IoT is the abbreviation for ‘Internet of Things’ and today it engulfs our lives from every direction. If you own a smart TV, a smartwatch or any object that starts with ‘smart’, it means you’ve already met IoT, or perhaps experienced it. Truth is that any physical item can be turned into an IoT device by connecting it to the internet. Nowadays this statement can be interpreted as anything that connects to your local WiFi and can be controlled via smartphone. If you stop and think about it, this concept is rapidly sinking into our lifestyle and there’s no going back.
In simple words, IoT merges the physical and digital worlds. It is not limited to inanimate objects, but can include living things like animals and human beings themselves. It can include anything having the ability or feature to interact with another through a wireless connection; this excludes person to person communication through web/mobile applications. Common examples of internet of living things mainly consist of wearables like pet collars, fitness bands, heart monitors, etc. When we talk about interaction of non-living things with each other, several smart home devices can be considered. A simple demonstration would be controlling the lighting of your home from your phone.
How did IoT emerge?
It’s safe to say that IoT appeared somewhere along the late 80s or early 90s. However it was not a popular terminology back then due its sparse application. The progress in technology has been monstrous from then to present day; we have come a long way from internet-connected vending machines. Adding sensors and wireless connectivity to objects was once something too progressive and expensive. Now times have changed as the cheapest CPUs and the worst broadband connections have become part of IoT. WiFi connectivity is now available for the dumbest of machines, such as toasters and refrigerators.
The purpose of IoT
When an object is connected to the internet, it means it can send data, receive data or do both simultaneously. Before smartphones, the functionality of mobile phones was limited to making calls and sending text messages. However, when phones attained the attribute of connecting to a wireless internet connection, the word ‘smart’ was added to the name. This is because internet connectivity gave them the power to exchange data with unlimited external resources, and that is definitely smart. Today one can access any kind of information through their phones and that’s truly amazing.
IoT is constantly growing and the number of connected things has already exceeded the world population. More and more businesses worldwide are investing in it, for the massive benefits attached to it. It is the most effective means of collecting real-time data which provides a bigger and better picture of everything. The Big Data collected from IoT is used by companies to understand user expectations and needs at a deeper level. It helps them change or improve their products accordingly, ultimately leading to breakthroughs.
Apart from business tycoons, it is obviously making life easier for the consumers. It has revolutionised the healthcare system by enabling real-time monitoring of patients and much more. Utilities, machinery and an array of everyday tasks can be handled from a distance without manual input. Your car can find its way to any destination, you never lose your pet, and you can even track your fitness. Data from street cams and other smart devices have also been used by powerful authorities like the CIA to identify criminals. The data collected via IoT contributes to AI or machine learning, which evolve and drive technology forward – it’s a never-ending loop!
The holes in IoT
With an excess of sensors in our surroundings recording countless private moments of our life everyday – IoT is as creepy as it sounds. The data accumulated through multiple smart devices can unravel so much about an individual, even things they are themselves oblivious to. The abundance of IoT implies that a lot of sensitive information is stored in digital clouds which will rain heavily once hacked. Not long ago I came across a documentary about how smart TVs can capture live footage from homes, which can easily be streamed by the manufacturers.
Not all product owners are out there to harvest your personal data, but many are doing it without our knowledge. Up do date smart objects have performed poorly on the security front. Databases of many prestigious companies have been victims to cyber attacks and privacy breaches. Anyone with sufficient knowledge of software hacking can manipulate smart devices in our homes or workplace; they’re almost a disaster waiting to happen. If you’ve watched the “Mr. Robot” series by any chance, you might decipher what I’m getting at.