Internet of Things: is there a limit?

A bit about IoT

The Internet of Things is a network of interconnected devices able to exchange data. These “things” are in fact electronic platforms such as Arduino or Raspberry PI, connected with sensors, actuators and other electronic or mechanical components that enable them to perform the desired tasks. Each “thing” is able to operate within the existing Internet infrastructure. This technology is part of a more general class of cyber-physical systems such as smart grids, smart homes or virtual power plants.

These “things” are already embedded in the current technologies such as smartphones, thermostats, cars, watches, cameras, etc. making it possible for the devices to interact with one another becoming aware of the environment around them. This enables them to take automated decisions, which in the past needed human supervision. The estimated number of these devices is now around 20 billion and this number is expected to reach 30 billion by 2020.

IoT’s current applications

The benefit of using IoT are numerous given the thousands of people that use it daily. Below there are just few examples where IoT can increase performance.

Agriculture

Integrating data with various IT applications helps farmers take decisions in real time based on multiple factors such as weather predictions, animal behaviour, etc. For example, a model can determine the rise in temperature at a specific time of the year and correlate it with the hatching of insects, the results will help prevent take actions to decrease crop damages.

There are other applications which can monitor soil moisture in vineyards to control the future grapevine production or manage humidity and temperature levels in hay, straw, etc to prevent any microbial contamination.

Health Industry

IoT improves the monitoring of conditions of patients inside as well as outside hospitals.

For example, when patients go in for medical procedures at the Orlando area hospital, they’re tagged with a real-time location system which tracks their progress from the operation room to the recovery unit.

In Chicago, a large home-health agency have started using a health analytics program which enables them to have insights of patients with heart diseases. The system provides daily information from each registered patient about blood pressure, weight, glucose measurements and other indicators that can influence their condition.

Industry

A major impact that IoT will have is in Industry as we are witnessing the fourth industrial revolution.

There are numerous applications that improve monitoring, diagnosing, controlling or assessing any part of the production process.

For example inside chemical plants, toxic gas and oxygen levels can be monitored and controlled via IoT to ensure workers and goods safety.

Inside industrial and medical fridges temperature and humidity can be controlled with sensors connected to Internet.

Any asset can be tracked indoor using active tags such as ZigBee or passive tags such as RFID.

Machines can perform auto-diagnosis and provide real-time info about their status.

Mines or other hazardous environments can be remotely monitored and data can be gathered to anticipate and react to potential threats.

Life style

If you think of any commercial event, using IoT can help vendors understand customers, and shape any services they provide to optimize the sale.

Cognitive building are another IoT delight. They can anticipate our basic needs before we even know it. Food can be monitored, activities can be learned, in a sense, they will assist humans in all things, regardless whether we are physically present in the building or not.

Possible future developments

Companies that create products will have to be prepared to update their product during their lifespan. With such a variety of “things”, developers will launch millions of new apps.

There are areas where devices need to improve such as good battery life, low hardware and operating cost, wide area coverage, etc. In this sense, probably batteries with life measured in years, mainstream hardware with costs below 10$ or emerging standards such as Narrow-band IoT will dominate this area.

IoT will need a new tactics for data analysis. As the data volumes are increasing exponentially, the traditional analytics will be replaced by new tool and algorithms. The main focus for each analysis tool will be to translate the masses of data into information that can be converted into concrete actions.

Security is also a factor that needs to be considered. As the devices evolve, so will the information attacks. The need to encrypt the communication is fairly obvious, but also new challenges have to be considered, such as impersonation of “things” or attacks that are meant to drain batteries. One of the key pieces missing from IoT is standardization around security and privacy.

As soon as we find answers to all the above issues the limits of what can be achieved through IoT, will head to the sky.

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