Wytcote Technologies
Wytcote Technologies

What Exactly is the Internet of Things (IoT)?

Frank Gomez
July 14, 2020

The world is all the rage about the Internet of Things (IoT) and its impact on almost every aspect of existence. But what is IoT, exactly? Why is it so important? And how are key industries applying IoT?

What is IoT?

IoT refers to the network of physical devices – things – that are embedded with software, sensors, and other technologies to collect and share data with other systems and devices over the internet. These “things” could be as a simple health-tracking wearable or as complex as self-driving cars whose sensors detect objects in their path.  

The Internet of Things has the potential to revolutionize the way we communicate, work and live our lives. IoT technologies are already being implemented in daily life through industries across the globe.

Although it is still somewhat of a work in progress, IoT is set to change the way people do things, with experts suggesting that it will have the biggest technological impact since cloud computing. There are billions of IoT devices today. In fact, the number of IoT products has surpassed the human population on the planet.

Research by Statista revealed that the number of IoT connected devices is expected to reach 31 billion by the end of 2020, and grow to 75 billion globally by 2025. At this rate, IoT is set to impact all areas of life in the years to come, leading to a smart world that initially was only imaginable in science fiction.

How IoT works:

From sensors to user-interface, IoT devices collect, send, and act on data by communicating with each other in ways that allow users to obtain real-time insights. A complete IoT system features four components: sensors, connectivity, data processing, and user interface. Let’s look at these components and their roles in an IoT system.

Sensors: IoT sensors gather data – like location, images, motion, air quality, light, temperature – from their surroundings. A sensor could be used alone, or as part of multiple sensors in a device (think about GPS, a camera, or a cellular phone accelerometer). Either way, the idea is for data to be recorded from the environment by some type of device.

Connectivity: IoT devices share the sensor data by linking to an IoT gateway or other edge computing device where information is either analyzed locally or sent to the cloud. But cloud computing is an appealing option for many companies, considering the amount of data IoT applications generate.

IoT technology connects devices across the globe, with real-time data, analysis and reporting.

Data process: Once the data reaches the cloud, the software does some form of processing on it. This could be as simple as confirming that the temperature reading is within the specified range or as complex as identifying objects using computer vision in videos and so on. In case something is not right, the user gets a notification.

User interface: Lastly, the system sends a notification to the user through text, email, etc. For instance, the user gets an email notification when the temperature is too high in the cold storage. On the other hand, the user can have an interface that enables them to monitor the system proactively. Like if they want to look at the video feeds in their house through a web browser or phone. And depending on the IoT application, one can even signal the system to do something – like raise the temperature when it falls below the optimum degree.

The Internet of Things also uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to make the data collection process easier and more dynamic.

Why is IoT so important?

When something is connected to the internet, it means that it can send and receive data. The ability to send and receive data makes things smart – and smart is good.

IoT offers individuals and companies the opportunity to be more efficient in the way they do things. All while saving time, money, and emissions in the process. It will allow governments, public authorities, and organizations to rethink how they produce goods and deliver services. The scope and quality of data across the IoT provides an opportunity for much more responsive and contextualized interactions with devices, which creates the room for change.

This is perhaps why most modern enterprises are already using IoT to simplify and automate most of their daily tasks. The world IoT market will increase from $157 in 2016 to $457 billion in 2020, achieving an AGR of 28.5%, according to Forbes. In industrial settings, IoT technology is applied not just for automation reasons but also to boost productivity, enhance business processes, generate an additional revenue stream, expand to new markets, improve customer experience, and lower operational costs. Industrial IoT is all about getting real-time data that allows leaders to make better and timely decisions.

In a nutshell, IoT allows business leaders and managers to:

  • Access valuable data at low cost
  • Analyze big data
  • Understand customer behavior
  • Introduce remote working options
  • Reduce operating cost

How are key industries applying IoT?

IoT in healthcare

When applied in the healthcare industry, IoT could improve the efficiency and quality of treatment as well as the health of patients. IoT in hospitals allows interoperability, machine-machine communication, and data exchange, which makes service delivery effective. Again, real-time monitoring through connected devices can save lives in the event of an emergency. This can be further developed with AI (artificial intelligence) technology that can help process data instantly, assisting doctors with the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

Other uses of IoT in the healthcare field include remote medical assistance, research, tracking & alerts, and data assortment & analytics. Forbes estimates 646 million IoT devices will be used in medical offices, clinics, and hospitals by 2020. As such, healthcare facilities will prioritize finding appropriate storage and implementing IoT security measures.

IoT in senior care

Senior care, such as assisted living facilities and nursing homes can greatly benefit from the application of IoT technology in their operations. Real-time monitoring will help you offer your residents the best-in-class care. IoT technologies, like Senior Sense can also help reduce your legal liability through real-time monitoring, data detection, staff quality control and management.

IoT devices can make healthcare management systems more streamlined. With encryption, data privacy is no longer a worry.

IoT in transport

IoT has the potential to change the transport sector by profoundly influencing how systems collect data by bringing together all major technical and business trends of automation, mobility, and data analytics. The information collected from sensors, actuators, and other devices can then be assessed by relevant bodies to: improve the traveler experience, increase safety, improve operational performance, and reduce congestion and energy use.

IoT in supply chain management 

 IoT allows logistics managers to connect their devices, equipment, and vehicles to get real-time status updates on tasks. This provides a full picture throughout the supply chain, from the warehouse to stakeholders and clients. Use cases of IoT in supply chain management include location tracking, environment sensing, and fleet management.

IoT in agriculture

IoT improves the entire agriculture system by tracking the field in real-time. Thanks to sensors and interconnectivity, IoT in agriculture saves farmers’ time and also reduces the misuse of precious resources like electricity and water. Internet of Things technology keeps aspects like temperature, humidity, and soil under check, giving farmers a precise real-time observation. Other applications of IoT in agriculture are livestock tracking and geofencing, remote control of self-driving tractors, agricultural drones, smart greenhouses, and predictive analytics for smart farming.

IoT in homes

A Smart Home is perhaps one of the most prominent examples of IoT. IoT lets one control everything, including lighting, temperature, sound, and any other object that connects to the internet, virtually. Projections show that the smart home global market will reach up to $53 billion by 2022. IoT platform not only allows homeowners to monitor and control a full range of functionality on the web or mobile apps, but also optimize spending, improve comfort, and enhance security.

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