What is IoT?


What is IoT?

The Internet of Things (IoT), or, occasionally, the Internet of Everything, refers to a world in which all physical objects are made “smart” via small embedded components such as sensors and transmitters and allowed interact with us and with each other as part of a massive network of electronic information. In the context of objects not traditionally related to telecommunications, this means providing them with some sort of ability to sense their environments, including the presence and activities of other objects, and to record, organize, and analyze their observations. At this idea’s logical extreme, objects will actually perform intelligent actions based upon the data procured.

 

IoT: An Inevitable Technological Development

This concept of machines making decisions and taking actions based on data they collect themselves is in fact not new. For example, air conditioners and heaters actively increase and decrease ambient temperatures based on the thermometer’s readings, and smart phones, the most obvious tool for personal connectivity, regularly transmit and receive data to provide their users relevant data, such as directions and contact info for nearby restaurants, shops, and friends. Larger-scale systems such as a power plant regularly tracks various parameters for each of its components and monitors relevant events, such as internal temperatures or power consumption in its grid as a function of time of day, optimizing energy output and employee safety in the process. The changes to come are thus not so much a fundamental shift in concept as it they are a massive expansion in scale, one powered by the ever decreasing costs of electronics, bandwidth, and digital storage and computational capacity.

Thanks to historical developments in microelectronics and wireless telecommunications during the past decade, IoT has finally risen to the forefront. Connectivity has already revolutionized our daily lives, from video-on-demand to online shopping to high-resolution video conversations spanning the globe. The ubiquity of mobile devices such as phones, tablets, and computers means that every human user is transmitting and receiving data nearly all hours of all days. Given this commoditization of physical hardware, broadband internet, and cloud computing, it is only natural that more networking expands beyond the computer and into more and more aspects of our daily lives.

 

What can IoT do for us?

We do we humans stand to gain from conferring such power to formerly inanimate objects? At its best, an IoT-enabled world would work quietly behind the scenes to remove some of the inefficiencies in our routines, from delicately rerouting traffic before a jam can nucleate to extrapolating a shopper’s habits and ensuring that nearby vendors stock items likely to appear on his shopping list to performing statistical analysis on a drug and a patient population towards identifying potential side effects even before the start of a clinical trial. Essentially, anything humans are doing, IoT can streamline, especially as it pertains to anything involving large amounts of data from which devices can draw conclusions and make decisions.

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