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October 15, 2018

4 things you didn’t know about the Internet of Things

Written By Madeleine Kirk
5 min read

The expanse of data that is now available is monumental and the Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming more than just a internet-connected device for consumers and users. The escalation of internet connected devices is providing companies with both opportunities and challenges when they are striving to be more connected with consumers.

IoT refers to the connection of computing devices through the internet,  usually embedded in everyday objects, which enables them to send and receive data. Essentially this means everyday devices are becoming smarter, with almost anything functioning as a computer which gathers and transmits data.

Machine generated data is collated through smart devices or machines that are constantly talking to each other. Today, there are billions of smart devices throughout our offices, homes, schools and even our cars.

Here are some of the surprising facts most people don’t know about the Internet of Things

The first IoT device was connected in 1981

Today, the idea of the Internet of Things still sounds revolutionary and futuristic. However, the first IoT device was connected to the internet over a decade before the first World Wide Web browser was launched. The initial idea was quite simple; engineers at Carnegie Mellon wanted to know whether a nearby Coke machine had the drink they wanted and whether it was cold. In order to address this ‘important’ issue, the engineers connected a sensor inside the machine to a remote sensor and supplied a text-based interface. This enabled anyone with a Coke machine’s internet address could find out the machine’s temperature and contents form anywhere in the world. This first connected device illustrates the basic principle of IoT. People want to leverage data and information technology to know and understand what is happening in the real world, as well as in the virtual world and like most products, this was designed and made out of necessity and convenience.

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IoT devices now outnumber the human population

Today there is on average 23 connected devices in every home.

Although the IoT can be thought of a developing application for the internet, is has become bigger than the web itself. Cisco IBSG report that the number of people connected to the internet during 2008 was outnumbered by the number of devices connected to the internet.

Within the next few years there could be an estimated 25 billion connected devices and machines online and by 2020 there could be 75 billion devices. During 2015, there were 15 billion technological devices, this shows substantial growth in a couple of years, which is only going to increase. IoT devices now outnumber the population. The list of devices that make up the diverse ecosystem will soon become the IoT, from fitness trackers, parking, traffic lights, fish tanks, bicycles, doorbells, fitness trackers and even pyjamas. There has been a sudden influx which some believe is due to decreased costs of components sensors and processors.

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It is possible to search the Internet of ‘Physical’ Things

As the interrelationship between smart connected devices and the internet develops in the virtual world, these physical devices that are connected to the internet are now being used to search items in the real world.

Search engines such as ‘Shodan’ and ‘Thingful’ are specific search engines for IoT devices, bringing these IoT to life. Originally, these were intended as a security tool to help IT professionals keep track of all devices connected to a network. However, a problem arose when hackers discovered they could remotely access garage doors and baby cameras. From fridges and pedometers to tagged wildlife, these are just a few examples of items that are constantly talking to the internet. Thingful collects and collates information from various external sources and displays the data by geographical location. These locations can then be searched by name of place or data type. Users can see the difference in air quality of those houses that have sensor, from one street to another. Or, if you are interested in tracking shark movements, track a tagged shark and follow their movements as they move around the ocean.

Osram, a German lighting manufacturer, has built a tiny chip that can scan foods to identify certain compounds such as fat, sugar, water and proteins. This is linked to a smartphone where consumers can then access information about calorie content, quality and freshness of the food.  This same chip helps to power a consumer-grade molecular spectrometer built by the startup Consumer Physics. This tiny chip can extract information from foods and pills. Certain compounds such as fat, sugar, water and proteins can be identified. Essentially this allows consumers to scan a plate of food to see what they are actually eating. As well as food, there is also research into the recognition of prescription and over-the-counter drugs; allowing consumers to identify counterfeits. In the next few years, Osram expects there will products available to consumers to search the physical world as well as food.

Slowly, everything in our lives is becoming searchable, both things that we can and can’t see, all through invisible networks.

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Smart Home devices has the largest share of the IoT market

As consumers, there is a lot a talk about wearables and other consumer-oriented applications that make up the IoT. The IoT market is now dominated by two subsections; smart homes and smart commercial buildings. Instead of companies and businesses directly targeting consumers through technology, they need to start to integrate their product or service into an Internet of Things device.

The demand and use of home connected devices, appliances and locks is increasing due to the change in lifestyle, as well as energy and cost savings. Now, most wearables need a smartphone or computer to view data, personalise settings and store information. Mobile phones are being used as a hub to link consumers to all their data.

The mainstream adoption of multi-branded smart tech with the ability to turn our homes into ‘connected spaces’ is just around the corner. Companies and brands across the industries are starting to look into the potential scope for smart homes and connected devices to change the way we live our lives; even more so than they do already. We currently see smart light bulbs and heating, all of which are controlled by a tap of a button on a smartphone. However, major appliance companies are now starting to incorporate smart home screens into upcoming models. These allow consumers to control and interact with their appliances via their smartphone or tablet. As the IoT matures, more and more smart home appliances are becoming even more automated with interoperability. For example, the Bosch Home Connect smart kitchen appliances connects to Nest Protect. These two systems can talk to each other and if you forget that your dinner is in the oven and starts to catch fire, the Nest smoke detector will inform the oven to turn itself off. These screens which are now incorporated will also soon be used as security cameras. In theory, this could mean that you can remotely monitor different parts of your home without having to purchase separate cameras for every room.

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Everything that we touch, and even look at, will soon be a device that is connected to the internet in some way. As the IoT becomes more progressive, new types of technology will also become more advanced to make our lives easier, and talking with connected devices throughout our homes and offices will become second nature, even more so than it already is.