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We heard this term “Internet of Things” (IoT) everywhere, but what it is really? This article will give a simple basic explanation and different perspective on this concept.
1. A Simple Concept of IoT
Internet of Things refers to a giant network where physical electronic devices are connected and talk to each other by exchanging data.
These devices can be home appliances, vehicles, or any items that have an on and off switch to the Internet or to other items. Although each device in this network is unique, they exist together under the Internet infrastructure. Within its network, the IoT system allows gadgets to be controlled remotely.
An example of IoT can be a home automation system. From a controller, maybe smartphone app, users can switch lights on/off when they are not even home.
The same control panel may also remotely manages the house’s security system, temperature, and other appliances within the house such as washing machines, TVs, refrigerators, air conditioners, and so on. That’s because every item in that house connects to the same network.
According to a Gartner research on IoT, by 2020, there will be approximately 20 billion connected devices.
Also, Business Insider premium research service “expects the number of smart home devices shipped will grow from 83 million in 2015 to 193 million in 2020“.
That is enough to believe that IoT has been rapidly developed and would become a lifestyle of the future.
2. IoT Fields and Who Benefits From It
As the matter of fact, IoT is not only about smart homes but also benefits many other aspects of life.
Examples of Aspects That Adopt IoT
- Intelligent transportation systems: innovative services that concern road transport and traffic management. In this network, vehicles, police, and road users gain benefits with advanced technologies such as car navigation, automatic number plate recognition, security CCTV, speed camera, GPS, and so on.
- Virtual power plants (VPP): the cloud-based systems that integrate many types of power sources. This aims to balance energy sources and optimize power generation by taking advantage of communication technologies (ICTs) and IoT.
- Smart buildings: intelligent buildings that benefit from smart technologies. It covers a lot of items and concepts such as wireless controls, connected household appliances, energy measurements, remote monitoring, etc. Simply saying, it connects intelligent devices and gathering data on a building area.
- Smart healthcare: main users to gain benefits from these innovations including doctors and patients. For example, wearable technologies keep track of health and fitness or shareable patient records in most of the hospitals’ network system. Think about it when you go to healthcare centers, the doctors can see your early health records to give you the suitable medicine.
- Smart farming: IoT in agriculture to help farmers gain better control over their products and animals. It makes the process of farming more productive and efficient. For example, animal sickness alarms or crop field sensor monitoring. Some technologies in smart farming include precision farming, agriculture drones, and smart greenhouse.
Who Benefits From IoT?
We just list a few, but there are quite many of them out there.
As you can see, IoT is for everybody, from government officers to ordinary citizens, from residents to researchers and data analysts, from young to elderly and disabled persons. In short, people from all walks of life can take advantages of innovations in IoT.
Maybe among those, elderly and disabled people are the group of users that can take much benefits from the automation, because they have limited ability of movement and skills. That’s why the smart house system will help them a lot in the daily life.
3. Internet of Things In Smart Homes
Internet of Things in smart homes refer to home automation systems that can control lighting (check out realistic dining room lighting ideas for home), climate, entertainment systems, home appliances, home security and any devices that you can think of in your house or building.
In that household network, smart items such as air conditioners, living room home media, curtains, washing machines, fridges, etc. are connected around your house and can be manipulated remotely from one single app, or control panel.
The control panel is a gateway, or central hub of all the connected devices’ activities. It usually has a user-friendly user interface that even disabled people can understand and use it.
4. Why IoT Is A Good Thing
The good thing of IoT is the convenience.
When devices are connected within a network, the transfer of data are super fast. Each piece of information is gathered from a single device unit and collected into a huge database which can be accessed from a single control panel.
Let’s think about the sickness treatment. Earlier, when you go to see doctor, he/she had to ask everything related to your health history in order to give the best prescription.
But now, doctors and nurses can just retrieve your online record from the data center which contain information about your health. They can see that you have for example an ear operation years ago, or you already used a kind of antibiotics, and so on. The process will be much faster, and less mistakes.
The second example is the Cloud.
This is quite a huge topic which we can’t cover in several lines. However, just make it simple now with the use of Google Drive.
You upload a document to the Drive, and then you will be able to access it from anywhere from home, from work, from laptops, PCs or even phones. You can continue working on a Google Spreadsheet no matter which device you are using. No more long process of saving document to USB memory stick. Everything is just in the Cloud, and available for access from anywhere.
The last example is the smart home. Think about one hot day and you are driving home. You want the room to be cool when you get home. Just open the phone app and switch the air conditioner on. As simple as that.
Or, you would want to have a smart coffee machine that serves a ready Cappuccino cup when you wake up in the morning.
With floor plans as the user interface of the control panel, people can make the manipulation devices in a multi-storey building even easier. You can check and switch rooms with lights on before going to sleep. Therefore, you will get better control over your house energy.
And it is not even all things that Internet of Things can do. The process can also be automatic, which means smart devices and human are both running on their time schedule. It frees up human labor and improves quality of life that can make our life easier, more controllable and saving much time.
5. The Bad Side of IoT
The Internet of Things do not open only possibilities but also challenges.
Early Smart Technologies’s Life-Cycle
Since it is still an early phase of IoT, early technologies may get abandoned in the future. Much like the natural selection system, new smart devices may find themselves not suitable with the real life, and disappear. That may result from a platform fragmentation, lack of technical standards, or just people denied to use them.
According to the Guardian based on a research of Endeavor Partners in the US, “one-third of American consumers who have owned a wearable product stopped using it within six months“. Clearly, even though the gadgets are useful, they still need innovations to motivate people to use them.
Much like other popular networks, the IoT system also opens to cyber risks issues of privacy and data sharing.
There have been concerns about the connection of devices among a WiFi network are also vulnerable to hacking. Therefore, the leak of information is foreseeable. Once the network is hacked, the owners are in big trouble of revealing the huge database for bad use.
There for, maintaining the security of all interfaces and platforms is now the challenges of smart home tech leaders. Additional firewalls, network traffic monitoring and limited access control are useful, but it also raises other problems of system performance.
Can IoT specialists reach balance between the convenience of use and security protection? That’s the big question.
6. Popular Concepts – Glossary In IoT
Some IoT concepts that are good to know:
- Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE): a wireless personal network technology aim at healthcare, fitness, security and home entertainment. The Bluetooth LE is expected to reduce cost and power consumption while still facilitating infrequent short-range wireless data communication between devices.
- HVAC: heating, ventilation and air conditioning. This is an indoor technology of environmental comfort.
- Insteon: a smart technology to turn the house into a smart home.
- Stream: the real-time data collection
- Z-wave: a wireless communications protocol that use a low-energy radio waves to help household appliances in a home automation network communication with each others.