Buzzword Bingo (2) – Internet of Things

 

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Picture: Esteban Romero – Flickr

It’s the topic everyone is talking about. Cisco has said that there will be 5 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2015 and 50 billion by 2020. Some, not satisfied with mere Internet of Things (IoT), go bigger with the Internet of Everything. Various other issues are conflated in IoT discussions including Machine to Machine (M2M), Big Data and Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6).

A few months ago I was reading an earnest thread discussing whether or not a particular application could be regarded as IoT. I don’t think this obsession with definition is very helpful. I believe that IoT is a catch-all for the phenomenon of increased device connectivity. Devices which used to stand alone can be, and increasingly are being connected. At the moment it’s all rather ad hoc and piecemeal – what used to be standalone devices are now connected standalone devices. This isn’t a bad thing, but it is really only a small part of the journey.

Connecting the devices like this is the low-level technical enabler, the M2M element, but the magic ingredient of fully fledged IoT is the integration of data from multiple sources. As an example of might be done, parameters from multiple sensors (such as temperature sensors in multiple rooms, outside temperature sensors and motion detectors) can be combined with data from other internet sources (such as the weather forecast) and user input via a web page to control heating systems. This could be made more responsive by interpreting users’ calendars or position feedback from mobiles to predict behaviour. A generic implementation of this multi-faceted mash-up would still be challenging. Integration of devices requires standards, which may either be proprietary standards implemented by a single manufacturer or open standards allowing multi-vendor solutions. There will be false starts and failures (for instance Google PowerMeter, providing an energy dashboard for the home was retired in 2011), but the scope for product development is immense – whether or not the Cisco numbers and time-scales turn out to be realistic, we have a trend which will be unstoppable.

Resources

This link gives an interesting explanation of IoT http://postscapes.com/what-exactly-is-the-internet-of-things-infographic