Sunday Science: The Internet of Things (IoT)
What is the Internet of Things (IoT)? Well, the clue is in the name: the Internet of Things.
The IoT describes things that are connected to the internet. These things could be a FitBit, your toaster, a piece of medical equipment or a machine you find in a factory. Because these objects are connected to the internet, they can talk to each other.
Connecting so many things means some pretty smart things can happen.
Why would I want to connect my toaster to the internet?
Convenience. The biggest benefit of the IoT is that it automates your everyday tasks.
Let’s look at a Lego example to understand the value of the IoT in your day-to-day life.
Ironman is hungry. But Ironman doesn’t need to go to the fridge to see what he can eat. He owns a smart fridge* — one that’s fitted with lots of gadgetry so he can do lots of cool stuff.
This one of the fundamental concepts of the IoT. For a device to be connected to the internet, it needs (at the very least) a sensor to collect data and a way to pass that data on.
Back to the Ironman example — his fridge has a camera that’s linked to his phone so he can view the contents without moving. His fridge is also fitted with an LCD TV screen so he can use his phone to transfer and display information on the screen.
The fridge is fitted with pressure sensors so it knows when Ironman’s out of milk or other goods and automatically adds it to his online shopping list.
If the temperature of the fridge rises because, for example, the door has been left open, Ironman gets an alert on his phone.
The list goes on. And that’s just for a fridge.
* IoT devices seem to add the word “smart” to a lot of products.
It’s not just a fridge that you could connect to the internet. You could connect almost everything in your home to create a smart home. You could drive a smart car home that automatically notifies your nearest and dearest if you’re stuck in traffic — or turns on the heating when you’re 10 minutes from home.
Or you could connect an entire city to help better manage the physical infrastructure and engage the population to optimise the environment.
When things gather a lot of data and talk to each other then we can better understand how they work — and work together.
In other words, the IoT helps us work and live a little bit smarter.
Extra reading and watching
The smart fridge is closer than you think — check out The Family Hub from Samsung. And here’s a handy list of all the Top 75 IoT devices.
If you want to find out more about how the IoT connects all these different devices — this article explains the four different connectivity models available. And here’s a handy video from IBM video explaining how the IoT works:
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Hello. I’m the freelance writer who gets tech. I have two degrees in Physics and, during my studies, I became increasingly frustrated with the complicated language used to describe some outstanding scientific principles. Language should aid our understanding — in science, it often feels like a barrier.
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Main image from Forbes.com.