The second instalment of our jargon article series covers The Internet of Things (or IoT as its known).
IoT is the concept of connecting devices and applications over the internet so we can give them instructions and so they can communicate with each other. IoT isn’t as new a concept as you would think tech companies have been talking about this for years but didn’t have the infrastructure in place to turn the theory into practice.
To date IoT has probably been best utilised by providers of heating and home energy through concepts such as smart meters. Here we can communicate with our devices to turn our heating on or off via our smart phones/ tablets and in some cases the application will make automated decisions, so if it detects that it is particularly warm and sunny outside it will turn down the temperature or if it detects that no one is home (by using motion sensors) it may turn your heating off. It’s fair to say that home energy has been an early innovator in this market and has used IoT in a mainly good and sensible way, especially compared to some questionable uses of IoT like the infamous smart fridge that can text you if it detects you have no milk.
The next step in IoT is to move from smart homes and connected appliances to scale up to smart cities. Here concepts include road signs that lower the speed limit if there has been an accident up ahead, automated waste removal/recycling once your bins are full, escalators that only move when people are on them and so much more. The concepts of a smart city are based around energy saving and improved safety.
Songdo in South Korea is a newly built smart city; amongst its many innovations are sensors to monitor temperature, energy use and traffic flow which updates people and local authorities about issues and an underground waste disposal system which sorts wastes and recycles it automatically. Many see innovations like this as the future of how we are going to live in cities.
One of the biggest threats to IoT’s popularity are reported security issues, with these newly connected appliances & tools being vulnerable to hacking due to a lack of updates in their firmware and the fact that IoT devices often freely share Wi-Fi credentials meaning hackers can intercept your Wi-Fi password. This could lead to hackers controlling things inside your own home including alarm systems and motion sensors or using appliances with camera’s to spy on you & your home which is a terrifying prospect. Larger companies are starting to deal with these vulnerabilities but it’s something to be aware of.
IoT is only going to grow, better internet infrastructure, improved technology, smart phone intelligence and our intrinsic love of a gadget means we are going to demand more interconnected things. The internet of things is already a huge industry and it’s only going to get bigger and better.