Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things or IoT is a term becoming rapidly more commonplace in the vernacular of IT infrastructure. It’s an odd term which essentially refers to the interconnection of virtually any device that communicates via the Internet to a network host that provides information to and from that device.

Officially defined:
noun
1. the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data.

These devices are prolific and ever increasing in society. They are no longer confined to our cell phones and PCs. Our TVs, gaming systems, alarm systems, cars, garage door openers and even our refrigerators are all becoming web enabled. In almost every sales environment from household devices to toys to vehicles the inclusion of web-connected technology is almost a requirement for a foothold in the marketplace; sometimes even when it seems superfluous to the purpose of the item.

In the early stages of the device to device communication, the purpose was clear. Keep the connected devices up to date with software and firmware revisions and perform basic functions that benefited from hosted data. For example, a DVD player may be connected to the web for access to movie services and also for firmware downloads from the manufacturer to stay current.

Today the scope has expanded to be far deeper reaching where IoT connected devices can “feel” and “see” the environment around them and communicate that information to a server farm that collects, computes and aggregates that data into a useful platform for universal use. Application designers today have aspirations far beyond the basic.

Imagine for example a street light system with sensors that can determine weather conditions and observe traffic conditions. That data could then be compiled to provide car safety and navigation systems to react by re-routing traffic and engaging a cars’ braking or traction system. Hazard conditions ahead could be communicated in real time to drivers for advanced warning.

In the home, we see systems developing where a person can scan an item in the refrigerator before discarding it which could then be used to build a grocery list on the users’ cell phone for the next trip to the store.

The possibilities are endless and the growth of development in this space affords developers almost limitless opportunities that truly add to the image of future tech. It does certainly seem to mandate an update to Disney’s Carousel of Progress display.

Where is all this data kept?

When talking about gathering live data from an infinite amount of shared resources and devices you are talking about an infrastructure that wouldn’t have been possible prior to “The Cloud” and the proliferation of higher speed data transfer. Virtual cloud hosted data stores that are scalable and multi-regional give developers and engineers unprecedented access to scale data systems far beyond that of the traditional data center model of old in much faster times. Prior to virtually limitless growth and access to cloud hosted environments and applications response times and efficacy of a web-enabled device would have been impractical and likely not adopted by most consumers.

Useful or Frivolous?

Like any technology that gathers data, there are obvious social and ethical concerns around storing information that some may consider private. Data encryption is an obvious and imperative concern when transmitting data that may contain personal habits or information. The debate about what information should be gathered, stored and used for alternate purposes and who controls and owns that information will continue indefinitely. That topic is beyond the scope of this article.Alternatively, some may question the need for the use of this technology at all in certain circumstances. In many cases, it could be reasoned, that an idea is presented to market simply in the realm of entrepreneurial gain and trendiness rather than real world need. As a general consumer, I am not convinced that I need to spend $35 to buy a sensor for my propane tank so that I can get an email when I need to get a new one so the Saturday grill party isn’t jeopardized. On the other hand, I find intrinsic value in the ability to turn my thermostat down from my cell phone at the office.

Alternatively, some may question the need for the use of this technology at all in certain circumstances. In many cases, it could be reasoned, that an idea is presented to market simply in the realm of entrepreneurial gain and trendiness rather than real world need. As a general consumer, I am not convinced that I need to spend $35 to buy a sensor for my propane tank so that I can get an email when I need to get a new one so the Saturday grill party isn’t jeopardized. On the other hand, I find intrinsic value in the ability to turn my thermostat down from my cell phone at the office.The point is that the ideas and possibilities are endless as systems that surround our everyday lives becomes smarter, smaller and faster.

The point is that the ideas and possibilities are endless as systems that surround our everyday lives becomes smarter, smaller and faster.