Today there is nothing more functionally important than a lasting connection to the internet. The internet has developed into a wonderful and powerful tool and now more than ever, all kinds of things, machines, and even animals are getting connected to the internet.

“The Internet of Things (IoT) is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.”

Before recently, cell phones were just phones, not smartphones. Meaning that they could only send text messages and make phone calls. Phones however became very smart by being able to connect to the internet, allowing them to send and receive data through the internet. You can now read any book, watch any movie, or listen to any song all in the palm of your hand. And these are just very miniscule examples of the capabilities of the modern smartphone. There are so many benefits of this connection to the internet but we can also enhance the functionality of anything by connecting it to the internet.

The Internet of Things means taking all the things in the world and connecting them to the internet. It is a very simple concept but people tend to get lost in its definition because the field is so broad and loosely defined. IoT will make our homes, offices, cars, and environment more measurable and smarter. There are already more connected things than people in the world.

Gartner, Inc. forecasts that 8.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2017, up 31 percent from 2016, and will reach 20.4 billion by 2020. Total spending on endpoints and services will reach almost $2 trillion in 2017.There is a lot of things to be accounted for as well as a lot of money being spent by consumers and business as they push to make their lives and jobs easier and smarter.

The consumer segment is the largest user of connected things with 5.2 billion units in 2017, which represents 63 percent of the overall number of applications in use.

Table 1: IoT Units Installed Base by Category (Millions of Units)

Consumer Uses

IoT devices are a part of the larger concept of home automation, which can include lighting, heating and air conditioning, media and security systems. Long term benefits could include energy savings by automatically ensuring lights and electronics are turned off.

Nest Home Thermostat

Samsung Smart Fridge

You now have the power to set your heat or air conditioning prior to arriving to your house so that it is already at the adjusted temperature. This will save money on your heating bill as it will cut down on the amount of heat being supplied.

There is a Samsung refrigerator that allows you to see inside of it remotely so when you’re at the store you know exactly what you need. It can also display cooking recipes and play music while you’re in the kitchen.

Cars

Tesla Model 3 iPhone app

Teslas, arguably the smartest cars in the world, can be controlled through your phone. You can use your phone to preset the climate, start the engine, and even lock and unlock it. This gives you the power to control your car form virtually anywhere and can take loaning your car to a friend to a whole new level of control.

Elder Care

A very important application of a smart home is to provide assistance to those with disabilities and elderly individuals. These home systems use assistive technology to accommodate an owner’s specific disabilities. Voice control can assist users with sight and mobility limitations while alert systems can be connected directly to cochlear implants worn by hearing impaired users. They can also be equipped with additional safety features. These features can include sensors that monitor for medical emergencies such as falls or seizures.

Business Uses

There is tremendous potential for business use of IoT devices and are already so many applications. IoT can be very useful in tracking and reporting data in order to manage systems, supply chains, and wetness of soil.

Car manufacturers can apply sensors on various parts of vehicles which can allow them to track vehicle specific problems. This can help them in the future desiging cars because they will have knowledge of the most common issues in the hundreds of thousands of cars that they make.

On a broader scale, the IoT can be applied to things like transportation networks: “smart cities” which can help us reduce waste and improve efficiency for things such as energy use; this helping us understand and improve how we work and live.

The reality is that the IoT allows for virtually endless opportunities and connections to take place, many of which we can’t even think of or fully understand the impact of today. It’s not hard to see how and why the IoT is such a hot topic today; it certainly opens the door to a lot of opportunities but also to many challenges. Security is a big issue that is oftentimes brought up. With billions of devices being connected together, what can people do to make sure that their information stays secure? Will someone be able to hack into your toaster and thereby get access to your entire network? The IoT also opens up companies all over the world to more security threats.

Security Risks

With so many devices controlling many different things they are very susceptible to being hacked and used to steal info and spy on people. And since a lot of the devices share the same software and are non patchable (meaning they can never be updated in order to improve security issues), they are forever vulnerable to cyber attacks.

In 2016, a DDoS attack flooded servers recstriciting access to large sites like Amazon, Netflix, and Google, to many people on the east coast. Hackers were able to launch this attack by connected to smart devices in homes, then launching a massive flood requests on servers.

DDoS attacks flood servers with so many fake requests for information that they cannot respond to real ones, often crashing under the barrage. It’s unclear who orchestrated the attack.

Not only can this costs business millions of dollars, but also there are many privacy issues as well. For example the camera on your phone can be hacked and used to spy on you. Also smart speakers can be used to ease drop on conservations had in your home. Although the security risks are very real and rising in occurance, IoT is the future of smart technology