Internet of Things (IoT) – The basics

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Internet-of-Things-IoT

IBM investing billions into it, Oracle is after it, Microsoft has already jumped in and hundreds of startups budding like mushrooms with something in hand with IoT! Internet of things was the buzzword of 2015 and probably it will be for the next few years to come. But what is it exactly?

What if you keychain can buzz you when you forget it at a bar, what if your flip flops or running shoes can tell you the number of steps you’ve taken? Imagine your door locks getting unlocked when you reach home. The possibilities are only limited by the imagination of the thinker! What is common among these things ? These are common everyday objects, objects that are otherwise ‘dumb’ inanimate things. Internet of things is about connecting up everyday objects virtually to achieve improved user convenience and/or usability.

Kevin Ashton, who is one of the early pioneers who developed RFID invented the term “Internet of things” in 1999. He used the term for describing the network of devices he used to do research on. IoT isn’t all about machine to machine communication, it spans across devices, protocols and multiple application domains. The “internet” part in IoT isn’t to be confused with the internet we’re familiar with, it’s an internet on its own for the “Things”. But our traditional internet can be used for IoT and today’s IoT is based around this use case, our traditional internet.

Wearables smart devices are becoming more and more popular among the mainstream audience. Interesting fact is that, the prices are coming down at an exponential rate. As the prices go down, more and more people will be attracted and a whole new world of possibilities will be revealed. Automatic toll collection, intelligent traffic signal control, augmented gaming and all are the tip of the iceberg. IoT is taking over the world at a faster pace while keeping a low profile! Households, accessories, gadgets, huge machineries, ultra modern industries, you name it! IoT is present in the zenith and nadir of everyday life.

Nest thermostat

Nest thermostat, a popular IoT enabled consumer product

IoT isn’t about consumer products or services. IoT spans across all application domains, from Healthcare to logistics, the applications are limitless. Connected patient monitoring systems, connected scanning machines, fleet tracking, geo fencing, package tracking, package monitoring etc. are emerging as standards now.Besides the plethora of new application areas for Internet connected automation to expand into, IoT is also expected to generate large amounts of data from diverse locations that is aggregated very quickly, thereby increasing the need to better index, store and process such data.

NodeMCU, an ESP8266 based IoT development platform

NodeMCU, an ESP8266 based IoT development platform

Everything about IoT is real-time. Applications of real-time data is huge. Preventing hiccups in supply chains is currently one of the examples. IoT makes our world look like a chapter from a sci-fi novel written some decades ago. Washing machines that notify users about detergent running out are already in the market today.  Popularization of cloud technologies made it easy to implement IoT based systems anywhere by anyone. Arduino’s, Raspberry Pi’s and BeagleBone’s made it possible for the common man to design and deploy low cost functional IoT systems. Simply connecting up sensors to the internet and using the data from them for performing meaningful actions are common and super simple these days.

IOT SecurityLike every other too good to be true kind of things, IoT is also not immune to problems. The biggest one being security and privacy. When you wear a smart band or a watch, you are literally allowing companies to spy on you, you are granting permission to push ads and offers based on your location. This location may be shared with multiple sub vendors of the original equipment manufacturer. Imagine any one company’s user database was leaked, before they could even detect it, millions will be in danger. When we grant permission to use our personal data for our own convenience, we are literally putting ourselves in potential danger. As more and more security flaws are being detected daily, IoT and its applications are also under the radar.

The IoT is as vulnerable as Internet. The Internet is still not secure, so we can’t expect IoT to be secure, either. However, security is constantly evolving to meet new challenges, we’ve seen it before, and we’ll see it again, with IoT and subsequent connected technologies.

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IoT is here to stay, and will help us transform our lives like a science fiction movie by reaching every nook and cranny of our day to day lives!

Side Note: We’re developing an IoT platform for the makers and enterprises, called IOStash. Its more like an IoT PaaS that enable you to connect your devices easily to the cloud. The API is super easy and makes the integration butter smooth! IOStash sports realtime data streaming, public dashboards and powerful data analytics. Register at https://iostash.com for a private beta invite.