Why the Internet of Things is the real deal 💡
Did you know that the current number of internet-connected devices as at 2018 was more than the number of people who actually exist on earth? CISCO reports that by the year 2020 there will be about 30 billion connected devices, we are currently at about 23.14 Billion.
The ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) at first may sound like a complicated application and use of technology but in the actual sense, it is a fairly simple concept to understand and maybe if you are ambitious enough to implement.
IoT is a network of devices, vehicles, and home appliances that use embedded systems and are connected together through the internet with the aim of interaction, connectivity, and data sharing.
Let’s try to break down some concepts here, for a system to be considered to be using IoT it has to have a network of devices that are connected through the internet, the system should share data through a network and should make use of embedded hardware systems that run software enabling the device to be ‘IoT capable’.
The concept of IoT was to spread the ‘smartness’ of devices beyond normal computers, laptops, and mobile devices and transfer the same to traditionally ‘dumb’ devices. IoT converts dumb devices to smart devices by adding the capability to network, communicate and share data. So say your fridge only had the capability to store veggies, with IoT it could be able to tell you what capacity of veggies you have left and also order the same from your nearest food store, with your permission of course (sounds cool ?).
IoT is a fairly new technology to the technological field but the potential of what the technology holds will change the world. The term IoT was coined at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the year 1999 by Kevin Ashton with the first device known to use IoT being a Coca-Cola dispenser machine that could report its inventory on whether the loaded drinks were cold. Like any new technology, the future has to be drawn, legislation written and success defined and to this day we are yet to get to the last phase before IoT products can be made available to the mass markets in large scales.
IoT cannot exist without the internet as the devices are made alive by the internet. One of the major setbacks of IoT has been having devices that need a strong internet dependency which means that IoT can only be implemented in areas that are internet ready and that can provide the required bandwidth for both connectivity and data sharing.
It is beyond evident that IoT has been inspired by the growth of mobile devices, cloud computing, and computers that envision a whole new world of ubiquitous computing. Adding to the sweet bit of IoT might be the birth of 5G network (set to be rolled off and tested in early 2019) which promises speeds of up to a whooping 20Gigabytes per second within distances of up to 90 meters which are about thrice of what 4G has been able to achieve. Not only are the speeds super good but also it is expected to have ultra-low latency levels which mean seamless communication and data sending between the various IoT devices (communication nodes).
Away from technological and engineering jargon, here is why IoT will be a deal breaker for our economies once it is rolled out in large-scale use:
Building and Home Automation
Through the use of IoT, it is possible to monitor and control mechanical, electrical and electronic systems in various buildings using one single system. The main advantages that are attributed to the interconnection of devices include efficient energy management systems for buildings and hence promotion of a greener economy, massive data collection which could be a major driver for data science and machine learning, real-time monitoring which provides for efficiency and accuracy when monitoring remote systems.
Using IoT in autonomous driving could mean zero or close to zero traffic in the future smart cities as the vehicles could communicate through the use of sensors and draw alternative routes to ease traffic. The data received from the vehicles could also be used to calculate the routes that would lead to more energy saves for the vehicles (electric of course). IoT could also be used to solve problems such as city parking, traffic lights control, and even toll collection services.
IoT through use of various sensors is currently being actively used in agriculture to monitor humidity, temperature, pH levels, wind speed, rainfall and even pest infestation in crops. The sensors are integrated with mobile applications and cloud platforms and this becomes essential in the automation of the farming practice.
The above are just examples of what IoT can be used to do, among others are how it can be used to stop forest fires, create safety for logistical needs and goods under transit and better still be used in a predictive analysis of weather patterns. Ooh and not to forget the smart cities where every single system will be interconnected.
Truth be told we are still quite far from achieving the dream and we might not get to this soon but the reality is that we are slowly starting to see the onset of a future that we have long dreamt about. Smart televisions that can talk back to us, smart speakers that can do anything from controlling our home lighting to increasing the temperatures of our rooms and talking smart speakers. All the above implementations explain how IoT is slowly gaining pace. Mind you we are just at the beginning of an era which might be more interesting than what we are prepared for.
Hardware and robotics are fairly expensive fields to venture in but that does not mean you miss out in the fun if you are an IoT enthusiast. The world is constantly changing and IoT will be the technology that will solve most o the problems dealing with automation and real-time inefficiencies. While the field still seems level and the storms are yet to come, I believe we can all play a role in ensuring that the IoT field has enthusiasts not only as software developers but also as testers and feedback givers on the quality of products produced by the field. We can inspire great technologies but we must be willing to give sacrifices of both feedback and developing the newly formed IoT ecosystem.
Awesome projects that IoT has inspired in Africa
M-Kopa Solar: A solar kit that is used to provide lighting to rural homes that are not yet connected to the electrical grid. The kit can be diagnosed and repaired remotely if need be.
Farmerline and M-Farm are also successes of IoT in Africa as they both assist in the boost of crop production by leveraging the use of IoT and Big Data to provide the farmers with sufficient information to improve on their practices and make their current farming methods more efficient through connected systems.
Africa is a growing continent and the rest of the world knows it, the problem is figuring it where to start tapping the existing potential of the continent. Thinking critically IoT could be the game changer, solutions could range from farming solutions to solutions that will help the continent save water or diagnose diseases with minimal interference of a medical practitioner. I mean there are a lot of problems that need to solved and Africa would be the perfect ground to build the technology, experiment with it and see it become something beautiful in the future.
The Internet of Things just like any other technology will continue to grow both in complexity and sophistication and this will solve challenges such as data processing and data analysis problems which are some of the largest challenges of IoT. We cannot ignore the fact that IoT is the next wave of innovation that will lead to the “humanization” of every object in our day to day life through the use of automation.
Convergence of complementary technologies such as machine learning, Artificial Intelligence, and big data will also play a major role to ensure that the implementation of IoT becomes much faster and easier and therefore leading to improved aspects of our lives be it at home, at work or anywhere that comes in between the two.