Everything you need to know about the Internet of Things

It’s already huge, but the Internet of Things is going to penetrate our daily lives even further over the coming years. So let’s understand what it is and how it works once and for all.

What is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things (or IoT for short) is a network of devices all connected wirelessly by the internet that can collect, share and act upon data without the involvement of human beings to make our lives better and improve the world around us.

Automated devices in this giant connected system can include anything from smart lights and smart speakers to smart cars in smart cities.

Why is the Internet of Things important?

Technological innovation has seen over 100 billion internet-connected devices introduced across the planet – that’s more connected devices than people. This fact alone suggests the “Internet of Things” will remain at the heart of human life for many generations to come.

Here’s just a few examples of how the Internet of Things can affect you:

  • A smart light in your home can flash or change colour if a rain storm is approaching giving you enough time to take the washing off the line;
  • A smart thermometer can send your child’s temperature to your phone and recommend how to soothe any symptoms or whether to call your doctor;
  • A car with IoT technology can automatically calculate the best route so you’re not stuck in traffic. And if you still get caught out, it’ll text ahead and apologise to whoever you’re meeting;
  • An elderly person’s smart pendant can inform the emergency services if they suffer a fall.

What is an IoT device?

An IoT device is any device that connects to the internet and can be controlled or communicated with. Mostly referred to as ‘smart’ devices, they range from sharing fairly trivial data and being super-easy to install and control, to sharing very important information and being rather serious and complex.

For instance, you can set up mood lighting in your lounge so you can adjust the settings without leaving your favourite chair. Or you can experience a delay at an airport because a jet engine fitted with IoT components has informed mission control of an issue.

Clever application of smart IoT devices in our world is near limitless.

How do IoT devices work?

IoT devices are password-protected. Once you have the device and the password, that device can gain access to the network and begin to communicate with its necessary transmitters in order to carry out the task it was designed for. Hence, a strong, reliable network is preferable if you have many different devices using it.

Modern homes usually have multiple devices connected to the WiFi network – laptops, tablets, phones, consoles etc – but in the future a lot more devices in our homes will also be active on the network, including speakers, lights, security systems, ovens and even fridges.

What kind of IoT devices are the most popular?

Currently, the most owned IoT devices are things that change the mood and temperature in your home and help to secure your property.

Smart lighting

Lighting automation devices are very cheap and easy to start experimenting with first. You can programme them to dim, brighten and switch on and off when you tell them to. You might want to create a mood when watching a certain type of programme on the television.

You might want to time the lights to help wake you and your children up in the morning and begin to dim the lights as they get ready for bed. You could even link your lights to outside sensors so they can change colour or flash when the weather is about to change, giving you the opportunity to get the wash in before your clothes get wet.

Smart heating

Smart thermostats are a popular addition to modern homes too. They allow you to control the temperature in your home from your smartphone, wherever you are. You can warm your home up so it’s nice and cosy when you return from a cold dog walk.

You can switch off your heating from the office if you forget to do it during the morning rush, helping to conserve vital energy. Or you can just joyously control the whole thing from your sofa in front of the telly and reap the rewards while barely moving a muscle.

Smart security

IoT security devices are also very popular for smart home early adopters. If you have your hands full after doing the ‘big shop’, you can have the doors unlock as you approach. If you get paranoid at the office that you didn’t double-lock the front door, you can open the app and do it from your desk.

You can have surveillance cameras placed around your property to deter unwanted visitors and communicate with any other visitors via your phone from wherever you are in the world.

IoT uses and solutions

The Internet of Things comes in useful in many walks of life, including: wearables, smart homes, healthcare, industrial, retail and transport.

  • You can wear watches that communicate movement, heart rate and other physiological attributes to enhance yourself. You can even buy smart socks which translate data to your smartphone.
  • Smart homes can help you save on energy bills, modify your home to your exact requirements and keep you safe and secure.
  • Devices can remind you when to take your medication, when to slow down or when to get exercise. They can also notify the authorities in case of an emergency.
  • Manufacturing equipment can inform you when a part needs replacing or they’ve performed a potentially defective operation without you needing to work it out it for yourself.
  • Smart fridges can tell you when you will run out of milk and add groceries to your shopping list.
  • And driverless cars can analyse traffic maps and get you across town in the most efficient manner possible without you lifting a finger.

Consumer applications of the Internet of things

The first thing we think about when we consider how the Internet of Things will affect us are smart homes and self-improvement devices, like smart watches and smart trainers.

Remember, the foundation of any reliable smart home is a good internet connection the faster the better and a high-quality router.

The Internet of things: Organisational applications

Our own personal care aside for a moment, the IoT can have a much broader effect on the organisations that exist all around us.

IoT architectures

Solid IoT architecture is at the heart of everything good the Internet of Things can achieve. Let us explain…

The building blocks of all IoT architecture

All the ‘Things’ in the IoT are built by different manufacturers with different reputations, systems and priorities. Because of that, there isn’t a universal way to control each system or one law that governs the IoT. However, the ‘architecture’ of each system is very similar.

Firstly, your IoT device will collect its data usually through a sensor or actuator. This data will be sent to a ‘data acquisition system’ that processes, aggregates and measures the information ready for analysis. The third step involves ‘edging it’. In basic terms it means further processing the data and enhanced analysis. Lastly, all this information is stored locally or in an IoT cloud where it can be accessed to fulfil its purpose.

A great example of IoT architecture in action

Healthcare is an industry that has adopted IoT systems to help monitor elderly patients. Case in point: if an elderly person with little technical prowess or home help suddenly has a change in their condition, sensors attached to their body will detect it, send the information to data acquisition processors that analyse it, then enhance it and send it to the IoT cloud to alert emergency services and medical practitioners.

What is IoT security?

IoT security can help prevent you from handing over your personal information to the wrong people (who pretend to be legitimate companies).

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