Until recently, our personal computers, smartphones, and a few other minor gadgets were the only devices that connected to the Internet. However, the proliferation of IoT has enabled numerous products and devices to establish connectivity with the Internet. The popularity and impressive capabilities of personal voice assistants like the Amazon Echo exemplify the immense power of IoT platforms.
Moreover, the concept of IoT is expanding beyond device connectivity. It now encompasses mechanical components as well. From the engine in your car to the drill of industrial mining equipment, various mechanical parts have the ability to connect to a network and capture and share important data.
Considering the increasing significance of any new technology or methodology, it is crucial to analyze both the good, the bad, and the ugly of IoT.
What is IoT?
IoT (Internet of Things) is a technological advancement in our interconnected world. Many refer to it as objects capable of transferring data over a network without human intervention. There are two ways this process can occur. First, there are devices that utilize “long-range” technology, such as smartphones with 5G connections. Secondly, there are devices that employ short-range connection technologies like smartwatches or Bluetooth-enabled devices.
The origins of IoT can be traced back to 1980 when David Nicholls, at Cambridge Mellon University in the United States, had a craving for a soda but didn’t want to make the trek to the vending machine without knowing its stock. This led him to think about a solution, which eventually involved sensors and an ARPANET connection. They managed to make the vending machine send information about its contents and temperature. Thus, a small desire triggered significant technological progress.
Since then, numerous tests and experiments have been conducted. A notable example is John Roonkey’s toaster in 1990. Roonkey achieved the remarkable feat of controlling the toaster’s power using the Internet.
However, it was in 1999 that one of the most pivotal events for IoT occurred. Kevin Ashton, co-founder of the Auto-ID Center, introduced the term “IoT” during a presentation for Procter & Gamble. He aimed to simplify the concept of utilizing the RFID remote storage system, which involved transmitting object identities via radio waves to monitor the supply chain. It was a brilliant idea.
Overall, IoT has revolutionized the way objects connect and interact with networks. Its impact on various aspects of our lives continues to expand, making it a subject of both concern and astonishment.
How does a device/technology classify as IoT?
To be considered part of the Internet of Things (IoT), devices and technologies must meet specific criteria:
Wireless communication capability: The capacity for wireless communication is vital for IoT devices to interact with one another and users. Ideally, this communication should occur without the need for physical connections. Depending on the nature and purpose of the device, communication can be unidirectional or bidirectional. It is important to employ a lightweight and efficient communication protocol.
Sensory proficiency: IoT devices need to possess sensory capabilities that enable them to perceive events or changes in their surroundings and provide appropriate outputs.
Distinct identification: Each “thing” within the IoT must possess a globally distinctive identifier among the multitude of interconnected objects. Integration with the Internet typically involves utilizing an IP address as a singular identification. However, due to the limited capacity of IPv4 (allowing for only 4.3 billion unique addresses), IoT objects often require the utilization of IPv6 to accommodate the significantly larger address space. Alternatively, for an “Intranet” of things, a locally individual identifier would be sufficient. Additionally, some devices may also offer actuation capabilities, enabling them to perform actions based on received instructions (e.g., locks controlled over the Internet).
Remote controllability: A crucial attribute of IoT devices is the ability to be remotely controlled through the Internet. The requirement for physical proximity to the device should be eliminated, allowing for seamless control and interaction.
The Internet of Things (IoT) holds a myriad of benefits for businesses, governments, consumers, and practically everyone involved. We have already witnessed the rise of the smart grid, enabling households to utilize power more efficiently. But there are further advantages to consider.
Smart cars will establish communication with traffic lights to optimize traffic flow and with homes to determine whether to use gas or electricity. For instance, if a smart car recognizes that it is heading home, it will switch to electricity, anticipating a forthcoming recharge. Additionally, finding parking spots will become effortless as smart cars assist in locating them. Notably, smart car data can even contribute to reduced insurance rates for responsible drivers, although there are concerns to be addressed, as we will explore. Furthermore, smart cars may have the ability to detect driver fatigue and make necessary adjustments.
Smart homes, in addition to communicating with smart cars, will feature refrigerators that can keep track of food inventory and notify your smartphone while you’re grocery shopping. Curious if the kids are home? Your home will provide you with that information.
Smart cities will not only enhance traffic efficiency for individual smart cars but also improve public transportation by accurately assessing transportation fleets, driver safety practices, route planning, and fuel consumption. Cities could excel in citizen engagement and municipal services. Imagine having smart trash cans that alert when they reach their full capacity.
Smart retail empowers businesses to meticulously track inventory and optimize product placement. Additionally, consumer tracking allows businesses to tailor their services more effectively to meet the needs of their customer
Smart health is expected to undergo significant transformation through Machine-to-Machine (M2M) technologies in the upcoming years, and the process is already underway, according to AT&T. Many experts predict that smarter health technology will revolutionize health outcomes, reduce costs, and prioritize patient friendliness.
The Internet of Things (IoT) faces several obstacles, and one of the major challenges is the lack of standards. Developing a cross-industry technology reference architecture that ensures interoperability and easy deployment is proving to be a struggle. The fragmented landscape of M2M and Smart Systems vendors, which is not well aligned with the larger IT infrastructure and network services players, further exacerbates the issue.
Currently, various competing IoT standards are vying for dominance, with more expected to join the contest soon. Notable players like, Qualcomm, IBM, Samsung, and Microsoft are making efforts to establish their own standards for consumer-based IoT devices and software.
The Eclipse IoT Working Group is also contributing to standardization by building a set of open-source technologies for IoT. This collaboration of industry and academic partners aims to create a foundation for IoT applications through protocols, tools, services, and frameworks.
However, opinions remain divided on the matter of standards and protocols. The IoT protocol war adds another layer of complexity. Broadcom’s Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC), Google’s Thread protocol and Qualcomm’s AllJoyn are all competing for widespread adoption. Special-purpose low-level protocols such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BTLE) and Z-Wave are also in contention.
This fragmentation of standards poses a significant risk to interoperability, a crucial
aspect of IoT. The absence of a standardized communication protocol hampers seamless integration and collaboration among IoT devices.
Furthermore, the future of IoT heavily relies on the adoption of IPv6. The global transition to IPv6 in the coming years will be critical for the successful development and expansion of the IoT.
Overcoming these challenges and establishing cohesive standards and protocols will be essential for unlocking the full potential of the Internet of Things.
Cyber-attacks pose a significant threat in the world of IoT. Just like the infamous Fire Sale depicted in the movie Die Hard. The nation’s IT infrastructure is affected a cyberattack, and everything from public utilities to financial systems is shut down.
Your personal life becomes vulnerable to hackers who can intercept your communications with individual devices, breaching your privacy. Imagine a scenario where a criminal hacks into your smart metering utility system, monitors when your energy usage drops, and assumes that it means nobody is home, leaving you exposed to potential break-ins.
These examples illustrate the ugly side of IoT, where security vulnerabilities can be exploited by malicious individuals. Protecting against cyber-attacks and ensuring robust security measures are in place become critical factors in the widespread adoption and safe implementation of IoT technology.
With technology pervading every aspect of our lives at an astonishing pace, the potential for a technocratic society is not far-fetched. It is still too early to determine whether the Internet of Things will lead us to a technological utopia or a dystopia. However, there is still time to take the necessary steps in the right direction.
By building upon the positives, addressing the challenges discussed in the “bad” and “ugly” sections, the Internet of Things has the potential to bring about another monumental shift in the history of technology.
Only time will tell the true extent of the impact of the Internet of Things, but one thing is certain: we are at the forefront of an extraordinary technological journey.