Internet of Things or IoT is the development of the Internet in a way that all objects, big or small have network connectivity, allowing them to collect and exchange data. These objects could be vehicles, buildings, physical devices, headphones, lamps, animals, humans, wearable devices, washing machine or even a coffee maker that is embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity that enable these objects to send and receive data.
Simply stated, IoT is a huge network of things as well as people that connects not only the people with people and things with things but also people with things and vice-versa.
Although the concept of IoT was named in 1999, it has been in development for decades with different technology firms discussing the idea. One of the foremost internet appliance was a Coke machine at Carnegie Melon University in the early 1980s wherein, the users could connect to the machine over the internet to check the status and availability of the drink before physically going down to the machine.
Other practical applications of IoT that can be seen today are in the fields of agriculture, healthcare, transportation, security etc.
Everything from your smart watch that notifies you when you receive a call or text or keeps track of your fitness activities, security alarms that notify police when an intruder enters your house to little chips inserted in animals to keep track of inventory all comes under IoT. In fact, Cisco, an American multinational corporation technology company estimates that by 2020 the IoT will consist of 50 billion devices connected to the Internet.
IoT also allows for endless opportunities and connections to take place. Imagine a life where your alarm clock notifies your coffee machine to start brewing your coffee or a garden sprinkler that assesses the soil moisture to water the garden according to the requirement or a generator/ any other electronic item kept in the open that assesses the weather and notifies one to cover them in lieu of rain or a car that accesses your calendar to tell you the best route.
On the business front IoT will help increase efficiency by allowing proper inventory management, track movement of products, monitor interactions with customers, customer loyalty cards that provide customer interactions with the company and other customer preferences, assessing weather conditions, traffic patterns etc. to plan airline schedules and routes.
In the healthcare area, IoT has the potential to provide more data collection opportunities and help save more lives and provide more efficient treatments. Presently, many technology companies have used IoT to come up with innovative health care devices such as Intel has made a smart band that tracks the shaking in Parkinson patients to collect more accurate data. Similarly, AliveCore helps detect abnormal heart beats to help heart patients.
But on a much larger front it goes on to include smart cities – cities with well-connected infrastructure consisting of transportation network optimization, garbage disposal system, vehicle parking lot management, energy usage tracking, factory waste disposal and soil and forest management which can help us reduce wastage and improve efficiency.
Despite the opportunities, IoT poses some big security and privacy challenges as all these devices and systems collect a lot of personal data about people. With so many devices being connected it makes people and company’s more susceptible to security threats. Data sharing and privacy is one major threat that the experts are worried about. Hackers can use one connected device to get access to others and hack into personal data, photographs, bank account details and other confidential information that can cause huge monetary and other losses to people. Also, this connectivity is going to lead to massive amount of data being created and that will pose issues of storing, management and meaningful interpretation of data.
One recent example of the threat posed by IoT is that of the attack launched on Dyn, an Internet performance management company, offering products to monitor, control, and optimize online infrastructure to some of the top websites including Twitter, Amazon, Netflix, Spotify etc. It was a case of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack in which large numbers of devices are programmed to request access to the same Web site at the same time, creating traffic that cuts off access to the site. Millions of hacked IoT devices were exploited to jam and take down internet computer servers. Experts believe that the still-unknown attackers used malware known as “Mirai” to hack into devices whose passwords they could easily access as the default passwords had not been changed.
Despite the challenges IoT is a step in the direction of technological advancements that’ll make processes more efficient. Healthcare and agriculture industry in specific will benefit a lot from these advancements.