The Internet of Things (IoT) has become a common term as a topic of conversation in industry articles, online tech groups, and your backyard BBQ.
The IoT has impacted how we work, but also how we live. Intermingled in the complexities around IoT are some useful and important conversations – given you understand what they are talking about. Many people are still just trying to grasp the foundation of what the heck these conversations are about.
The IoT refers to the billions of physical devices around the world that are now connected to the Internet collecting and sharing data. Thanks to cheap processors and wireless networks, it’s basically possible to turn anything – and I mean anything – into part of the Internet. In fact, the term IoT is mainly used for devices that wouldn’t generally be expected to have an Internet connection.
This new level of ‘digital intelligence,’ added to devices that would otherwise be dumb, enables them to communicate without involving a human being, merging the digital and physical worlds.
The IoT was initially of interest primarily to business and manufacturing, where its application is sometimes known as machine-to-machine (M2M). But now the craze has caught on, and it is literally filling our homes and offices with smart devices. This results in an object transformation into something that’s relevant to almost everyone.
The IoT promises to make the human environment – our homes, offices, and vehicles – smarter, more measurable, and chattier. Think Siri, Alexa, etc.
Smart speakers make it easier to play music, set timers, or get information. Home security systems make it easier to monitor what’s going on inside and outside, including seeing and talking to visitors while away from home. Meanwhile, smart thermostats can help us preheat our homes before we arrive, and smart light bulbs can make it look like we’re home even when we’re out.
Most of these uses feel a little vain and pretentious, but there are some very beneficial uses whose impact goes beyond mere users. Looking beyond the home, sensors can help us to understand how noisy or polluted our environment might be. Autonomous cars and smart cities could change how we build and manage our public spaces. The applications are limited only by the different types of ‘smart’ objects that are available.
The IoT bridges the gap between the digital world and the physical world – for good or ill.
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Melody K. Smith
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