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Internet of Things

Abstract

The Internet of Things mostly shortened as (IoT) has been growing in popularity since the 1980s, receiving utmost attention in the 2000s as most of the world became connected through internet devices. By definition, the Internet of Things is an ideology in which many gadgets across the globe are connected to one another and they can share information through secure networks based on need. These gadgets generally collect information that is meant to enable automation at the most convenient and effective level possible.

The information in this case is collected and transmitted in real time, thus enabling the remote operation of a number of gadgets and appliances for various uses. Regarding the technology enabling IoT, sensors, networks, standards, augmented intelligence and augmented behavior are five of the main inventions that support this system of information sharing. Each one of these technologies is able to propel the data from the point at which it is connected to the point at which relevant decisions are made in response to the recorded changes.

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Introduction

Technology has come a long way from the first computers to the current dependence on computers for almost everything. The concept of Internet of Things was created out of a need to capitalize on digitalization by having all the necessary information collected and accessible not just online but across a network of devices. The title ‘Internet of Things’ may be rather confusing but it is all about connecting ‘things’, where things refer to gadgets that are created to collect and utilize information.

This concept is meant to ensure that all the information collected for use on the various computer devices does not go to waste. In order to appreciate the concept of the IoT however, one must be able to understand what IoT means, the history of the concept and the development of technology that supports the concept. As access to internet deepens globally, the concept of the internet of things is poised to undergo radical changes as the need for a networked environment increases.

Definition of the Term

Internet of Things (IoT) is simply defined as a network of physical gadgets that are connected to a network, which enables them to collect and exchange data. Based on this definition therefore, any physical device in the world that collects data and is connected to a network such as the internet or any other smaller networks is generally part of the internet of things. This is so in the sense that connected devises participate in the gathering of information and they can be used to share the information that they gather, thus building on the data that is available on a given network. The concept of the internet of things is meant to allow remote access to relevant information within a network. This means that entire systems can be operated remotely using the real time information that they collect. Considering that the scope of the internet of things as a concept is not limited to mobile devices, one can expect that the idea would be particularly effective in the creation of smart homes and smart transport solutions among other things. When one can collect real time information about a certain environment and use this information to manage other activities as related to the environment in question, they have a greater chance at improving the said environment.

Real time information in this case is meant to counter the negative effects of a pre-programmed system within a dynamic environment.  It can be appreciated that the word ‘things’ in internet of things refers to a very wide range of devices that can be connected onto a network and transmit information that has been gathered remotely. A home security system can for example gather information about the home and transmit it to a security center through a network. Similarly, a pacemaker can gather information about the patient and transmit it to their medical team over a specified network. The IoT in this case is not just about phones, computers, and other gadgets that can be used to browse the internet. It goes beyond the conventional internet access to include gadgets that most people may even take for granted. ATMS, PDAs, biochip transponders, DNA analysis devices, electric clams and many other systems that are built to share the information that they gather remotely with other devices fall under the IoT.

Brief History

The idea of the internet of things was first discussed in 1982 when a Coke machine was modified to become the first internet-connected gadget. At the time, the said appliance was able to monitor coca cola’s inventory and the status of any newly loaded drinks. This meant that it could be monitored remotely without one having to check it personally. This appliance is considered as the starting point on the IoT trend in the sense that the scientists started appreciating the potential of having gadgets that could monitor themselves and report to central systems in real time. This invention was the birth of the IoT vision, which was discussed severally in the computing world in the following years. There were several proposals on the movement of small packets of data from one device to another but it was not until 1999 that the refined version of this transfer of data was explained in details as D2D communication by one Bill Joy. This presentation was made at the World Economic Forum at Davos and the idea was part of the speaker’s ‘Six Webs framework.’ In the same year, MIT as well as other related publications started focusing increasingly on the concept of transferring data from one device to another. The Auto-ID Center is one of the inventions from MIT at the time. Radio-frequency Identification also became a big deal at the time, invented by Kevin Ashton. The idea behind these concepts was that computers would need to be able to identify the information that they are receiving as well as the gadgets that are sending them. More so, these computers would have to be able to identify the people that the information is linked to. At this point in the evolution of the IoT, it was noticed that all objects would have to be identifiable to the computers if the collection of data was to be effective and seamless. This is how technology such as QR codes, barcodes and digital watermarking came to be. They enable computers to identify various objects using their unique codes and imprints that are readable on the devices in question.

On a Business Week article in 1999, Neil Gross wrote about the planet ‘donning an electronic skin’ in which everything was computerized. This is considered as one of the earliest articles that stated the extent of the Internet of Things in the twenty first century world. A year later, the LG Company announced that they were planning to release an internet refrigerator. This is essentially a refrigerator that is programmed to identify the products that it has using barcodes and the RFID. The refrigerator then keeps an inventory to determine when a supply of specific items needs to be replenished. This product was however considerably expensive and considered impractical by most people considering that they visited their refrigerators frequently enough to know for themselves what would need to be replenished. In addition, considering that one internet refrigerator would cost over $20,000 most buyers opted to buy the conventional ones that were cheaper.

Two years after the internet refrigerator was announced, the Ambient Orb was created. The Orb primarily monitors the various databases like the Dow Jones, the weather and other important pieces of information and indicates the changes by changing its own color based parameters to inform the user of the changes. This system was created by David Rose and other scientists who were working under a spin off from MIT media, the company that had the initial Auto-ID and RFID ideas. In 2004, many corporate entities started embracing the IoT concept when they embraced the use of RFID. The government and the Wal-Mart Stores Inc. were main pioneers in their respective industries since they were the first ones to deploy the RFID concept in identifying products.  

The first international report on the IoT was then published in 2005 by the UN International Telecommunications Unit. The report detailed that with the IoT, other than just being able to connect with anyone at any time and from any place, there was a way to connect with anything. This simply implied the ability to connect devices within the IoT. The EU also finally recognized the IoT in 2008 and by 2009; the IoT was officially born with the growth of smartphones, PCs, Tablets and many other devices that could be connected to the internet reaching a record 12.5 billion. By 2010, there were approximately two devices connected to the internet for each human being on earth. This ratio made IoT an even better and more attractive initiative despite the reality that not each human being had direct access to a device that is connected to the internet. By the end of 2015, there was an 83% interest in the IoT across the globe with almost each organization working to capitalize on the convenience of the connectivity.   

Technological Developments in the Internet of Things

The initial innovation in the IOT was related to the gathering of inventory and transmitting information on whether the drinks were cold or not. This machine only had to identify the products in it and the temperature of the drinks. At this point, IoT was rather simple and only focused on a ubiquitous collection and sharing of information from one gadget to a central device. The remote operation at the time was appreciated but on a limited basis. After the consideration of techniques like RFID and Auto-ID, there was a capacity for expanding the system further beyond the initial Coke machine. Once every object if identifiable, it was considered that there would be a possibility of collecting data and sharing it remotely with whomever it would be useful to. So far, there have been many developments in the context of the IoT, and the field continues to grow, as more stakeholders are keen on embracing the trend. Currently, the technology that is driving IoT 5 categories that include sensors, networks, standards, augmented intelligence and augmented behavior.

Sensors

By definition, a sensor is simply a gadget that sends electronic signal when a preset event happens. This could be a level change in a water reservoir or a temperature change in a boiler or anything including a change of weather or even numbers of the Dow Jones. Sensors are the tiny gadgets that send an alert about anticipated changes that call for action. Initially, sensors were very expensive and rare gadgets in the technology based industries. This has changed with demand as more products are being created to fit into the concept of the Internet of Things. Almost every product in the present time is fitted with a sensor that can transmit an alert signal when the required changes occur.

Even kitchen ware have sensors, as do hospital equipment, airplane equipment and many other things that are currently able to transmit changes when needed. Currently, manufacturing companies are able to spend as little as $2 to buy and install sensors on their products unlike in the past when they were very expensive and most were very large gadgets. Today’s sensors can even fit on a pacemaker and many other tiny gadgets. There are currently about thirteen types of sensors based on what they are programmed to detect. These include radiation, temperature, speed, occupancy, flow, humidity, position, force, pressure, light and many others.  The sensor technology is likely to witness massive changes as tech innovators seek to invent better and cheaper technologies that cost less to manufacture and offer efficient services to consumers.

Networks

With respect to the IoT, networks are simply channels through which the electronic signals can be communicated to the relevant devices. In this case, it can be appreciated many different networks enable this transmission. For a sensor to be of any value, it should be connected to a network that allows it to transmit collected values for analysis and aggregation. The sensor is often connected to the network through a gateway, router, hub, bridge or switch depending on the application for which it is installed. This can be better explained using how phones, tablets and computers are connected to a network using a Wi-Fi router.

The transmission of information requires identification for the source, and within the IoT, each gadget has to be identifiable through a unique system known as Network Protocols. The networks within this IoT can be wired or wireless depending on the specific contexts of the gadgets being connected. They can also be personal area networks, local area networks or wide area networks.

Standards

In order to make sense of the data collected by the sensors, there is a need for established standards for aggregation to make it easy for the other computers and devices to interpret the received information. Standards in this case are like a moderator that helps the IoT system to operate seamlessly since all the connected devices have a set ‘language’ that enables them to understand each other. In this case, the main standards are technology standards and regulatory standards. Technology standards comprise of network protocols, communication protocols and data aggregation protocols.

These are collectively responsible for creating and determining a common language that will allow the gadgets to share and process information as required. The regulatory standards on the other hand simply provide clear rules on how the collected information should be handled, shared, accessed and used or even sold depending on the situation. The IoT creates the opportunity to collect so much information about many people and the need for regulation on how the data is used cannot be overlooked. Within the IoT in its current status, it can be noted that the set standards are rather transitory in the sense that they are created to serve the specific needs of the current stakeholders in their pretexts and limitations. In the future, there will be a need to revise these standards to allow IoT grow larger and accommodate diversified needs.

Augmented Intelligence

Augmented intelligence within the IoT refers to the analytical tools that are created to aid in the description and interpretation of relationships between various phenomena. The whole process of collecting information within the IoT would be meaningless if there was no way to analyze this information and make sense of it. Augmented intelligence in this case is responsible for sifting through mountains of meaningless information and determining significant data that could help in making the right and relevant decisions within the said context. In all the information sent by a sensor, the relevant information that can determine the next automated action may be one string of data out of thousands upon thousands of data packets being sent in per minute. Without augmented intelligence, the whole IoT system would thus be more like the NSA and their surveillance system where they collect a lot of information but get to use only a tiny fraction significantly. 

Augmented Behavior

Augmented behavior is a family the technologies used to improve compliance within specified contexts and to specified actions. Augmented behavior devices enable the system to act on the provided information accordingly. For example, if a patient’s heart rate is at a dangerous range the augmented behavior is what enables the sensors to seek the appropriate response depending on the complexity of the system.

The right action could be alerting the doctor, releasing medication or simply alerting the patient to take it easy. It all depends on what the specified actions are in the context of the gadget in question. Without augmented behaviors, the machines would still depend on human interaction rather than having the capacity for full automation. The use of augmented behavior technology is expected to deepen given the current innovations and inventions taking place in the IT industry in general. More so, the use of augmented behavior technologies is likely to increase as the need for precision science gathers momentum in medicine as other similar fields as well.

Conclusion

The IoT is a complex concept that is yet to be actualized based on the need for a more complicated interconnectivity and set of rules. Currently, one may be able to connect a variety of gadgets through syncing among other procedures but the full potential of the IoT will require more advances in technology especially in relation to security and access. There is the need to collect information for centralized application but also, access to all this information must be restricted to avoid negative exploitation when the information falls into the wrong hands. So far, IoT has come a long way to include sensors, networks, standards, augmented intelligence and augmented behaviors that can still be modified to get a more refined system of interconnected gadgets or ‘things’.  

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