The Internet of Things (IoT) is a topic that has risen in popularity over the past couple of years. It pertains to the idea that all devices can connect to each other through the Internet and send data back and forth. This can have great implications on our workplaces, and especially on our day to day lives. But what exactly does “Internet of Things” actually mean? Here are a few examples to display the power of this concept.
Let’s say you have a meeting to get to today. Through this idea of device connectivity, your car could have access to your calendar and already know the best route to take before you wake up. If traffic is heavy, your car would send a text or email those attending the meeting notifying them that you could be late. What if your alarm clock wakes up you at 6 a.m. and then notifies your coffee maker to start brewing coffee for you? How about your if office equipment knew when it was running low on supplies and automatically ordered more? The list goes on and on.
Kevin Ashton, cofounder and executive director of the Auto-ID Center at MIT, first mentioned the Internet of Things during a presentation for Procter & Gamble in 1999. This is how he explained the potential of this radical idea: “Today computers — and, therefore, the Internet — are almost wholly dependent on human beings for information. Nearly all of the roughly 50 petabytes (a petabyte is 1,024 terabytes) of data available on the Internet were captured and created by manually typing, pressing a record button, taking a digital picture or scanning a bar code. The problem is people have limited time, attention and accuracy, which means they are not as good at capturing data about things in the real world. If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things — using data they gathered without any help from us — we would be able to track and count everything and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling and whether they were fresh or past their best.”
As you can see, there are many different connections that are possible through the IoT. This is the main reason behind the surge in interest around this topic as there are a multitude of new opportunities, and there’s a growing demand to make machines “smart.” However, as with any new technology, it comes with it’s fair share of challenges. For one, security is a big issue surrounding this idea. With billions of devices all connected together, user information will become less secure. Someone could hack something as insignificant as your vacuum cleaner and gain access to a plethora of sensitive information. There is also the issue of data overload for large companies. There is no doubt that all these devices will create vast amounts of data, and companies need to be able to efficiently store, sort, and analyze it all.
For now, the Internet of Things remains largely as just a concept that is neither entirely stable nor readily available for the international community. There are some applications here and there that are successful, but large-scale implementations are still risky. It’s not clear when the potential problems surrounding it will be solved, but there are clearly many benefits that can be utilized once solutions are drawn up.
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