Internet of Things (IoT) is often used as a buzzword, but what does it mean? And why can we not ignore it?
It is all about connecting devices to an internet-like structure, cooperating together to fulfill a particular function. Examples are environmental sensing, smart metering, home automation (lights, central heating), logistics and supply chain monitoring. Notice the term “internet-like”, does not always implies that IoT is connected to “the internet”. However communication and cooperation is a must for these devices to function.
Because the technology is advancing in manners like miniaturizing, low energy, increasing computation power, low cost, improved wireless communications. More and more business opportunities are within reach. Think of central power consumption metering towards per appliance consumption measuring and communicate those consumptions. Introducing a smart power grid can help appliances, e.g. wasmachines to delay their program if they are aware of peak energy rates. Which can benefit consumers with lower rates outside peak-hours and reduces the effect of peak demands, which overcomes unwanted power outages . Smart water system, i.e. putting sensors on pumps and valves, already helped reducing leaks by approximately 40% to 50% in cities like Beijing. Low cost and miniaturization also thrived the business cases in Tracking and Tracing, Tagging devices and tracking them within a contained environment, building, office, depot, hospitals.
A list of example applications can be found below:
- Connected light bulbs, Philips Hue
- Central heating, Nest
- Smartwatch or activity tracker, from Polar, Samsung, Apple
- Fleet tracking for cars, busses and trucks from e.g. TomTom
- Smart metering
- Webcams connected to the internet.
- Smart doorbell
- Tracking equipment at an Airport, GSE Track from Undagrid
- When searching the Internet you will find many more.
Every month new applications are developed and slowly entering our lives. That is why we cannot ignore the Internet of Things. All these applications need a way for devices to communicate, similar to numerous applications there are several wireless technologies:
- Bluetooth Low Energy, also known as Bluetooth Smart
- Zigbee, based on 802.15.4
- Wi-Fi (well known) and Wi-Fi Halow (low power Wi-Fi).
- LoRa WAN, with crowd source initiatives like The Things Network
- Thread, based on 802.15.4
Besides the wireless communications other parts of the eco systems for these devices consists of protocols and cloud infrastructure. There is not (yet) a single standard for the wireless technology, this also holds for message protocols to exchange data between devices and the cloud as shown below:
- MQTT (Message Queue Telemetry Transport), light weight messaging protocol.
- CoAP (Constrained Application Protocol)
- DDS (Data Distiribution Service)
- XMPP (Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol) originally developed for instant messaging, but also applicable to IoT devices.
Examples of cloud infrastructures, to store all the “Big-data”, are offered by e.g. Google, IBM, Salesforce, Oracle. The data in these cloud can be valuable and interesting for a lot of companies. Typically these clouds also add intelligence and control to the IoT ecosystems.
As we can see from all this, the ecosystem is just forming around the internet of things. Proliferation of initiatives is necessary to crystallize out ideas/ products/ infrastructure/ standardization. So for the coming years an increasing amount of applications will pop-up and likely the consumer will be more and more part of this.