What is the “Internet of Things?”
Abbreviated as IoT, the Internet of Things refers to any physical device with an on/off switch that has the capability of transmitting data via an internet connection. This includes simple everyday devices like house lamps or coffee makers, to the watch you wear on your wrist or even the car you drive. These devices are commonly referred to as smart devices that can communicate information to other applications or businesses.
How does it work?
Every smart device is embedded with a sensor or mini computer processor that can configure data and send that information to cloud computing servers through a secure internet connection. That information is then sifted and analyzed by these servers, generating commands to act on the information given.
These cloud computing servers are also known as common IoT platforms that provide the common language for a set of diverse devices and applications to communicate with one another.
To illustrate how this works, we can use an example of how a smart car sends communication to its manufacturer:
- Event: The ‘check engine’ light on the car dashboard turns on.
- This light is connected to a series of sensors in the car that monitors its moving parts and are in constant communication with one another. A breakdown in one of these moving parts can trigger the ‘check engine’ light to turn on. In this particular instance, the sensor monitoring the pressure from the brake line recognized the car’s brake fluid was below the optimal level, signaling the light to turn on.
- A component in the car called the diagnostic bus takes in the information from these sensors and sends it via a wireless connection to a gateway that sifts through and analyzes this data down to the most relevant information. The gateway then communicates to the manufacturer’s cloud platform that there is an issue with the car.
- The cloud also contains multiple applications created by the manufacturer to solve specific issues — in our example, information about needed brake fluid is sent to an asset management application. This analytics app that oversees all the company’s cars on the road and maintains track of the parts in their warehouses.
- The analytics app then sends information to the driver with appointment times to service the car and details on the location of the nearest servicing center. The app will also tell the manufacturer to submit an order for the necessary part to be sent to the servicing center so that it can be ready when the driver arrives.
Impact on Consumers
Convenience. By knowing exactly what the user wants or needs before the user does, an action can be carried out without the user communicating a command.
Imagine your alarm going off and communicating to your coffee machine to start brewing coffee so that it’s ready for you as soon as you’re out of the shower.
Or in this particular example, your car knew exactly what was wrong with it, told the manufacturer, scheduled a time for you to come into the nearest certified dealer, and had the parts ready for your car long before you knew what the issue was. Not only does this save a significant amount of time, but it requires little to no thought on the user’s end and is one less thing to worry about.
Impact on Businesses
With increased data at their fingertips concerning the state of their product, and how users are consuming it, companies can use this information to improve on the product’s next iteration and even reduce cost/waste.
For example, by continuously collecting information on all cars of the same model, the manufacturer not only has historical data to pull from, but the manufacturer can gain a better understanding how their product has played out in the field. If the same brake issue appears to be a reoccurring issue with other cars, the manufacturer can pinpoint which specific factory the cars were made at, whether or not they used the same parts, or if they came off the inventory line the same day. This helps determine the cause of failures in the car and allows them to build safer, more optimal cars in the future.
Anything connected to the internet can be hacked. Thus, security risks pose a huge threat as more everyday items are connected to the internet. Both users and businesses become vulnerable to having their valuable information exposed and ending up in the wrong hands. More important than ever, as we transition to a world of connected devices, companies are trying to determine how best to protect their information for the sake of their business and their consumers.