In its younger days, the Internet used to be network of computers. That network made it possible for people to send emails and share documents across continents in seconds. It revolutionized communication in ways that we had never imagined and set new standards for businesses.
Fast forward to today, the Internet has morphed into a gigantic grid of connected things. In addition to laptops and smartphones, the Internet of today hosts many things. These things range from smart cars to robots, drones, doorbells, fridges, gardens, and power grids. Think of anything that connects to the Internet. The list of things is virtually endless.
Technically, the Internet has become the INTERNET OF THINGS.
A Network of Things
The gradual transformation of the Internet from a network of computers to a system of things is related to how it is used more than what it is. The ‘old’ Internet and the ‘new’ Internet are essentially the same thing. Both are based on the Internet protocol suite of rules and transmission of data packets between two points.
What makes the ‘new’ Internet different is it goes beyond the traditional computing environments to accommodate objects in the real world. For instance, real objects like water taps, vacuum cleaners, and cars can now be connected to the Internet, provided the right hardware and software are in place.
A good example of a connected ‘thing’ is the Ring doorbell. This smart internet-connected doorbell is designed to notify the owner when a visitor arrives at the door. The device works by sending a signal through cloud servers to the user’s phone.
The exact number of ‘things’ that are currently connected to the Internet is not known. However, estimates claim the number will surpass 30 billion in 2020.
Why should we connect things to the Internet?
Every technological innovation comes with some form of benefit. The case is no different with the Internet of things. Every instance of connected ‘thing’ is bound to bring value to the user. Consider a smart garden that alerts you when your plants need attention or an intelligent camera system that activates a cluster of drones when a trespasser sneaks into your compound. Such systems would not only increase efficiency but also give you ‘superhuman’ abilities. Imagine having the ability to control physical objects across miles; to monitor and manage your assets while far away.
Control is not the only foreseeable benefit. By bringing together real objects into the cyberspace, the IoT allows you to collect real data and observe systems from a computer screen. This is very convenient in industries that want to monitor resources such as water, gas, and electricity.
In theory, there’s no limit to where you can use IoT technology. IoT is being used across diverse industries spanning from healthcare to manufacturing, transport, energy, and even at home.
What makes it possible to connect things to the Internet?
There are three main enablers of IoT. The first is fast networks. Modern networks have a much larger throughput than traditional networks, and that’s because communication technology is advancing daily. The advent of 5G means more speed, lower latency, and increased capacity of data transmission.
The second enabler is cheaper sensors and actuators. Today, it’s easy to access and buy sensors and actuators than it was a few decades ago. Thanks to the competition, friendlier prices, and prompt shipping (through the Internet), ordinary people now have access to these innovative pieces of hardware. Sensors are mainly used to collect data in the real world, while actuators are designed to control physical systems.
The third enabler of IoT involves advances in semiconductor technology. Specifically, the upsurge of programmable controllers, logic boards, and small computers such as Arduino and raspberry pi has facilitated the development of customized IoT projects that can be used anywhere.
What is more, the Internet is allowing more and more people to learn programming and enter into the world of IoT.
Internet of things could be the Internet of bad things
We like to take a positive view of things. But with technology, that inclination can lead us to doom. And that’s especially true with the Internet of things. When we add more objects on the Internet, we expose them to cyber-attacks. Cyber-physical objects can be hacked, hijacked, or destroyed by malicious enemies. Not only that, sensitive data can be viewed or stolen.
If the Internet of Things technology falls into the wrong hands, the outcome could be tragic. It could mean the destruction of infrastructure and loss of human lives.
The Internet of Everything
The Internet of things is the Internet of everything. If we can integrate physical objects in the cyberspace, it can only mean one thing; that the Internet is the catalyst to the next industrial revolution.
IoT will revolutionize how we work, manufacture, construct, travel, and live. It will alter every industry; and whoever resists the upcoming change is bound to fail in the world of tomorrow.