05.07.17 Internet of Things (IoT)
Ever since I bought a DX2 486 desktop computer in 1996, wilting under the pressure from my children, and later, a laptop in 1998/99, looking back, I now realize that my knowledge of the computers is very little compared to the ocean of the computer world. I have traveled a long way, learning the computer, yet miles to go.
Like many things about science and engineering, the internet and the way it works really baffles me. All along, I have only known the internet of computers (IoC) through the web, until recently, when I read a book: FOURTH INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION, which taught me the term ‘The Internet of Things’ for the first time. I didn’t understand initially what the Internet of Things really meant; the book gave me some preliminary ideas, kindling my curiosity to learn more about IoT.
When the student is ready, the teacher somehow appears before the student.
A few days back, I chanced upon another book ‘The Internet of Risky Things,’ in the public library, reading which widened my current elementary knowledge of IoT and how it impacts life on earth.
One thing for sure, like the IoC – the Internet of Computers through the web (our broadband internet) - the IoT is going to be another major disruptor in our life. It has the potential not only to impact how we live our life, but also how we work. The "Internet of things" (IoT) is becoming an increasingly growing topic of conversation everywhere.
As the broadband Internet is becoming more widely available, the cost of connecting is diminishing, more devices are being created with Wi-Fi capabilities and sensors built into them, technology costs are coming down, and smartphone penetration is sky-rocketing, a setting for the ‘perfect storm’ is being created for the IoT.
So, What Is The Internet Of Things?
Simply put, this is the concept of basically connecting any device with an ‘on and off’ switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cellphones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, cars, wearable devices, and almost anything else you can think of. This also applies to components of machines, for example a jet engine of an airplane or the drill of an oil rig.
The IoT is a giant network of connected "things" (which also includes people). The relationship under IoT will be between people-people, people-things, and things-things.
The analyst firm Gartner says that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices.
How does this impact our life?
Say, for example, you are on your way to a meeting. Your car could have an access to your calendar and had already decided the best route to take. When there is a traffic jam, and you are likely to be delayed for the meeting, your car might automatically notify the other party that you will be late for the meeting. The car will also automatically decide on another route for you to reach the meeting quickly.
It is morning 06.00 am. Your clock rings the alarm bell; simultaneously, it also notifies your coffee maker to start brewing coffee for you and switches on the TV for the morning news channel.
You have a digital patch embedded in the chest of your body. It reads your blood pressure and other parameters constantly and notifies your doctor about your condition on a regular basis, alerts the hospital if your condition worsens, and immediately releases some medication from another tiny capsule implanted in your body.
The concept of Smart City works on the basis of the Internet of Things. Road traffic, garbage collection, accidents notification, managing electric power grids, sudden security threats, or an emergency alert, and so on.
The reality is that the IoT allows for virtually endless opportunities and connections to take place, many of which we can't even think of or fully understand its impact, as of today; it certainly opens the door to a lot of opportunities, but also to many challenges.
Security is a big issue. With billions of devices being connected together, how to ensure that their information stays secure? Will someone be able to hack into your toaster and thereby get access to your entire network? We saw a glimpse of what could happen in a remotely controlled car, in the recent movie ‘I.T’ by Pierce Brosnan.
Then we have the issue of privacy and data sharing.
Another mind boggling issue will be: how to store, track, analyze, and make sense of the vast amounts of data that will be generated by these billions of devices.
Positive impacts of IoT could be:
Increased efficiency in using resources, rising productivity, improved quality of life, environmental impact, lower cost of delivering services, more transparency in using the resources of the nation, safety (planes, food, etc.,), efficiency (logistics), more demand for storage and bandwidth, shift in labor market and skills, creation of new businesses etc.
What its impact would be is unknown in some areas like:
Shift in business models (asset rental vis-à-vis ownership of appliances), massively distributed infrastructure for information technology, automation of knowledge work (analysis, assessment, and diagnosis), higher utilization rate of cars, machines, tools, equipment, infrastructure etc.
One of the serious concerns of IoT is the possibility of a ‘Digital Pearl Harbor,’ to mean, the potential of digital hackers or terrorists paralyzing infrastructure, leading to no food, fuel, and power for weeks together.
Some recent developments
The Ford GT model car has 10 million lines of computer code in it.
The new popular model of VW Golf has 54 computer processing units in it.
According to BMW, 8% of the cars worldwide, or 84 million, were connected to the internet in one way or other.
Insurance companies like Aetna are thinking about how sensors in a carpet could help detect smoke and prevent a potential fire hazard.
Our earth is going to be a world of sensors and connected computers.
While, IoT throws up tremendous possibilities of how our lives are going to be altered, it also throws up terrible challenges of how we are going to keep things under control.