04 Sep The Internet Of Things Simplified
The buzz phrase ‘The Internet of Things’ (IoT) has certainly taken off.
Just type the phrase into Google, and be prepared to be inundated with over 5 million results. You might have read about grand ideas of a completely automated home or internal health monitors that can detect arrhythmias and tell you to go to hospital.
But exactly what is the Internet of Things?
Understanding The Fundamentals Of IoT
Not long ago, if you wanted to access the internet, you required a PC and an internet modem. It was a simpler but limited time.
But thanks to mobile technology, today we’re fortunate enough to access the internet with wireless connection available almost everywhere we go. With exciting features released every few months on devices and operating systems, we can connect to the internet with minimum hassle.
We’ve entered a world far beyond owning single devices and we are getting closer to a world where everything is interconnected. Eventually, every object and living thing will connect to the internet, creating data that can be used and analysed. Simply put; this is The Internet of Things.
Why Is It Important?
According to the founder of the concept, Kevin Ashton, ‘the Internet of Things has the potential to change the world, just like the internet did.’
While the concept is still in its early stages, the phrase The Internet of Things has good reason to be in the spotlight.
There is great potential for businesses and consumers, as IoT can enhance collecting and reporting on data. At the same time, it’s expected that IoT can cut costs for businesses and consumers including time and money by making it easier to gather more detailed and relevant information. The flow on effect of better data means businesses can develop better products and services as well as increase efficiencies across the business. Of course, these benefits then flow onto the consumer, who will be offered a more personalised experience, potentially at a better price.
Not only will businesses and consumers stand to benefit from the IoT, but our economy too. In a conference session at CeBit earlier this year, Barb Edson, Microsoft’s GM of The Internet of Things stated that the effective use of data generated by the IoT “can boost Australia’s GDP by $6.5 billion dollars over four years.” That’s certainly a huge increase!
Some companies have already begun experimenting with the technology to see how they can improve their products or services. One such example is Virgin Atlantic.
To improve their operations, Virgin Atlantic announced last year that their next fleet of Boeing 747’s would be highly connected. The company’s IT director David Bulman said at the Economist Technology Frontiers event last year that “literally every piece of that plane has an internet connection, from the engines, to the flaps, to the landing gear.”
But what are the benefits of a connected plane?
To illustrate the company’s vision for this technology, Bulman gave the example of having real-time access to the status of the plane’s vital systems, such as the engines. By being able to continuously monitor the engines, they will know if there is an issue with one of them before it lands. This allows them to have the necessary parts ready to fix the issue with minimal downtime.
How Does It Work?
Data can be gathered by sensors attached to people, places or things, which is then sent to a device such as a smartphone or computer and accessed through an application. The data can then be analysed, stored or it can trigger an action.
To illustrate this process, we’ll look at a home grown company offering a smart lock system.
Australian company Leapin Digital Keys provide a smartphone-enabled access control system that replaces traditional lock and key systems. Essentially, the product allows you to lock and unlock the doors of your house remotely using your smartphone via their Digital Keys app. The system uses access codes (either created by you or randomly generated) as your ‘key’, which you can download from the cloud to your smartphone. Once the key has been downloaded, the doors unlock by registering the active access code on your smartphone.
Sensors are installed on your doors, which use NFC, Bluetooth or a time sensitive PIN on a keypad to access the access code on your smartphone (via the Digital Keys app). If the access code on the smartphone matches what has been pre-configured, the door will unlock.
Is There A Downside?
While the IoT has the potential to change the world for the better, as with all technology there are security concerns.
After looking into the ten most popular devices that fall into the IoT niche, a recent HP report (Internet of Things Research Study) found a concerning number of vulnerabilities per device. The study revealed that the vulnerabilities included insufficient authentication, lack of transport encryption and insecure web interface and software. In addition to the security concerns, 80% of the devices tested also raised privacy concerns.
While security and privacy remain a hot topic in our increasingly connected world, these issues will most likely be addressed as the industry and technology matures.
The Internet of Things is a buzz phrase for good reason. The concept is still in its infancy stages, with security and privacy some of the biggest concerns relating to the technology. The Internet of Things has the potential to change the way we do business on a business to consumer level and a business to business level, opening countless opportunities.