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.

The Internet of Things (IoT), also sometimes referred to as the Internet of Everything or the Industrial Internet, is a computing concept that describes the idea of everyday physical objects being connected to the Internet and able to identify themselves to other devices and systems. The term IoT was first coined by Kevin Ashton in 1999 while working at Procter & Gamble. However, the first internet-connected appliance, a Coke machine at Carnegie Mellon University, was created in 1982. Since then, IoT adoption has grown exponentially – there are now over 10 billion IoT devices worldwide as of 2019, according to IHS Markit. The global market value of IoT is projected to reach £662 billion by 2025, as per IoT Analytics.

What Does the Internet of Things Actually Mean?

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

What is the internet of things featured

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 with 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 than 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.

The Internet of Everything | Mass Surveillance | Silicon Valley | Documentary

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

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.

15 Brilliant IoT Projects for Beginners

IoT is making an impact across many industries, including:

  • Manufacturing – IoT sensors can detect failures early and enable predictive equipment maintenance. This improves uptime and reduces costs. For example, Aerospace company Airbus uses IoT sensors to track its factory assets and optimize production.
  • Healthcare – IoT devices can monitor patient health remotely and provide telemedicine options. Medical device company Medtronic uses IoT sensors to collect data on heart patients and detect problems.
  • Retail – IoT sensors in stores can track inventory levels in real time. Walmart uses RFID tags to monitor stock levels. Digital signs and beacons can also target promotions to shoppers.
  • Smart homes – IoT devices like Google Nest thermostats, Amazon Echo speakers, and smart lights make homes more energy-efficient, secure and convenient.
  • Smart cities – IoT sensors monitor public infrastructure like bridges for safety, collect traffic data to optimize routes, and manage public transportation, garbage collection and water usage more efficiently. Barcelona, London, Singapore and more are becoming smart cities.
The Top 4 Internet of Things (IoT) Trends

Different types of IoT devices:

IoT devices can be classified into different types based on their function, industry, and form factor. Some common types of IoT devices include:

  • Wearables: IoT devices that are worn on the body, such as smartwatches, fitness trackers, and augmented reality glasses. These devices can be used to track health data, fitness levels, and location.
  • Smart home devices: IoT devices that are used to control and manage the home, such as smart thermostats, smart lights, and smart locks. These devices can be used to automate tasks, save energy, and improve security.
  • Industrial IoT devices: IoT devices that are used in industrial settings to improve efficiency and productivity, such as asset tracking sensors, predictive maintenance systems, and smart robots. These devices can be used to track inventory, optimize production schedules, and predict machine failures.
  • Smart city devices: IoT devices that are used to improve the infrastructure and services in cities, such as traffic sensors, air quality monitors, and smart parking systems. These devices can be used to reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality, and make parking more efficient.

Different ways that IoT devices are used:

IoT devices are used in a wide variety of industries and applications, including:

  • Healthcare: IoT devices are used to monitor patients’ health, track medication adherence, and provide remote care. For example, IoT devices can be used to monitor patients’ blood pressure, heart rate, and glucose levels. They can also be used to track when patients take their medications and remind them to take them if they forget.
  • Manufacturing: IoT devices are used to track inventory, optimize production schedules, and predict machine failures. For example, IoT devices can be used to track the location of products in a warehouse, monitor the performance of machines on a production line, and predict when machines are likely to fail.
  • Transportation: IoT devices are used to track vehicles, manage traffic flow, and optimize fuel efficiency. For example, IoT devices can be used to track the location of buses in real time and provide passengers with estimated arrival times. They can also be used to monitor traffic conditions and adjust traffic lights accordingly.
  • Retail: IoT devices are used to track inventory, monitor customer behavior, and improve the shopping experience. For example, IoT devices can be used to track the movement of customers around a store and identify popular products. They can also be used to send personalized recommendations to customers based on their past purchases.
  • Agriculture: IoT devices are used to monitor crop health, automate irrigation systems, and track livestock. For example, IoT devices can be used to monitor the moisture levels in the soil and turn on irrigation systems when needed. They can also be used to track the location of livestock and ensure that they are safe.

Security and privacy concerns associated with the IoT:

IoT devices are increasingly being targeted by cybercriminals. Some of the security and privacy concerns associated with the IoT include:

  • Data breaches: IoT devices often collect and store large amounts of data, which can be a target for hackers. For example, hackers could steal personal data from IoT devices, such as health data or financial information.
  • Device hijacking: Hackers can hijack IoT devices and use them to launch attacks against other devices or networks. For example, hackers could use hijacked IoT devices to launch a DDoS attack against a website or network.
  • Botnet attacks: IoT devices can be used to create botnets, which are networks of infected devices that can be used to launch DDoS attacks or spread malware. For example, hackers could use a botnet of hijacked IoT devices to launch a DDoS attack against a website or network.
  • Privacy concerns: IoT devices collect a lot of data about our personal lives, which raises concerns about privacy. For example, IoT devices could collect data about our location, activities, and health. This data could then be used by companies or governments to track us or target us with advertising.

How to mitigate the security and privacy risks associated with the IoT:

There are a number of things that you can do to mitigate the security and privacy risks associated with the IoT, including:

  • Choose IoT devices from reputable manufacturers and retailers. This will help to ensure that the devices are secure and that they have been updated with the latest security patches.
  • Keep your IoT devices up to date with the latest security patches. This will help to protect your devices from known vulnerabilities.
  • Use strong passwords for your IoT devices and change them regularly. This will make it more difficult for attackers to access your devices.
  • Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) for your IoT devices whenever possible. 2FA adds an extra layer of security to your devices by requiring you to enter a code from your phone in addition to your password.
  • Be careful about what information you share with IoT devices. 

Devices Utilising the Internet of Things

Many technological advancements are 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 help improve the efficiency of the operations of the municipal government, share public information more readily, and improve the general welfare of its citizens.

This can involve things like using data to improve the provision of public services or prioritising 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, enhance the maintenance of machinery and equipment, and leverage the power of enterprise IoT services for comprehensive data analysis and automation.

There are also several 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 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 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 to reduce utility expenses. Utilizing the solar irradiance map can help in accurately predicting these surplus energy periods, enabling more strategic energy management and grid contributions.

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 smartwatches 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.

IoT Security Challenges:

While IoT offers many benefits, it also introduces security risks like:

  • Data protection – IoT devices collect a lot of consumer data that needs to be kept private and secure.
  • Device hacking – Criminals can exploit security flaws in IoT devices to access networks or launch DDoS attacks. The 2021 Colonial Pipeline attack was through an IoT device.
  • Privacy concerns – Constant surveillance through IoT devices can raise privacy issues if not addressed responsibly.

Organizations can take steps like:

  • Encrypting data
  • Monitoring for anomalous behaviour
  • Regularly patch and update devices
  • Authenticate users and devices
  • Isolate IoT networks through VLANs

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 on the ground floor of a massive growth industry.

Common FAQ on the Internet of Things

What is the IoT?

The IoT is a network of physical objects that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the internet.

What are some examples of IoT devices?

Some examples of IoT devices include smart thermostats, smart lights, smart locks, fitness trackers, wearable devices, industrial sensors, and smart city devices.

How are IoT devices used?

IoT devices are used in various industries and applications, including healthcare, manufacturing, transportation, retail, and agriculture.

What are the benefits of the IoT?

The IoT has the potential to offer many benefits, including:

  • Increased efficiency and productivity
  • Improved safety and security
  • Reduced costs
  • Enhanced customer service
  • New business opportunities

What are the challenges of the IoT?

Some of the challenges of the IoT include:

  • Security and privacy concerns
  • Data management challenges
  • Interoperability challenges
  • Lack of standardization

How can I mitigate the security and privacy risks associated with the IoT?

There are a number of things that you can do to mitigate the security and privacy risks associated with the IoT, including:

  • Choose IoT devices from reputable manufacturers and retailers.
  • Keep your IoT devices up to date with the latest security patches.
  • Use strong passwords for your IoT devices and change them regularly.
  • Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) for your IoT devices whenever possible.
  • Be careful about what information you share with IoT devices.

What is the future of the IoT?

The IoT is still in its early stages of development, but it can potentially revolutionize many industries and aspects of our lives. Some of the emerging trends in the IoT include:

  • The development of 5G will enable faster and more reliable wireless connectivity for IoT devices.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) is being used to develop new IoT applications, such as predictive maintenance and self-driving cars.
  • The IoT is being used to create new business models, such as subscription-based services and pay-per-use pricing.

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