The Internet of things (IoT) – Can I use it?

The Internet of things (IoT) – Can I use it?

With seemingly everything from modern household appliances to traffic signs connecting to the internet, it can be easy to take a connected world for granted. It wasn’t always the case that the world was so interconnected…

The internet of things is a term coined in the late 90’s that refers to the point in time where more “things” or devices are connected to the internet than people. According to Cisco, this occurred some time between 2008 and 2009 with the ratio of 1.84 (devices : people connected) in 2010. There is an expected to be 50 billion devices connected to the internet by 2020.

One of the first known applications was in 1982, with a modified Coke vending machine reporting its inventory and temperature of newly loaded drinks via a network connection. Fast forward to the modern “IoT” age and a consumer fridge can scan items as they are removed from the fridge then automatically place the online shopping order. We have smart speakers that tell us the weather when we ask and watches that read our heart rate then upload the data to a cloud service. Nick Moad - our IT Services Manager has built a beer keg monitoring system utilising IoT devices – the possibilities are endless!

Home Automation is perhaps the most obvious application for IoT devices - consider arriving home from work and your phone connects to the home wifi. This then triggers the front door to unlock and if it is dark, the lights turn on and your favourite song starts to play on your speakers. This is becoming increasingly simple to configure, as more IoT products come to market, without requiring a degree in computer science.

Business applications range from environmental and energy monitoring and control to logistics and inventory management. One of the most universal benefits in a business context is transparency. For business that deliver a product, the status of a product can be made available to a customer in real time. This is increasingly relevant in a global marketplace where the traditional “bricks and mortar” experience is declining.  The use of many data points obtained through IoT devices can inform decisions around processes in a manufacturing sense but also in how business engage with their customers.

The trucking industry initially resisted the monitoring devices that tracked driving hours however soon learned they could use the data to track fuel consumption and assist with logistics. IoT has been referred to as key to driving the fourth industrial revolution, the question isn’t can you use it – it’s how.

Some other interesting examples: