What it is and why it matters
The Internet of Things is the concept of everyday objects – from industrial machines to wearable devices – using built-in sensors to gather data and take action on that data across a network. So it’s a building that uses sensors to automatically adjust heating and lighting. Or production equipment alerting maintenance personnel to an impending failure. Simply put, the Internet of Things is the future of technology that can make our lives more efficient.
History of the Internet of Things
We’ve been fascinated with gadgets that function on a grander scale for decades (think spy movie-type stuff) – but it’s only been in the past several years that we’ve seen the IoT’s true potential. The concept evolved as wireless Internet became more pervasive, embedded sensors grew in sophistication and people began understanding that technology could be a personal tool as well as a professional one.
The term “Internet of Things” was coined in the late 1990s by entrepreneur Kevin Ashton. Ashton, who’s one of the founders of the Auto-ID Center at MIT, was part of a team that discovered how to link objects to the Internet through an RFID tag. He said he first used the phrase “Internet of Things” in a presentation he made in 1999 – and the term has stuck around ever since.
Building a connected world through the Internet of Things
Data is everywhere – at home, at work and in practically every facet of life. This video from SAS and Intel explains how analytics is helping organizations find new solutions through streaming, always-on data.
Why is the Internet of Things important?
You might be surprised to learn how many things are connected to the Internet, and how much economic benefit we can derive from analyzing the resulting data streams. Here are some examples of the impact the IoT has on industries:
- Intelligent transport solutions speed up traffic flows, reduce fuel consumption, prioritize vehicle repair schedules and save lives.
- Smart electric grids more efficiently connect renewable resources, improve system reliability and charge customers based on smaller usage increments.
- Machine monitoring sensors diagnose – and predict – pending maintenance issues, near-term part stockouts, and even prioritize maintenance crew schedules for repair equipment and regional needs.
- Data-driven systems are being built into the infrastructure of “smart cities,” making it easier for municipalities to run waste management, law enforcement and other programs more efficiently.
But also consider the IoT on a more personal level. Connected devices are making their way from business and industry to the mass market. Consider these possibilities:
- You’re low on milk. When you’re on your way home from work, you get an alert from your refrigerator reminding you to stop by the store.
- Your home security system, which already enables you to remotely control your locks and thermostats, can cool down your home and open your windows, based on your preferences.
To make the Internet of Things useful, we need an Analytics of Things. This will mean new data management and integration approaches, and new ways to analyze streaming data continuously.
Who’s using it?
The IoT is more than just a convenience for consumers. It offers new sources of data and business operating models that can boost productivity in a variety of industries.
Many people have already adopted wearable devices to help monitor exercise, sleep and other health habits – and these items are only scratching the surface of how IoT impacts health care. Patient monitoring devices, electronic records and other smart accessories can help save lives.
This is one of the industries that benefits from IoT the most. Data-collecting sensors embedded in factory machinery or warehouse shelves can communicate problems or track resources in real time, making it easy to work more efficiently and keep costs down.
Both consumers and stores can benefit from IoT. Stores, for example, might use IoT for inventory tracking or security purposes. Consumers may end up with personalized shopping experiences through data collected by sensors or cameras.
The telecommunications industry will be significantly impacted by the IoT since it will be charged with keeping all the data the IoT uses. Smart phones and other personal devices must be able to maintain a reliable connection to the Internet for the IoT to work effectively.
While cars aren’t at the point of driving themselves, they’re undoubtedly more technologically advanced than ever. The IoT also impacts transportation on a larger scale: delivery companies can track their fleet using GPS solutions. And roadways can be monitored via sensors to keep them as safe as possible.
Smart meters not only collect data automatically, they make it possible to apply analytics that can track and manage energy use. Likewise, sensors in devices such as windmills can track data and use predictive modeling to schedule downtime for more efficient energy use.