The Internet of Things (IoT)
The IoT is connecting new smart devices to the Internet from such diverse sectors as manufacturing floors, energy grids, healthcare facilities, domestic appliance and transportation systems. When an object can represent itself digitally, it can be controlled from anywhere. This connectivity means more data, gathered from more places, with more ways to increase efficiency and improve safety and security.
A first step toward the IoT is to convert networks using proprietary or legacy protocols to IP-based networks. A wide range of devices can employ sensors and actuators embedded in physical objects – from roads to pacemakers. These are then linked through fixed and mobile networks using the same IP that is the basis of the Internet. When objects can both sense the environment and communicate, they become tools for understanding complexity and responding to it swiftly. These physical information systems are being deployed, and some of them even work largely without human intervention.
For example, small micro cameras already traverse the human digestive tract and send back thousands of images to pinpoint sources of illness. Precision farming equipment with wireless links to data collected from remote satellites and ground sensors can take into account crop conditions and adjust the way each individual part of a field is farmed – for example, by spreading extra fertilizer on areas that need more nutrients. Advertising billboards in Japan check passersby, assessing how they fit consumer profiles and then instantly change the displayed messages based on those assessments.
In a domestic situation, smart electricity and gas meters are becoming more common and remote lighting control, appliance monitoring and security devices in the home are being installed.