The Internet of Things

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Intel IoT -- What Does The Internet of Things Mean?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the name given to the communication and interconnection between various physical objects and devices in people’s everyday lives. The interconnectivity is achieved through the use of existing Internet infrastructure, internet protocols, and embedded computer systems. By adding advanced connectivity to various physical objects, the objects or devices are enhanced with new capabilities and functionalities. In particular, automation and collaboration of all sorts are often enabled or improved through the development of the IoT.


Contents

Background

The “things” in the IoT started out with a very limited set of devices that offered minimal utility. Often referred to as an example of early IoT devices, the Coke machine at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computing Science was the first of its kind, but it allowed for little more than remote monitoring of the machine’s status[1]. As computing capabilities advanced, however, more sophisticated IoT implementations began to emerge and the connected devices began moving beyond just basic monitoring capabilities. The current generation of IoT devices cover a wide variety of devices ranging from widely popular devices to emerging technology.

Many of today’s IoT devices have already been made widely available and often referred to as just “connected devices”. For consumers, smartphones, tablets, game consoles, and similar devices have already become an important part of many people’s lives. For businesses, connected surveillance cameras, cash registers, and factory equipment are being implemented to increase efficiency.

Chevrolet Wi-Fi Hotspots

On the other hand, some of today’s IoT devices are not as well known despite the utility provided with their newly added connectivity. Connected devices today go beyond just electronics and cover everything from garbage cans, public constructions, to farm animals with chip implants. British Columbia’s new Port Mann Bridge connecting Coquitlam and Surrey, for example, utilizes a combination of connected cameras and radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology to efficiently manage its tolling system[1].

Aside from currently available IoT devices, there is also a trend towards added connectivity for many devices, tools, and objects used in people’s everyday lives. From appliances and wearables to garage doors and cars, manufacturers from different industries are catching on to the IoT trend with added connectivity and functionality integrated with their products.

The Model S from Tesla Motors, for example, is a highly connected car that can be controlled with a simple mobile app. The vehicle can be accessed remotely for status monitoring, location tracking, as well as real time control of its air conditioner, lights, horn, and windows[2]. It is not just newer companies taking up the trend, however. Chevrolet, a company established well over a century ago, is leading the charge with implementing 4G LTE connectivity on their 2015 vehicle lineup and turning them into Wi-Fi hotspots[3].

Implications of IoT

The IoT is more than simply having a bunch of things connected and made accessible remotely. The real benefit of enabling advanced interconnectivity comes from being able to collect data from each device and analyze the data to obtain valuable information. This information is then used to aid decision-making or to monitor and control the devices in a meaningful way, often times automatically. As Intel puts it, related devices are being connected to form an intelligent system of systems that takes advantage of sophisticated data analytics to improve daily operations of everything from public service to business ventures and our personal lives[4].

While there are a wide variety of connected devices currently available or under development, many more things used in people’s daily lives remain unconnected. There is an abundance of potentially useful data everywhere, but without proper collection methods and analytics, these remain locked up in their own little silos and cannot provide any value.

Google Traffic, for example, is a great demonstration of how an IoT solution have created great utility out of existing silos of information. With most GPS capabilities present on most smartphones, Google has turned every device with Google Maps installed into an IoT node that sends velocity and location data back to Google. These information are then combined with Google’s analytic algorithms to provide users of Google Maps with accurate, detailed, real-time traffic information[5].

What IoT really is, then, is using the Internet to eliminate these information silos that we do not yet recognize. In other words, it is the next step in the evolution of the Internet.

Home Automation

Home automation is perhaps the most mainstream and accessible category under the Internet of Things umbrella. The concept of automating the home has been around since the invention of early computers, such as the ECHO IV Home Computer in 1965, but it has only recently begun to see widespread real-world implementation, mostly at the hands of home technology enthusiasts.

History of Smart Homes

Jetsons Future Home Technology

The idea of smart homes has interesting roots, initially within science fiction and early television. Well known science fiction authors, such as Ray Bradbury, envisioned future homes as autonomous and interactive, even being able to survive after humans have died off, as discussed within his story “There Will Come Soft Rains” [1].

Later in 1962, “The Jetsons” became the first mainstream show that showed what the world of tomorrow may look like. Although it was not specifically focused around the home, many technologies they presented, such as vacuuming robots (similar to the Roomba), or home robots (similar to the JIBO), are quickly becoming staples for current smart homes.

The first real home automation system came about in 1965, known as the ECHO IV Home Computer. Although the technology was never widely adopted, it was the first real computer designed to take care of everyday home tasks such as monitoring groceries, turning appliances on and off, and even providing updates on the weather[2].

Disney was another early authority in home automation. Their Epcot “Future World” display was, and continues to be, a display for what technology in our homes might look like in the future.

These were the primary sources of inspiration for later smart home enthusiasts who would actually have the technology to make these early concepts into reality.

Mainstream Attention

Disney's Smart House

Although the premise of a smart home has been around for a very long time, it was not until very recently that the application of such technologies became possible, especially in terms of increasing the utility of homeowners.

Disney was once again a major player in mainstreaming the idea of a smart home. Their 1999 TV Movie “Smart House” was dedicated to showing the capabilities of a smart home, such as preparing and disposing of food, monitoring the health of an inhabitant, and the ability to clean itself. The show also touched on some interesting potential downsides of the smart home including loss of privacy and security issues, which are now the most common concerns of homeowners who are looking to wire up their houses.

In the early 2000s, real home gadgets, such as universal remotes and internet-connected devices, began to pop up in the homes of enthusiasts. These devices, and the people who adopted them, promised that they would make the lives of homeowners easier, but the cost of implementing the technology remained extremely high for what was at the time a very limited increase in utility.

Smart homes of today however are becoming more affordable, which will be discussed later, and are being widely implemented by not only enthusiasts, but by other individuals who are seeing the everyday benefits of these technologies.

Features of Smart Homes

Kevo Lock

There are several common features of current smart homes. These include seamlessly integrated:

—Security Systems: The most commonly automated security devices include door locks, such as the Kevo Lock by Weiser, motion sensors, such as the WeMo by Belkin, and security cameras, such as the Dropcam. These devices are often able to be fully integrated together, giving a homeowner a full home security system which can also be monitored from remote locations.

—Kitchen Appliances: Several common kitchen appliances have been reengineered to be smarter so homeowners don’t have to worry about maintenance or missing inputs. LG recently came out with a smart fridge with Smart ThinQ technology which allows users to know what foods are about to expire and what groceries need replacement. Dishwashers such as the Whirlpool Smart Dishwasher will alert the user when a maintenance issue is identified, and also tracks and reports energy consumption to spot inefficiencies. The Dacor Stove wirelessly connects with a users mobile device so that cooking temperature can be remotely monitored and adjusted.

—Entertainment Systems: Perhaps the first part of the home to get a smart-makeover was home entertainment systems. Audio systems such as the Sonos Wireless Audio System are not only completely wireless, but integrate with a mobile application to control playlists. The Samsung SmartTV wirelessly integrates with any device and acts as a platform to view and control apps, documents, or games from the other device.

—Lighting and Heating: Lighting and heating systems are another common area for IoT applications. Light bulbs such as the Philips Hue can be turned on/off remotely, and also have the ability to change to nearly any custom color. Nest is perhaps the most well known name in home automation since their acquisition by Google in early 2014. Their thermostat learns from the living habits to cater to users’ heating needs in the most energy efficient manner, meaning the temperature will automatically turn off when no one is home, start to heat up when people are expected home, and will automatically adjust to time of day and current outdoor temperatures.

Benefits

Nest Thermostat

There are many benefits associated with home automation, convenience being one of the major aspects of why consumers choose to automate their homes. Remembering to turn appliances on and off or turning down the thermostat before leaving home can be made easier with automated devices. As mentioned before, the Nest Thermostat takes the onus off of homeowners to have to constantly adjust their manual thermostats to both keep their homes warm and save energy. Other devices such as smart dishwasher or stoves will automatically update the user when a maintenance issues arises, rather than having to find out after a potential plumbing problem or fire.

In addition, smart devices can help homeowners save money in the long term by providing energy usage information to the user at every moment of the day. The Vancouver based company Nuerio hooks directly up to a homeowners electrical box and monitors which devices are drawing power and forwards that information to the homeowner.

Groups of smart homes are now beginning to create smart-networks that can alert a homeowner when there is a potential threat to their local community, such as air pollution or fire. The Birdi Smoke Detector is doing just this by monitoring air quality within each users home, and using that information to create a mapping system of air quality in metropolitan areas.

Market Size & Growth Drivers

The market for home automation products sees great potential in the future. Currently, less than 1% of homes employ full smart home technology. However, research firm HIS Technology predicts around 45 million smart devices will be established within homes by 2018[1]. By 2020, market size will also increase from $35 up to $71 billion, according to Allied Market and Juniper Research[1]. Much of this growth is being driven by:

  • The tablet and mobile device market, which has sustained high levels of growth and market share in the past few years. Mobile devices serve as an effective universal remote for smart devices[2].
  • žDecreasing costs of smart technology inputs, such as computer chips (although this is slowing) [3].
  • Increasing government regulations regarding energy consumption. Governments are now promoting the use of technology that increases energy savings and decreases carbon emissions[4].
  • General increasing awareness of homeowners of the energy costs and environmental issues that arise from inefficient home systems.
Revolv Home Automation

Challenges

Although there are many benefits of home automation, there are also challenges associated with adopting the technology. As the world is depending more on technology, cyber security will also be a growing concern. The threat is even greater when individuals are releasing information about their living habits and locations.

Although the cost of creating a home automation system is decreasing, the cost for implementing full automation system is still quite high; costs can range from $10,000 up to $100,000[1] depending on the level of sophistication and customization needed. Fully integrated systems often require a consultant, structural changes to the home, plus the cost of the system being installed, and any future expenses needed to maintain the home.

Another challenge is the technical aspect of linking disparate systems, which often communicate using different wireless languages. This tends to lessen the convenience aspect of implementing the system. One company tackling this issue is Revolv, who has developed a hardware hub and integrated mobile application which allows the user to control all devices from one mobile platform application.

Jibo Home Robot

Future of Home Automation

Although great strides have been made in recent years and the future for home automation is very much full of potential, the home remains one of the last places where technology has yet to flourish, especially for the majority of homeowners. Robots will likely enter the home to help homeowners with everyday tasks, such as making phone calls, sending emails, or monitoring inhabitants. The JIBO robot is currently in development and can provide the previously mentioned functionality and more.

One of the major milestones, and ultimate goals of home automation is creating a true “nervous system” for the home. Everything from your toothbrush to the plant vases will be wired up, and will either run autonomously or provide notifications when something

The Connected Smart City

With the IoT being applied to private homes, the next step is to see how it is expanded into the city and public place. The concept of a smart city exhibits the use of the IoT to create more efficient and connected processes in the public place. This is applied to areas ranging from resource utilities, environment care, health care, and transportation. These will be investigated in the upcoming sections as some examples of where the IoT can revolutionize the city.

Connected Utilities and Environment Care

Waste Collection for Smart Cities

Many existing waste collection systems operate on a static schedule where waste is collected on a designated day regardless of whether the service is needed. This is a concept where IoT can help to make an existing system more efficient in both time and cost. A more dynamic waste collection system would involve a schedule that responds to need rather than arbitrary guesses. This is possible through the use of sensors that will detect when waste bins are at full capacity and require collection [1]. This allows for a system that responds and adapts to needs, an overall concept of IoT. The video on the right demonstrates this concept in effect.

Street Lighting for Smart Cities

Street lighting in a smart city means responding to environmental conditions before choosing an appropriate level of output lighting. This can all be done through the use of motion and light sensors that detect when providing light is necessary. Therefore, the light intensity can be varied to save energy through dimming when not needed. This is only possible through the use of IoT to connect these lighting systems with each other and their network of sensors. By doing this, the IoT allows for a city that is more energy conservative and cost saving. Barcelona, Spain has been a leading city in this regard, as a smart cities initiative, and has already implemented a smart lighting LED system [1]. Furthermore, a smart lighting system is exhibited in the video on the left.

Utility monitoring is another IoT aspect that provides alert to environmental resource usage. Smart devices like the BC Hydro Smart Meter, send data wirelessly on household electricity usage which can be viewed online. This allows people to quantify how much power is being used and if it is being wasted [2].


Connected Transportation

Parking Systems for Smart Cities

The average daily commute during rush hour is quite troublesome to deal with and even worse when an accident occurs. Often once you are caught—often unexpectedly—it is difficult to navigate around efficiently. This is another area where IoT can revolutionize the city. With everything connected, ways to optimize traffic becomes entirely possible. A smart city would demonstrate a traffic system that is connected from traffic light cameras to individual vehicles. In the event of an accident that closes off an intersection, the traffic camera would feed a notification through a connected network all the way back to drivers in advance of them reaching the traffic site. Furthermore, navigation systems within vehicles could use this environment information to select optimal alternate routes to desired destinations.

Sensors can be used to make parking a more streamlined process. By placing one in each parking spot, information can be tracked on which spots are currently occupied and not [1]. This information can be fed back through a network that connects to individual vehicles looking for spots [1]. These systems are most desirable in areas of high traffic and with limited places to park (e.g. Los Angeles). A real-time parking system has been implemented in Los Angeles and is demonstrated in the video on the right.

A connected transit system involves a network of systems that are capable of making adjustments based off of information collected from each system. For example an IoT public transit system of metro trains and buses should be able to account for delays set by each other. In response, adjustments can be made such that delays by one system will affect the response of the other systems. In an example, if a metro train were to be delayed by fifteen minutes, the transit system schedule would accommodate the extra demand by sending extra buses right away.

Connected Health Care and Monitoring

Smart, Connected Health Care for Smart Cities

Connected health care with the IoT would focus on making the system more efficient and connected overall. By sharing health records of people, this connects the doctors of varying specializations such that they can work together more efficiently. The overall expense and time savings would all be greatly enhanced through a connected health care system. This concept is further outlined in the video on the right, which describes how disparate the current health care system is and how the IoT would make it more efficient and connected.

With the recent trend of new wearable technology being developed, IoT proposes to revolutionize this technology by tracking metrics in daily lives. There are two main types of existing wearable technology: passive and autonomous. The difference is in whether the device is dependant on other technology to perform it's full function (i.e. being passive). Both passive and autonomous wearables count as IoT devices since they are made to sense and measure metrics that are shareable across a network. According to Euromonitor International, the international market for all wearable technology—both passive and autonomous devices—was 25 million users and is projected to increase to 290 million by 2018[1].

The activity monitoring feature is useful when considering some vital statistics such as heart rate or sleep quality monitoring. These metrics may be desired and proven useful when shared with medical professionals when diagnosing their patients.

Health monitoring for seniors, one of the fastest growing demographics, is another area that the IoT can improve. Fall detection and activity monitoring are useful metrics that may be desired by family and caregivers. Currently, the technology addressing this concern is more limited to personal emergency response systems (PERS)[2]. These are single button pendant devices that connect seniors to designated call centres which address any emergency issues appropriately[2]. With the IoT, this service can be improved to directly connect family and seniors through cell phone notification technology which operates in real-time[3]. This implementation of IoT allows family and care givers to monitor the health of their loved ones more effectively and ensures safety.

Security Issues with Medical Equipment

Privacy and Security Issues

While the benefits of sharing health data on individuals have been discussed in previous sections, there are some issues that arise. If the data was truly prevalent and available, then it may be used for less than ideal circumstances depending on which side you look at. For example, when an employer is screening for new hires, having access to this private health data may result in new issues of discrimination if certain health requirements become a screening criteria. Therefore, privacy of data access is an overarching concern for the development of a more connected health care system.

Terrorism is a current threat that is prevalent internationally already. The Internet allows for efficient and effective ease of use overall, but also allows for another medium that terrorists can exploit through hacking. Therefore, with the IoT, this also means there is a greater need to secure vital technology that supports human life such as pacemakers. The video on the right shows the real existing threat brought about through modern dependence on technology for sustaining life.

Business Applications

Internet of Things devices have a lot of potential for business settings whether they be earlier in the supply chain in a manufacturing/factory setting, or whether they be at the end of the supply chain in a retail setting. There are even numerous application possibilities in the office/corporate setting. Regardless of the setting, connected technologies have begun to garner significant attention in the corporate world and have attracted all sorts of investments to support their growth and integration. As well, many companies have been working to develop the business capabilities to support the numerous business possibilities and benefits that would result from the use of these IoT technologies. The discussion behind the growth and implementation of the IoT technologies in business settings, as well as examples of specific technologies with business applications, is conducted below.

The Smart Factory

Manufacturing is one of the key areas in the supply chain where companies look to improve efficiency and cut costs, and the potential for IoT technologies to do so in this environment are immense. Some of the technologies that contribute toward the development of such a smart factory include connected factory robots, sensors and RFID technology, as well as wearables for factory personnel.

Robotic Arms in Automative Plant

Factory Robots

By creating smart, connected factory robots, or enhancing already existing ones, factories can enhance their production capabilities and product line management. By connecting these robots to a centralized system through local intranet technologies, the robots can be remotely controlled and will also provide information remotely in any number of different settings. Some automotive plants have already begun developing the capabilities to support and integrate this technology for the many potential benefits that include process line improvement through remote automation and increased production efficiency.

Sensors and RFID

Sensors and RFID technologies, combined with monitoring software, can allow factories to gain real-time feedback and further insight into factory activity. Some of the potential capabilities include:

  • Receiving notifications when supplies and raw materials are running low.
  • Detecting bottlenecks, machine malfunctions, or other problems on the factory floor.
  • Use of sensors to detect if the humidity or other environmental conditions are non-ideal and will affect production processes.

Using these sensors in manufacturing processes can help manage performance, minimize production lags, and maximize uptime. Some large manufacturing companies such as Stanley Black & Decker have already begun using sensor technology and have seen significant improvements in production as a result [1].

Wearable Technology

New wearable technology on the shop floor is also being developed for use such as smart watches and smart vests that will allow factory personnel to continue using their hands without having to input or look for data. Having real-time access to data with such ease can serve to boost production capabilities and lower the risk of factory accidents. The wearable will also contain sensors to monitor vitals and the location of workers for factory supervisors to view. Doing so can significantly reduce workplace health risks as a result of factors such as excessive factory temperatures and can allow others to detect when a worker may be at risk from heavy machinery based on their location. Having access to employee locations can also serve to direct work processes and assign tasks effectively with a real-time overview of employee activity[2].

Manufacturing Benefits

Manufacturing benefits from IoT technologies can be significant and will only become more extensive as newer technologies emerge and factories integrate the technologies into their regular processes. Some of these benefits include[3][4]:

  • Process Control and Improvements
    • Factory Visibility
    • Complex Automation and Autonomous Systems
    • Optimized Resource Consumption and Energy Management
    • Proactive Maintenance
  • Cost Savings from Improvements in Efficiency and Production Management
  • Development of a Connected/Integrated Supply Chain
  • Future Improvements through Data Analytics



The Connected Office

IoT technologies also have a place in the office setting, though the benefits may not be as directly visible in the office as they are in a factory setting. These technologies can be used with current existing devices, as well as new devices, to create a smart ecosystem in the office space through which employees can interact, as well as build a company’s knowledge base, allow for effective sharing of data, and enhance business intelligence processes. This will be discussed below along with other specific examples of IoT technologies in the connected office.

The Smart Ecosystem

By connecting together a vast array of existing internet-connected corporate products such as smartphones and computers with newer IoT devices, a company can create a smarter office. The real potential of intelligent technology in the workplace may lie in the network of relationships that emerge among these devices. The use of technologies such as low cost sensors, cloud computing, smartphones, and advanced data analytics can serve to promote information sharing and connectedness in the workplace which can, depending on a company’s effectiveness in using these technologies, lead to numerous, albeit indirect, benefits to the office workflow[5].

Business Intelligence

Building upon the idea of a smart office ecosystem through the deployment of IoT technologies is the idea of the intelligent workplace. Through the use of a company’s collective intelligence, connected product, and the now connected office environment, a company can develop and use business intelligence capabilities to collect data and present it to employees in the most efficient and effective manner[5].

Supply Monitoring

IoT technologies can be integrated into many items around the office through the use of either sensors, or with direct integration into office equipment such as printers. These items can then be connected to a centralized platform which can automatically alert users (through push notifications) when supplies, such as paper and ink, are running low and prompt replacements.

Environmental Controls

iRobot Ava™ 500 Video Collaboration Robot

Of course, an office can employ many IoT technologies similar to the home space such as smart thermostats, environmental controls, and office monitoring. These technologies are of a more general nature that serve to create a comfortable environment so that employees can focus on their work without any unnecessary distractions. For more information regarding such technologies see the Home Automation section above.

Ava 500 Telepresence Robot

The Ava 500 telepresence robot is a robot, designed by iRobot (the makers of the Roomba) in partnership with Cisco, which can move autonomously around the office and participate in meetings wherever they may be taking place, even if they happen to be in another office branch on the other side of the country. An individual can schedule meetings and easily book a free robot in the company’s online system. The Ava 500 robot will then automatically go to the meeting location and give the employee control of the robot. The robot is an effectual telepresence system that can navigate by itself, avoid obstacles, and take the shortest path to its destination. It will then allow for a greater feeling of connectedness as well as effective collaboration and teamwork regardless of the distance between offices[1].



The Smart Store

The opportunities for the implementation of IoT technologies in the retail environment are vast, and these technologies take many shapes and forms. Sometimes the form is of a new device that can interact with the customer to enhance the customer’s in-store experience, and other times it may involve the usage of such technologies in the back-end of the store to enhance operations and the ability of the store to cater to customer needs. Regardless, new IoT devices and functionalities are developed every day. A number of examples are further discussed in this section.

Estimote Bluetooth Smart Beacon

Estimote Beacon

The Estimote Beacon is a wireless sensor that can be attached to a particular location in a store and programmed with information for customers to connect with using their smartphone. It provides customers with contextual awareness and, based on the customer’s proximity to locations and objects, will provide customers with specific product information[1].

Interactive Digital Signage

Interactive digital signage can be installed on different in-store items, such as refrigerated beverage coolers, or at permanent locations in the store to create a differentiated brand experience. These signs are designed to be interactive in order to gain the customer’s attention and improve their store experience. For example, these signs can be equipped with webcams to allow customers to alter their digital appearance with hairstyles and outfits. The signs can even share the pictures with the user’s Facebook account or directly connect to the customers’ own devices in order to transfer the content. When not in immediate use, the signs can deliver dynamic, relevant content to customers walking by. The backend system for the signs can also be used for analytics and real-time store updates. These signs have been shown to boost sales by up to 120% in off-premise locations[2][3].

Store Apps and Opt-in Wi-Fi

With the optional use of a store app, individual stores can deliver personalized content, create an interactive store experience, and provide targeted marketing showing relevant information and promotions based on customer demographics and interests. With opt-in programs such as guest Wi-Fi, optionally combined with the use of store apps, retailers can send customers coupons and recommendations in real time based on the customers’ locations in the store and based on past purchases. Doing so can provide an enhanced customer experience while also informing the customer of many product purchase opportunities[4].

Digital Shelf Labels

IoT Wearable Technology for Inventory Management

The use of connected digital shelf labels can enable real-time price updates using Bluetooth technology. This technology is already in use in many stores and can significantly increase the ease with which prices are updated, while also reducing the time, resources, and number of employees required to change all of the prices. This product is especially useful for large stores, such as grocery stores, that carry a wide variety of products and therefore require a large number of price tags. This is particularly beneficial when a store must make price changes on a regular basis and/or has many store sales[4].

Sensors and RFID

Sensors and RFID technology can be used for both front-end and behind the scenes purposes in retail stores. For example, sensors can be used to monitor the length of checkout lines and direct the opening of new lines as needed. This can minimize staff idle times at checkout counters and improve the customer checkout experience. Shelf sensors or RFID tags can also enable remote asset management by helping track inventory in real time and can even provide automatic notifications to restock when inventory drops below a preconfigured range[4].

Tracking Technology

A wide number of tracking devices can be used to monitor customer behaviour and actions within the store. Some of these tracking devices can be placed on the store carts or on shelves to provide real-time information to store managers. This data can further be used in trend analysis or other customer behaviour data analysis for company-wide use. The types of data that can be collected include customer location, shopping pattern, products viewed, and items purchased. Given more time to develop, these tracking technologies can also be used by retail loss prevention to reduce product shrink[4].



Business Data Benefits

The use of IoT technology in business settings is not just about tracking customers and employees or simply trying to capture the immediate benefits that can be seen from the use of the technology. The data behind each of these things and the innumerable ways that it can be used to improve the business in the long-term is something that should be one of the primary considerations.

Throughout all of the aforementioned processes through the use of IoT devices, data can be continuously collected for business use to[4]:

  • Enhance operational effectiveness and efficiency
  • Provide insight into consumer behaviour
  • Promote strategic innovation

Issues for Business Use

The implementation and use of IoT devices for business use are not without their own concerns or issues. These should also be considered alongside the many benefits of IoT use in business. Some of the issues include:

  • Security risks as a result of an increased diversity in devices and the broad reach of the technologies in the company.
  • Privacy issues, either as a result of the aforementioned security risks, internal misuse, or excessive consumer tracking, could result in backlash.
  • Potential for hacking due to increased system exposure to outside factors through the network connectivity of the devices.
  • Difficulties for integration and implementation may result from these new technologies and may require significant organizational restructuring.
  • Significant investment costs may be involved with a number of these devices



The Future in Business

The future of the IoT in Business is a more networked, connected, efficient environment, where data collection and analysis is the norm, and improvements are constantly made to processes through the direct use of the technologies as well as through the results of data analysis. With further development of newer technologies and increased prevalence in the world, society may see a large number of changes in the business processes of today. A few examples of the potential future of IoT technology in business is discussed below.

Connected Business and Consumers

Eventually businesses will want to become even more connected to their consumers than they are now, and may use both their stores and their products themselves as a medium to do so. Progressed far enough, businesses may even going so far as connecting to consumers inside their homes.

For example, a Wi-Fi-connected, sensor-enabled electronic toothbrush gathers usage data, so that your dentist is armed with hard facts about your oral hygiene habits before you arrive. The dentist and patient can then examine and discuss the data together.

The internet-connectivity of all sorts of household items also has further potential from a corporate standpoint to alert customers when certain product supplies (i.e. detergent, filters, ink, etc.) are running low and prompt customers to purchase a replacement. Catering to the customer inside their homes can serve to build customer loyalty and boost product repurchasing.

Fusing Processes and Devices

Highly Automated Smart Factory

The future may also see certain IoT technologies embedded inside all materials, components, and products to inextricably link processes and information with the objects themselves.

An unfinished material may already know for which customer it is intended and can carry with it all of the information pertaining to where and when it will be processed from the start of the factory line to the end. While the material is being processed by machinery, the material itself records any deviations from the standard process, determines when it is “done,” and knows how to get to its customer[5].

Automated Factories

The future of internet connected technologies in factories has significant potential to advance far beyond any of the current factory limitations. With the ability to connect all of the machines and systems within a factory together, factories could be completely autonomous and independent aside from some basic human oversight. Machines and computer systems would be able to adjust tooling and equipment without human intervention, and would be able to work ceaselessly, without tire, to create as many products as necessary to meet demand. The systems would be able to optimize all of the tasks and factory processes to their maximum efficiency and create the ideal factory[6].

The Future of IoT

From the Internet infrastructure and protocol to sensors and microprocessors, a large number of the technology required for current generation IoT implementations already exists. With the large number of connected devices currently deployed and IoT implementations already in place, the IoT is here and now[7]. This evolutionary step of the Internet started more than a decade ago even though it is only reaching the mainstream fairly recently. According to Cisco, there have been more devices connected to the internet than there are people on the face of Earth since 2008[8].

Internet of Everything

Internet of Everything (IoE), is a term coined by Cisco that describes the next step in the evolution of the Internet, and the future for the current IoT phenomenon[7]. In essence, the IoE describes a future where literally everything that can be connected, will be connected, and everything will be connected in a meaningful way to create value, improve processes, and stimulate growth.

However, an accurate prediction of the future is near impossible and the future for the IoT is no different. Depending on the the method of estimation, the estimated number of connected things by year 2020 will be anywhere between 26 billion according to Gartner[9] to 50 billion according to Cisco[8]. Either way, these numbers are only looking five to six years into the future at the time they were generated and a much more dramatic number can be expected in the years to come. Intel believes there will eventually be hundreds of billions of devices connected via the Internet[10], making the world a truly connected place.

It is also worth noting that with technology existing today, there already exists the theoretical capability to connected up to 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 (just over 340 undecillion) devices[8]. To provide some context to that number, it is roughly 100 times the number of atoms on the face of earth.

The Connected Human

The connected human is the idea that, as a part of the Internet’s evolution towards the interconnection of absolutely everything, it would not be impossible for human brains to eventually get connected directly. While much of this remains science fiction with today’s technologies, the idea is far from new and technological breakthroughs continue to bring this vision closer to a reality.

Current technology allows humans to be connected indirectly, mostly through the use of sensors worn over various parts of the human body. For example, a wide variety of wearable technology and health monitoring devices have already been made commercially available. A direct connection going straight to the human brain, however, requires something Gartner refers to as the Brain-Computer Interface on its yearly Hype Cycle[11].

The Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) is a way for humans to communicate directly with computers using only the electric signals sent out by a human brain. In other words, it can potentially allow for the direct control of computer devices in the same way the human body is controlled.

Right now, this technology has barely entered its infancy and can only allow for very basic commands to be sent to a computer. However, it could be possible for this technology to develop into something not only mature enough to accurately collect and analyze human thoughts, but also advanced enough to input information directly into our brain. While this is pure speculation, this technology would make possible a wide range of capabilities from direct control over connected devices to human augmentation. For example, allowing the human brain to tap directly into the sheer computing capability of a supercomputer array could boost cognitive ability well beyond current limits.

References

  1. Estimote Beacons – real world context for your apps. (2014). Estimote [online] http://estimote.com/ [Accessed: December 7, 2014].
  2. IoT in Retail. (2014). Microsoft [online] http://www.microsoft.com/windowsembedded/en-us/internet-of-things-retail.aspx [Accessed: December 7, 2014].
  3. Coca-Cola coolers get an extra dose of “cool,” thanks to IoT. (2014). Microsoft [online] http://download.microsoft.com/download/E/1/F/E1FFDADF-C0FF-4E72-A834-B173A079F393/CCA_Microsoft_Internet_of_Things_News_Article.PDF [Accessed: December 7, 2014].
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Transform the Retail Store with the IoT. (2014). Microsoft [online] http://download.microsoft.com/download/B/3/D/B3D96C18-73C5-4353-A579-27B445C318B5/Microsoft_White%20Paper_Transform_the_Retail_Store_with_IoT.pdf [Accessed: December 7, 2014].
  5. The IoT and the future of manufacturing. (2013). Markus Loffler and Andreas Tschiesner [online] http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/business_technology/the_internet_of_things_and_the_future_of_manufacturing [Accessed: December 7, 2014].
  6. The Dawn of the Smart Factory. (2013). Travis Hessman [online] http://www.industryweek.com/technology/dawn-smart-factory [Accessed: December 7, 2014].
  7. 7.0 7.1 The Internet of Everything. (nd). Cisco [online] http://share.cisco.com/IoESocialWhitepaper/#/0/2 [Accessed: December 9, 2014].
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 The Internet of Things [INFOGRAPHIC]. (2011). Cisco [online] http://blogs.cisco.com/news/the-internet-of-things-infographic/ [Accessed: December 9, 2014].
  9. Gartner Says the Internet of Things Will Transform the Data Center. (2014). Gartner, Inc. [online] http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2684616 [Accessed: December 9, 2014].
  10. Intel IoT -- What Does The Internet of Things Mean? (2014). Intel [online] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3ur8wzzhBU [Accessed: December 9, 2014].
  11. Gartner's 2014 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies Maps the Journey to Digital Business. (2014). Gartner, Inc. [online] http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2819918 [Accessed: December 9, 2014].
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