What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?
The Internet of Things, also known as IoT, refers to any physical object that is connected to the Internet that can receive and share information.
These IoT objects can receive and share information through the use of computer chips, sensors, software and connection to wireless Internet networks, or Wi-Fi.
However, IoT isn’t just about connecting individual objects or pieces of technologies to the Internet in a simple two-way exchange. Instead, IoT helps organizations connect a large number and wide range of technologies to the Internet and each other. This allows an organization’s physical technologies to join a network where they can communicate in real-time with each other, without human intervention, to be smarter and more responsive.
What Are Examples of IoT Devices?
Physical IoT objects are often referred to as IoT devices or IoT endpoints and examples are wide-ranging because they can be anything capable of connecting to the Internet to communicate information.
When we think about the home, anything that can be switched on and connected to your smartphone – speakers, lights, security cameras, televisions and more – would be considered an IoT device.
Examples of IoT endpoints in the community might include streetlights with sensors, bins that notify when it is time for rubbish collection, city CCTV cameras, freeway traffic monitoring cameras, real-time public transport travel information, river and tide level monitoring for flooding, weather stations and more.
Industry examples include wireless printers and point of sale technology, driverless trucks and fork trucks, robotics, mobile patient monitoring systems in healthcare and industrial smart glasses and other wearables.
Larger IoT objects, such as a commercial airplanes, can also have many smaller IoT endpoints, including sensors.
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What Is IoT Used For?
IoT devices or endpoints are used so they can be connected to a centralized piece of software or an organization’s system or platform. Once connected, the information or data these IoT devices collect via sensors, etc., is sent to the centralized system for analysis.
The central system uses the information from the IoT endpoints to analyze in real-time what is useful and what isn’t, or to detect patterns or problems. This allows the system and organizations to use data analytics to make smarter decisions, improve processes, automate tasks that don’t need human involvement and increase safety. These insights are much more difficult to explore through manual human analysis.
The advanced data analytics IoT is used for saves an organization time and money and improves the employee and customer experience.
How Big Is the IoT Market?
According to research carried out by KPMG, IoT is expected to drive significant business transformation in the coming years. Evidence of this is already clear, with IoT Analytics revealing that for the first time in 2020, there were more IoT connections (smart cars, devices and industrial equipment) than non-IoT connections (laptops and computers).
What Led to the Rise of IoT?
Although the use of connected devices has accelerated in recent years, the term the Internet of Things (IoT) was first coined more than 20 years ago. It was discovered by Kevin Ashton, a British technology pioneer, while working for Procter & Gamble’s research and development department. Kevin was working on a project that used radio frequency and sensors on products across the supply chain to generate data about where the products were. He wanted to determine whether they had been scanned, whether they were on a shelf or whether they had been sold. Twenty years later, the world depends on IoT endpoints more than ever before.
How Does IoT Work?
Although the concept of IoT has been around for many years, the recent introduction of lower cost advanced technologies has led to more mainstream consumer and industry uses. Let’s look at some of the technologies that made this possible:
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Why Is IoT Important?
Using the Internet, computing, the Cloud, data, analytics and mobile technologies, IoT devices can automatically, and without human intervention, collect and share information or data. This is important because it bridges the gap between the physical world and the digital world.
With IoT, communication between physical objects, networks, systems, processes and people has created a hyperconnected world that is helping people, organizations and society to be more efficient, productive and accurate.
Who Uses IoT?
Because mobile devices including scanners, tablets and kiosks, are now used across almost every industry, implementations of IoT vary. Here are some examples of how some industries are using IoT solutions:
IoT helps retailers automate several previously manual tasks to help improve their processes and customer service. Examples include smart retail signage with beacons sending offers and notifications to customers or sensors on retail shelves alerting a retailer’s system when specific product need to be replenished.
Transportation & Logistics (T&L)
Transportation and logistics (T&L) companies can be much more efficient and productive with the use of IoT. For instance, vehicles used to transport goods, including ships, cars, trucks, trains or planes can have built-in IoT sensors that manage weather hazards. Other sensors can also measure temperature to help maintain the quality of temperature-sensitive products such as dairy foods, pharmaceuticals and fresh produce.
Manufacturing is one of the industries that was quick to start using IoT because it helps monitor and keep production lines with huge turnover in good working order and on track. If you think of a big manufacturing plant or warehouse with busy automated production lines, IoT sensors and other control devices can detect and avoid any issues like blockages or breakdowns in the production line that might cause delays.
Hospitals and healthcare providers use a large fleet of mobile IoT devices or endpoints, which need to be tracked due to their high cost, maintained and supported so they are always operating properly. For example, automated external defibrillators (or AEDs) are devices found in healthcare settings which are used to help someone experiencing sudden cardiac arrest.
What About IoT Security and Privacy?
Given IoT devices and endpoints collect huge amounts of data, they have the potential to be a major security and privacy risk for both consumers and organizations.
When it comes to consumer IoT use, smart homes are now collecting a lot of information about our lives. Unfortunately, a small number of smart home consumer brands are misusing this information by selling it to other companies. That’s why it’s important for consumers to research each device and it’s connected system to understand what happens to the data being collected about them.
It’s also important to look into the security credentials of the IoT devices consumers are using, as there have been many examples of smart devices like webcams, watches or even smart cars being hacked.
The importance of security and privacy is even higher when it comes to IoT in industries and organizations, in terms of potential costs and disruptions, as the stakes are much higher if hackers attack these devices. Organizations also have much bigger fleets of IoT devices, so there are many more points of vulnerability. This means organizations must protect the networks their IoT devices are connected to, encrypt data and secure sensors and other gateways and platforms. Controlling who has permission to access IoT devices, networks and systems or platforms is essential to security and privacy.
What Is The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)?
When looking at IoT, it’s likely that you’ll also come across the term ‘the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)’. IIoT refers to any industrial device connected to wireless Internet networks through the use of sensors. These IIoT devices can be anything from robotics in warehouses or manufacturing sites, to medical devices and engines in airplanes.
IIoT goes beyond consumer IoT devices and endpoints, because it combines information technology (IT) with operational processes. This allows industries and workplaces to integrate large fleets of IIoT devices to automate their business and make big improvements to their operations based on the data gathered and analyzed through machine learning. IIoT also allows industries and companies to have a much higher degree of visibility and control over their operations, which is particularly helpful for organizations running big sites like mines, manufacturing plants, hospitals or warehouses.
What Are the Top Business Benefits of IoT?
IoT offers a range of business benefits. These include:
Increased efficiency: By integrating IoT into operations, businesses can make data-driven decisions to improve processes and efficiencies.
Increased visibility: Using real-time data reporting, IoT has the potential to remove and automate many repetitive tasks humans often must do. This includes tasks such as stock keeping and frees up time for employees to carry out higher-value tasks.
Access to accurate data: IoT devices track, gather and exchange accurate real-time data for a high level of visibility into operations.
Remote support and maintenance: By connecting devices so they can be remotely maintained, supported and updated, IoT is helping save organizations time and money by keeping them operational at all times.
Make informed decisions: Transferring data collected from IoT devices into AI and machine learning platforms will enable organizations to make informed decisions that drive improvements.
Reduced downtime and total cost of ownership (TCO): IoT improves the TCO of devices used across the organization by ensuring they are regularly monitored and maintained.
Safety: IoT devices and sensors built into industrial equipment can detect and shut down operations if a worker safety issue arises.