Introduction: What is the Internet of Things - and Why Should We Care?
The term “Internet of Things”, or IoT, has been around since 1999, when it was coined by Kevin Ashton, but it’s only become well known recently. The availability of low cost sensors and communications has enabled IoT equipment to gain momentum in the market. Of late, the term has been getting an incredible amount of attention and use. In fact, it’s so ubiquitous now in so many industries that it can be hard to sort out a clear definition, and if anything the definition has been shifting over time. As it is commonly now understood, IoT enables physical objects to communicate with the cloud and, as a result, with various applications and potentially with each other.
IoT is being used, or has been proposed for, a wide range of applications, ranging from health care to city management, from energy production and generation to commercial building management, from industrial processes to supply chain management, and many more – not to mention numerous consumer applications.
Gartner reports that the industries that are leading the digitalization of everything include manufacturing (15 percent), health care (15 percent) and insurance (11 percent).
Each of these applications, taken on its own, has enormous potential. But, the implications in terms of the number of devices that will be connected is staggering. Gartner predicts 30 billion connected devices by 2020, up from 2.5 billion in 2009. Other sources project as many as 200 billion devices. Whichever number proves to be more accurate, this is an extraordinary number of “things” to be connected and monitored - which represents an extraordinary challenge.
In addition to growing awareness of the Internet of Things over the past several years, the hype surrounding IoT equipment has also begun to grow. More and more companies report that they offer an IoT solution or leverage one in the course of their operations – even if they are doing nothing new. The suggestion that the term is being hyped is supported by a recent Atlantic Magazine survey of 100 Silicon Valley executives, in which “Internet of Things” was ranked the #1 buzzword, beating out #2, “Unicorn”.
While IoT clearly offers enormous potential, some of the hype may suggest the potential for chaos. For example, major appliance manufacturers have been touting connected home appliances for years. What are the implications of all appliances being connected to the Internet? How many “things” do you want reaching out to you? Do you want your Internet-connected refrigerator ordering milk when it senses you are low? Does that mean that the refrigerator will need to look at your personal calendar to know when you are going on vacation? What happens when your refrigerator, hot water heater, washer and dryer, dishwasher, and garage door opener are all bombarding you on a regular basis; how do you make sense of all of that information? And who else may be using the IoT equipment information, and for what purposes? Will multiple connected devices create multiple paths for hackers to get into your home network?
The implications of this type of connectivity are only intensified in a business environment...