and speaker can communicate with your lock to lock the door, with your lights to create efficient lighting systems, or with your thermometer to regulate the temperature of your home. The smart speaker is able to communicate with these devices using machine-to-machine communication without the need for you to facilitate. The smart devices will only need your input if you wish to change the system, for example turning off the lights for a movie using your smart speaker. Google, Samsung and Apple also offer similar IoT platform smart home apps.


Transportation

One of many use cases for IoT in transportation is public transit. Previously, users of public transportation may have faced the inconvenience of having to wait for the bus for long periods of time due to traffic or other circumstances. Now, municipalities are equipping buses, trains and subways with location sensors that correspond to transit apps such as Google Maps, so that users can see the location of their bus in real time to avoid long waits and inconvenience. Additionally, the data collected by sensors on public transit can be used to make more efficient public transit routes.


Healthcare

A major argument for the implementation of IoT in healthcare is its use in remote patient monitoring. Healthcare workers can gather much more accurate and detailed information on their patients through remote, constant monitoring. IoT devices that fit within this use include connected inhalers, mobile health tracking apps, wearable fitness devices, ingestible sensors and insulin pens for those with diabetes.

Together, collecting IoT data from patients will allow healthcare workers to gather a much more accurate picture of their patients' health, and give them better treatment options.


Industrial Energy Usage Tracking

IoT sensors can be used in industrial settings to track the energy consumption of manufacturing devices and systems. Sensors can be used to collect information on the energy usage of a machine to determine which machines are effective and efficient, and which may need to be replaced. Additionally, these sensors can be used to monitor manufacturing devices, and determine when they are in need of repair or replacement. Overall, implementing an IoT solution in manufacturing can create efficient outcomes.


Farming

Farming is one of the most innovative fields when it comes to IoT. Devices are being used in a myriad of ways in order to automate and create more efficient farms. For example, a farmer may implement real time crop monitoring using a variety of sensors detecting motion, humidity, temperature, soil conditions, rainfall, light and more to gain a data driven understanding of their crop conditions. This data can then be used for decision making, especially in future seasons when choosing which crops will grow best.

Additionally, farming data can be used in greenhouses to implement ideal growing conditions automatically to grow the best crops possible. Watering, light and fertilizing can be automated based on analysis of ideal conditions in order to grow an efficient, large crop.

The farmer may also use drones to observe the crops from above, where they may be able to see conditions that they otherwise would not have been able to access. Drones can be used to notify farmers of concerning conditions such as flooding, or in precision farming where farmers can use the information provided by drones to water or fertilize crops that may be falling behind. IoT device use in farming may be one of its most important use cases worldwide with our ever expanding population.


Security & Privacy


While IoT devices are extremely useful in a variety of situations, there are certain ethical considerations that need to be made before implementing an IoT system. Users need to consider how their personal data may be used by third parties, and if they consent to that usage. They also need to consider whether their data will be anonymized and if others will have access to it.


There are major privacy concerns with IoT devices, especially because the market is mostly unregulated currently on what data types can be collected, and how the data can be used. IoT device manufacturers may also sell personal user data for advertising purposes, which some users may consider to be unethical.


Security flaws can also be discovered in IoT devices, which could be leveraged by third party hackers to gain information about users that they did not consent to. Many IoT devices ask for the personal information of users, and this information is extremely valuable for nefarious purposes.


Conclusion


Overall, IoT devices will help the world to create more efficient outcomes across industries and personal lives. Users must take into account personal privacy concerns, and governments may need to step in to ensure proper regulation of users’ private data.