A brief guide to The Internet of Things (IoT)

The What …

You may have heard the term IoT over the past 12 months and you will certainly be hearing more of it over the coming year but what exactly is it?

Put simply, the Internet of Things (IoT) refers to any network or smart device connected to the internet and capable of generating, sending and receiving data. IoT devices range from smart light bulbs in the home to pacemakers in individuals to waste management systems at local and national level. Although the term feels relatively new, the concept and terminology has been around since the 1990’s.

IoT has evolved to encompass network protocols and technologies that drive connectivity, data collection, storage and analytical capabilities for an enormous volume of information. This data is driving services, processes and decisions that are affecting every aspect of our lives, from every ‘smart’ device we choose to interact with (and some we are unaware of interacting with). Whether we are monitoring our fitness, our energy usage or others are monitoring our waste disposal habits and the environment, IoT is impacting every aspect of our lives.

The advancement of broadband communication, memory and storage capabilities (specifically the development of the Cloud), means that products can now be digitised to create data. Effective broadband communication (the development and roll out of 5G) adds a whole new dimension to real time and think-based interactions to enable IoT digital communications, not only at personal and local level but global access to previously unobtainable information.

The How…

From a technological perspective, IoT can be seen as three connected layers. At the device layer, hardware is digitised by IoT components such as sensors, and macro processes are operated by software. At the connectivity layer, network protocols enable communication between a device and the Cloud. At the cloud layer, interface platforms allow the collation and presentation of information into meaningful output.

Management software defines and executes processes across systems and devices, while analytics and data management software store and process data, vertically cutting across all layers. Integration with business systems, such as CRM, ERP, and PLM and bespoke user interfaces drive applications and information content / presentation.

The Smart industry …

IoT is instrumental in the development of Smart industry (also referred to as Industry 4.0 or industrial transformation in the fourth industrial revolution!) The think-based function of a light bulb is to illuminate a room, but smart bulbs that use IoT can double as a security feature, can be activated remotely, can generate usage information and inform you of when they have a problem or need replacing. The think-based function of a container is storage, but when it’s connected to IoT technology, the container can measure its own storage fluctuations. Similarly, with a bin, a sensor can indicate when the bin needs collecting. All this has the potential to drive efficiencies in planning, processes, operating costs and is allowing us to move to personalised offers for service users.

The Machine and big data…

Machine learning and big data techniques, such as video analytics which recognise objects and people from images, are being combined with IoT to enable new product developments such as self-driving cars. The manufacturing industry is therefore presented with sizeable direct growth potential in the development of IoT technology, applications and products. loT also creates a data marketplace where information can be monetised and sold to service providers and the corresponding implication for data usage, protection and anonymity will all need careful management.

The future …

The Internet of Things will bring enormous changes to the current business models across virtually every industry. It’s predicted there will be 50 billion IoT-connected devices by 2020, and the economic impact of these connected machines will be 4 to 11 trillion pounds per year by 2025. The application and development is virtually endless – wearable devices, environmental sensors, agricultural machinery components, devices in homes, businesses and transport will give unprecedented access to information on the movement of people, products, our daily habits, our environment and the wider global implications of human interaction and resource usage.
We are well on the way to a new era of connection, integration and information that will deliver insight and drive growth in new ways, changing the way we live and work at a personal, local and global level.

Posted in Business.