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What is the Internet of Things?
As the number of interconnected devices on the internet prepares to explode exponentially, we take a look at what that means for daily living.
11:39 12 May 2017
From robots that chop up veggies to smart cookers that stream the view from inside its oven, more and more Internet of Things (IoT) devices are becoming a part of our daily lives, making smart living a reality.
But what’s exactly the IoT? Let’s dig in and find out.
What is the IoT?
Generally speaking, the term Internet of Things (IoT) refers to everything connected to the internet; however it is mainly used to define things and objects that talk to each other.
Put simply, the IoT is exactly what it means: things that have Internet.
What sort of things? Anything that could be plugged to the internet, from a smart TV to an internet connected fridge, a smart thermostat and even your Wi-Fi enabled house.
At its heart, IoT is a great idea with wide-ranging possibilities: It’s all about connecting devices- largely home appliances and gadgets over the internet- allowing them to talk to each other and with other applications and services. Talk about an increasingly connected world.
Although the beginning of the IoT dates back to the 1990s, it has grown into a big deal and become a buzzword only recently thanks to advancement in network infrastructure, internet technology, and other paradigm shifts happening in the digitally-disruptive world.
How does the IoT work?
This is how IoT works in most cases: A typical IoT system comprises of many devices/sensors which talk to each other over the internet through some kind of connectivity. Once they start talking, specially designed software processes the data and decides to carry out an action accordingly. And, whenever there is a need for human interaction, a simple and intuitive user interface lets the users do whatever they want to do. And whatever actions or adjustments that the user performs are then relayed back to the system.
As was mentioned earlier, the IoT comprises of devices that are connected together. Imagine a web of networks, devices and data. In fact, IoT brings together those networks and gives a real opportunity for devices to talk to each other across various networking types, thus bringing some augmented experiences to life and creating a more connected world.
A good analogy for IoT is the nervous system. Acting as sensors, each of our five senses relay different sources of information about the same thing to the brain. Subsequently, our brain processes all the information and lets us correlate and compare, thus helping us form a clear idea of what’s happening around us.
Similarly, in the world of IoT, a device collects information via several sensors and becomes a more powerful device with expanded functionality when it shares that data with other devices and applications connected to its network. By combining all of these connected things and devices with advanced software and automated systems, one can collect data, analyse it and add smart ways for different products to function so that they can make our lives more convenient and controllable.
IoT, in itself, is a huge concept with a wide scope of applications mostly related to smart homes and connected devices.
Having said that, it also includes smart cities- imagine a city with connected cars and smart traffic signals that facilitate better road utility monitoring and route planning in order to make traffic more organised and less chaotic, or smart bus stops with intelligent lighting that comes on whenever needed- and industrial applications, where connected machines and objects in production lines help companies be more efficient in how they do things, saving them time, money and resources in the process.
One of the most common IoT applications is in the home heating and energy usage space. Intelligent smart meters with clever in-built functions let you switch on heating from a remote device, bring down room temperature whenever it gets too hot and humid, and even shut down heating when nobody’s around. Advanced devices can tell the latter either by recognising that your smartphone has left the home premises or with special sensors boasting motion sensing capabilities.
Some Brilliant IoT Applications
This one needs no introduction. The popular ride hailing service uses a couple of sensors and the openness of the internet to help establish connection between two people who hardly know each other but who want to meet for ride hailing purposes.
And this is how it works: the data from the GPS sensor in the smart phone of the person who wants to hail a taxi, and the data from the GPS sensor in the smart phone of the driver both are sent to the cloud and processed by an advanced algorithm, which then determines the closest taxi available for ride hailing.
That’s a classic example of a sensory network, something upon which this IoT application is built.
Amazon Alexa - The Smart Voice Assistant
IoT is not just about home automation or connected kitchen anymore. The scope of the IoT is wide enough to include even things like the voice assistant on your phone.
Well, Amazon Alexa is not just your average voice assistant. Loaded with AI smarts, this takes voice assisted capabilities to a whole new level, thus proving to be one of the biggest hits of many popular trade expos in 2017.
Initially, Alexa was mainly designed to work with Echo and Echo dot speakers from Amazon. Thanks to the advent of artificial intelligence, the voice assistant has now gotten smarter and is now capable of integrating with many devices across different product categories. In fact, it isn’t just products capable of working with Alexa; there is a number of new products and services with several Alexa controls built right in.
As it is, the emergence of Amazon Alexa marks the dawn of voice controlled gadgets and things fully powered by artificial intelligence.
Ecobee - The Smart Thermostat
Ecobee,too, has come a long way from its humble beginning half a decade ago. From an ordinary Nest competitor to a clever, top of the line thermostat, Ecobee has successfully traced the path of many avant-garde IoT devices in the smart home automation space.
Its responsive touch display, smart sensors, and integrations with Amazon Alexa, Samsung Smart Things and IFTTT make it the best thermostat with additional layers of smarts. You can ask the device for the daily forecast, switch on and off lighting with voice commands, and more with this smart device. It understands your sleeping patterns, learns your work routine etc and helps you make energy savings the smart way.
The Rise of Smart Home and Devices
Our houses are fast filling with smart devices. From smart fridges in the kitchen to smart TVs in the living room, it appears that all our home appliances are as keen to go online as we are.
But is it possible to tie all of them together into one smart home?
Well, it might not have been possible before the internet. Through the advent of IoT, it’s now possible to unite all our appliances so that we can take control even without being in the house.
Unfazed by the poor reception to the original internet enabled fridge in the early 2000s, electronics giants such as Samsung and LG have constantly pushed the envelope and come up with a wide assortment of home and kitchen appliances that include fridges, dishwashers, air conditioners, dryers, heaters, and washing machines etc.
These companies are where they are because they appreciated that the key to creating a smart home is to bring together all devices and applications in a tightly integrated layer of connectivity.
And that has made the impossible possible. Yes- the smart home is now a reality.
Through a single app on your mobile phone, you can now pre-heat the oven, run your dishwasher, switch on your lighting and check if there are enough veggies in the fridge.
The concept of living in a fully automated smart home seems to open up a new world of control and convenience but there’s a long way to go before you’d give your smart fridge the keys to your house.
While the smart watches, fitness trackers, VR headsets mark the beginning of the IoT trend, it remains to be seen what products and services will help the phenomenon grow and continue to grow in the coming years. Surely, the lofty ’50-billion connected devices by 2020’ claim may look out of reach now, but there is no denying that the IoT is picking up steam.
Thanks to the manner in which the growing IoT trend has opened up new products and innovations, the idea is starting to resonate well with consumers. In fact, latest research suggests that the British households have started to embrace IoT as more and more useful products with new possibilities are starting to hit the market. As a result, the number of connected devices is expected to ramp up. And manufacturers are licking their lips with great anticipation and excitement.
It also goes to show that the IoT is here to stay and that consumers are pretty excited at the prospect of taking control of things with smart home automation such as being able to turn on/off lighting without from the comfort of their sofa or switch on the heating as they reach home, so on and so forth.
Going by the number of products launched in the global consumer electronics tradeshows, it is very clear that more and more manufacturers are now pushing ahead and looking to innovate and bring new technologies that will make IoT more mainstream, important and affordable, thereby paving way for a new wave of devices, services and experiences- leading to new kinds of experiences.
And that is a definite sign of a significant rise in the average number of connected devices.
What makes the IoT so powerful?
Right beneath the applications lies the sophisticated networks on which the IoT will run. According to experts, the next generation of networks and internet connectivity are believed to address a critical challenge of combining computing and communication together so information is readily available to all devices, things and gadgets that constitute the internet of things.
The UK government is bullish about the IoT and how it could transform lives. It believes that by the end of this decade, around 70% of UK homes will be equipped with connected devices, and has invested a huge sum to the tune of $40 million in this space. On your part, maybe, to start with, you can invest in a simple light bulb designed to connect with your home network so that you can control it remotely using your phone. Or, you could go full monty and invest your money into a pretty advanced home automation system capable of doing many things for you: switches on light bulbs, controls your thermostat and gets the coffee machine going when it recognises that you are on your way home.
On the other hand, many companies in the UK are pumping down a boatload of cash to put in place faster and more intelligent networking infrastructure in order to make sure that the technology will be good enough to support the huge influx of connected devices, things and gadgets.
Where does the IoT go from here?
Even those who bought into one of those smart home automation devices will agree that IoT is in early stages. There are many kinks to iron out in terms of product connectivity, security and the total user experience. And that makes analysts and experts play it safe when it comes to charting the course of this trend.
It looks like within the next three to five years the IoT will most likely have a great impact on simple household applications and minor issues such as turning on your heating on the way home, hooking up your home entertainment to a device, using the webcam of your smart fridge to see if you require more milk, and finding a space in busy places to park your car.
Even though the world of connected things has the potential to create a significant impact on our lives, we don’t quite know the exact use cases of this powerful phenomenon and that is what makes it such an exciting thing to look forward to.
Bear in mind that it is necessary to have access to high quality internet from a reliable network service provider to experience the true potential of the IoT without any hassles. When it boils down to connecting the Internet of Things, there are many options running the whole gamut from Wi-Fi, Satellite, Cellular, Ethernet, RFID, NFC etc. And within each of these options there are several kinds of different providers.
If you are looking for a reliable internet service provider that offers the best connectivity to keep your IoT devices always online, check out Supanet’s plans and packages. With our best in class internet connectivity, your IoT devices can now benefit from better range and higher bandwidth- all without consuming too much power.
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