The term “Internet of Things” or “IoT” has been buzzing around quite frequently in the past few years. Some people regard it as “The New Transformative Technology Revolution”, describing it as a world in which some 40 billion objects will be connected to the internet by the year 2020. Wired magazine referred to it as “An era where most mundane items in our lives can talk wirelessly among themselves, performing tasks on command, giving us data we’ve never had before.”
So what exactly is it, this Internet of Things?
In a nutshell – it is a network of physical objects, embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity, which enable them to interact one with another by collecting and exchanging data. This can apply to an enormous range of “things”, and the number of appliances only keeps on growing: From letting you know where you placed your “lost” car keys, through checking on your oven from the other side of town and turning it off, all the way to smart cities that analyze data on water supply and sensors that monitor your baby’s skin temperature and sleeping position. All these are the Internet of Things.
Even though the actual expression “Internet of Things” was coined by the British technology pioneer Kevin Ashton back in 1999, the definition has not changed since then.
According to Ashton, “The Internet has been almost completely dependent on people for its supply of information. But in the future, things will be able to input data themselves. It will be as though a net is laid over the physical world, linking up and processing the abundance of data generated by “smart” things and ubiquitous sensors. This is expected to reveal patterns and make everything from energy to logistics transparent and potentially open to real-time optimization.”
All studies and forecasts indicate a massive growth in numbers of connected devices and sensors during the next few years. This will create an unprecedented amount of data flowing from many directions, and will require advanced and huge-scale means for collecting, analyzing and storing it. Many countries around the world have already started allocating more and more funds to further develop this field, and budgets are only expected to continue growing.
Effects on the Industry
According to Gartner, among the industries that are predicted to profit the most from the Internet of Things are Manufacturing, Healthcare, and Insurance.
Manufacturers of commodities are expected to benefit greatly, as this will allow them to have a precise real-time overview in of their entire inventory, including key factors such as the intake and depletion of materials. These insights will provide them with the ability to quickly respond to changes in the market, to customer preferences and to consumer behavior. These things are already being done nowadays by manufacturers, but usually with somewhat lesser efficiency. In terms of healthcare, there are also quite a lot of benefits in store: Many companies have already started riding the wave and developing quite a few appliances, from containers of prescribed medication being able to “tell” whether their owners have taken their pills, and remind them via email or text messages if necessary, all the way to “smart” clothes equipped with sensors being able to detect when older people fall down, and call for help if they don’t move afterwards. The possibilities are virtually endless, and with the right infrastructure and creative spark of imagination, the sky really is the limit.
The Challenge of Standardization
It seems that one of the main obstacles standing in the way of the Internet of Things, possibly hindering its fast pace, is lack of technical standardization.
Such standards are essential for ensuring that all devices from all manufactures can successfully communicate one with another. Sensors are now being connected via WLAN, Near Field Communication (NFC), Zigbee and Bluetooth. According to Navigant Research, in 2012, almost 40 million devices worldwide were equipped with Zigbee. In 2020, the numbers are expected to increase by more than five folds, and stand on over 200 million. The numbers of the additional standardization technologies are behaving in a similar manner, but researchers already have their eyes set into the future. Completely new approaches are being explored and developed all the time, as the great potential of the IoT has been realized, along with the need for a global, fully compatible standardization protocol.
Mars Media Group is embracing the IoT revolution and currently developing tools that support it via Native DSP.
It should be very interesting to follow the standardization trends and technologies, and see how the industry adapts to the fast-paced Internet of Things revolution.