In this blog series, we break down IoT, how it came about, and how it improves life and business in the 21st century
What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?
The Internet of Things (IoT) can be characterized by the billions of, historically unintelligent physical devices, that are now connected to data networks via the Internet. These devices are made intelligent by embedding sensors and compute that communicate real-time data without human intervention. They communicate with themselves, IoT applications, and platforms – and enable business outcomes via the intelligence generated through data analytics.
An IoT system works via the real-time acquisition and two-way transfer of data. This allows for the real-time analysis and control of the system. Gartner defines three main components of an IoT solution:
The Edge. This is where data is acquired through sampling and collection from its surroundings by devices that contain sensors and/or configurable parts to alter the operation of the device.
The IoT platform. The platform consumes, stores, and analyzes the data. Based on the intelligence learned from the analysis, the platform will invoke tasks or enterprise applications. The platform also consists of device and system manageability.
The enterprise. This represents the set of applications, processes, and services that can be called by the IoT platform to complete business outcomes.
Connectivity can be added to this list to be considered a main component. Connected devices are meant to communicate what they sense and where they are located. The connectivity or communication channel is provided by solutions such as WiFi, Bluetooth, and Long-Range Wide Area Networks (LoRaWAN).
Examples of IoT devices
Any object which is connected to the data network to be controlled or to communicate information can be considered an IoT device. These are devices which are historically not thought of being connected to the data network. PCs and smartphones, for example, are not considered IoT devices.
Examples of IoT devices include connected lightbulbs, smart thermostats, automated vehicles and connected avionics – all with embedded controllers and sensors that acquire data from the device, control the device or both.
Devices can be categorized into groups, such as connected homes, smart cities, connected vehicles, medical devices and smart buildings.
Internet of Things – A timeline
The idea of embedding things with sensors and compute to retrieve data intelligence has been around since the 1980s. However, only recently has it taken large strides based on the introduction of inexpensive and low-powered devices, widespread Internet connectivity, and much interest in both the business and the consumer space. The Internet of Things evolved from its humble beginnings in the 1980s to surpassing the number of people on the planet. Here is a brief outline of its history.
- In 1969 ARPANET, the precursor to the Internet, is deployed by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. ARPANET was made available to the public in the 1980s.
- In 1982, computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University connected a soda vending machine to ARPANET so that they could check if the machine had soda and that the soda was cold.
- In 1990, John Romkey created an Internet Connected Toaster which he controlled remotely to turn it on and off.
- In 1995, the GPS program is completed. This enabled a major component of IoT devices – location.
- In 1998, IPv6 became a draft standard paving the way to connecting every device imaginable.
- In 1999, Kevin Ashton of MIT coined the term Internet of Things.
- In 2000, LG creates the Internet-connected refrigerator which allowed one to track items in the fridge. It ends up being too expensive for the average consumer, costing roughly $20,000.
- In 2002, the “digital twin” gained recognition as a concept as defined by Michael Grieves. A digital twin refers to a virtual replica of any physical entity (physical twin) to mimic each other’s state to predict system or component behaviour.
- In 2007, the iPhone is created allowing users to interact with devices connected to the Internet.
- In 2008, the number of Internet-connected devices surpassed the number of people on the planet.
- In 2009, Google starts testing self-driving cars, the first Internet-connected pacemaker is released, and Bitcoin begins its operations based on blockchain technology.
- In 2010, Nest introduces a smart thermostat and starts the smart home evolution.
- In 2013, Google Glass is introduced as a personal compute device that you wear like glasses. It was a little ahead of its time.
- In 2014, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) Standards Forum demonstrates how IoT can change the way manufacturing and supply chain processes work.
- In 2016, GM, Lyft, Tesla, and Uber start testing self-driving cars.
- In 2020, Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2 is introduced as the latest augmented reality (AR) headset, intended for those working in construction, manufacturing, or medical fields.
- 2021 and beyond will see major trends in IoT, driven by artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, 5G, edge computing, AI-enabled at the edge (edge AI) and digital twins.
Size of the Internet of Things
There are more connected IoT devices than people. IoT Analytics™ cited 12.2 billion active devices in 2021 and forecasts 14.4 billion by year-end 2022. The total number of connected IoT devices by 2025 is forecasted to be approximately 27 billion.
In the next installment of The Internet of Things primer, we will be looking at how IoT is being implemented in business and industry, with specific use-case scenarios that can give you some ideas on how you can deploy the technology into your own operations.