What Is The Internet Of Things?

What is the internet of things featured
The internet of things is in the news a lot these days, but what really is it? Image credit: Andres Urena

People often ask what is the Internet of Things? Indeed, there is a lot of confusion out there.

You’ll already know how the Internet connects people, businesses and information all around the globe. The increasingly relevant internet of things simply connects devices in the same way.

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What does the Internet of Things Actually Mean?

The Internet of Things can connect equipment without necessarily needing human intervention.

Let’s get technical for a second.

IoT devices communicate using Internet protocols and represent potentially billions or trillions of connections that can be utilised to create new technological advancements.

These devices represent an increasing amount of electronically-enabled equipment that have an Internet protocol (IP) addresses and internet connectivity. These devices can communicate between themselves and other Internet-enabled systems and equipment.

So, in lay terms, this means that more devices that ever are connected to the internet. Whereas once the internet was only accessed using computers and phones, today more mundane appliances like TVs and fridges are utilising the web.

What is the Internet of Things – Global Growth of IoT

The Internet of Things is growing at a very fast rate of about 28.5% per year. In 2016, the estimated American market for IoT and support services was around $157 billion.

Growth in the internet of things infographic
The IoT has grown massively in recent years. Image credit NCTA.com

By 2021, this number is expected to reach over $457 billion. The business-to-business segment in the USA represents over $300 billion annually, with about $85 billion in the industrial sector, and about $72 billion for residential services.

Manufacturing, utilities, and transportation logistics will be spending about $40 billion each year starting in 2020.

Globally, the IoT is expected to grow to around $8.9 trillion by 2020 and maintain a growth rate just shy of 20% per year. Global industrial manufacturing will be about $890 billion for the IoT in 2020.

Healthcare will be a huge market for global IoT services and represent about $1.3 trillion by 2020.

Devices Utilising the Internet of Things

There are many technological advancements emerging that take advantage of the newer IoT capabilities. The easiest way to understand how the Internet of Things market is made up is to consider some of the industries which are benefitting the most.

These include the following as a percentage of the total IoT market:

Smart Cities (26%)

A smart city uses information technology to create more efficient communications that helps improve the efficiency of the operations of the municipal government, share public information more readily, and improves the general welfare of its citizens.

This can involve things like using data to improve the provision of public services, or prioritise infrastructure projects.

Industrial IoT (24%)

The industrial applications of IoT include such things as the application and monitoring of sensors and other connected devices to improve manufacturing processes and enhance the maintenance of machinery and equipment.

There are also a number of applications for machine learning using IoT technology in the industrial sector.

Connected Health (20%)

These systems create the ability for healthcare workers to monitor the health conditions of patients benefiting from home care services without the patients needing to come into the healthcare facilities as often.

This not only saves on healthcare expenses but also improves the quality of patient care.

Smart Homes (14%)

Smart homes operate more efficiently and respond to usage patterns to monitor things like heating and ventilation. They also allow you to automate domestic tasks, like laundry or restocking your fridge.

Smart homes have enhanced security and video surveillance monitoring, which notifies the homeowners of any potential dangers, such as a fire or an intrusion. These systems can also summon emergency response if needed.

Connected Cars (7%)

Connected cars link drivers and their environment to improve the driving experience. The driver can be informed of road conditions, weather, and hazards, as well as given suggested routes to avoid the difficulties.

In fleet operations, the fleet manager can be informed of the location of every fleet vehicle using GPS monitoring.

Real-time delivery and pick-up scheduling can be enhanced with efficiencies that come from knowing where all the vehicles are located and what traffic conditions are being experienced by the fleet members.

Smart Utilities (4%)

Smart utilities use smart meters to allow for better allocation of power consumption and real-time response with power creation that may incorporate alternative power generation.

For example, a building or residence may operate on solar power and at times have excess power not needed for the specific facility that can be put back on the grid in order to reduce utilities expense.

A battery system can be used that recharges at times that are not during the period of peak power usage to reduce the cost of recharging the batteries.

Wearables (3%)

Some interesting uses of IoT-connected wearables are monitoring exercise programs for the amount of exercise achieved, heart rate, blood pressure, and calories burned.

Additionally, wearables can send and receive sensory messages.

Internet of things smart watch
Wearables like smart watches offer a range of lifestyle and leisure benefits. image credit: Luca Bravo

This message can be sent to friends and family if they are wearing a connected device. Another excellent use of a wearable device is monitoring the blood sugar levels of diabetics to help them know when they should take insulin or do something to raise their blood sugar.

The Future of the Internet of Things

Of course, we’ve only scratched the surface of the potential of the Internet of Things. In fact, this area is seeing billions of dollars of annual investment, because of the wide ranging potential applications.

The pace of technological change has never been faster.

Because of this, it’s difficult to predict where IoT technology might lead us in even a few years. Chances are, it will be an integral part of new developments, which in the past were the domain of science fiction.

These include driverless cars, automated assistants, and much much more.

For early adopters, the rewards of IoT technology will be high. This fact goes a long way to explaining the amount of stock revenue the industry has generated over the last decade. Everyone wants to get in at the ground floor of a massive growth industry.

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