Everything at your fingertips: The internet of things

Long time ago I used to dream about the possibility to turn off the lights with a clap or not having to wake up to change the channel of the TV and doing it with a blink instead, because yes, I grew up with an old style TV (cathode ray tube) and I changed channels by hand. Today this and more has become possible thanks to the Internet of things — IoT. Perhaps one might think this is something somehow irrelevant but it is the most importan technology in this century and IoT is considered to lead the 4th industrial revolution. Today, almost ten billion of devices are connected to the internet and this is expected to grow to 22 billion by 2025.

IoT is like a giant network with connected devices, it is the network of physical objects connected to the internet in order to generate communication just like we communicate each other. These devices gather and share information about how they are used and the environment in which they operated, then this info es analized and creates an action. It is all done using sensors which are embedded in every device we could use or see in everyday life, like the lights or TV of your house, a cellphone, appliances in the kitchen, the sprinklers in your garden, the traffic lights or some sophisticated industrial apparatus. Those sensors emit data constantly about the conditions or state of the device, this means that a lot of information is being transmitted every second, IoT get into action to dump this data trough a common platform using a common language that enables the communication between devices. So, sensors send data to IoT platform security where it is are integrated, then analytics is performed on the data and some information is extracted as per requirements. Later, the results are shared with other devices for better user experience, automation and improving efficiencies.

The expansion of IoT means that we can have smartphones, smart cars, smart houses, and more, redefining our lifestyle and transforming the way we interact with technology. “IoT es where The physical world meets the digital world — and they cooperate”. “IoT offers us opportunity to be more efficient in how we do things, saving us time, money and often emissions in the process”. It allows companies, governments and public authorities to re-think how they deliver services and produce goods.

But IoT has used other technologies which have made the road easier for it:

IoT devices are classified in four categories: consumer, commercial, industrial and infrastructure. I will explain each one in detail.

Consumer devices are those we use for personal purposes, the home assistants that helps us make things work in our houses like to do a list for the supermarket, play some music or turning on the air conditioning, devices like Alexa, apple watch or Google are some examples.

Commercial devices are applied within public services. This includes transportation, where traffic control technology such as sensor-enabled traffic lights and electronic toll collection systems are prefacing an IoT future of smart cars. It also includes building automation, which consists of such technologies as security and lighting systems.

Industrial devices are used in business and enterprise. The goal of the IIoT is to improve the efficiency, reliability, and decision-making of economic operations. This involves combining robotics (operational technology) with machine learning and data analytics (information technology). The IIoT has generated software to improve business models and manufacturing processes through such technologies as supply-chain networks.

Infraestructure devices generates environmental monitoring systems to measure things like air, water, and soil quality as well as energy management technology such as the smart grid, which more efficiently produces and distributes electricity.

IoT can be useful in any field as I showed you in the last paragraphs. But it is also interesting to know how this technology works. This involves three technologies — wireless data protocols, hardware, and platforms.

Wireless data protocols means transmission of data that enables devices to connect to the internet using technologies like WiFi or Bluetooth.

Hardware of an IoT device refers to the actual mechanics of the device itself. May consist of sensors, networking hubs, or audio receivers; regardless of the specifics, the hardware is the actual concrete technology that permits a device to work and interact, whether that interaction be with users or the internet.

Platforms let devices connected to the internet access and share data with other IoT devices. This handling of data is managed by IoT platforms, software that organizes the exchange of information among a given network of IoT devices.

So far we have shown only the positive and nice parts of IoT but there is also a dark side of it. This has to do with sharing information to thirds. Nowadays there is a huge concern about our privacy and the fact that when using social media and in almost everything we do on the internet we are losing privacy and companies use our information for different purposes. In the same way, because IoT shares a lot of data in order to work, could mean a disruption of our privacy.

If you think about the devices and software you connect to the internet that require us to input information to register or set up. If these devices are connected to a global IoT where that information can potentially be shared with other devices it is easy to visualize the scale of privacy concerns, specially because much of the IoT was initially developed without security standards. The thing is that technology companies are not always asked for accountability. Data in today’s IoT environment is available in an unprecedented way, but does not permit mishandling of what is personal and identifying information.

If 15 years ago it was a dream to turn on the lights with a clap and today that is possible, I can not imagine what is next to come with IoT, can you?

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