IoT or Internet of Things is not a new term. The average internet user has come across this term at least a few times now, even if they are not entirely sure what it means. The irony, however, is that most of us are unwitting participants in IoT in some way or the other. From cloud-based car security systems, home voice assistants like Amazon’s Echo or Google’s Assistant, or any home appliance that with the ‘smart’ prefix and is connected to the internet for a suite of features, all these technologies are a part of the Internet of Things. So, what exactly is IoT, and why is it such a big deal going forward?
Like we mentioned earlier, you’re probably using IoT enabled devices, but you just haven’t realised it. Something as simple as a fitness tracker can be IoT enabled, because as long as it can communicate autonomously with the internet, it is an IoT device. When we talk about IoT, we imagine a world where any electronic device with an internet connection, be it WiFi or data, can connect to cloud-based services on the internet. That’s close to 75% of all electronic devices we currently own and use.
Over and above that, an IoT enabled device, more importantly, has the ability to communicate with other IoT devices through the cloud, and integrate to complete a service. The idea of IoT is to allow devices to connect, respond, adapt and influence one an another, with the purpose of making our lives easier and more convenient. Many home appliances are now IoT enabled, allowing users to operate them remotely. With Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and automation, these devices can even operate themselves.
An intelligently rigged home automation system can allow for routines, such as letting a user program his Air Conditioner to power down, his radio to power up, the lights to come on, and the ceiling fans to operate by saying ‘Good Morning Google’ and have all this happen while Google reads out the weather forecast, traffic situation, and the day’s calendar entries. Sounds like magic? It kind of is. But in reality, all this is possible because our IoT devices are connected to cloud-based data servers through the internet, and controlled through our smartphones.
Major IoT Trends in 2020
IoT has been the trend for the past few years now. IoT Analytics estimates there were roughly 9.5 billion connected IoT devices at the end of 2019. That number is significantly larger than the forecast of 8.3 billion devices. The five-year forecast predicts that the total number of IoT devices is expected to reach 28 billion. So, what can we expect in the coming years? What are the key trends to look forward to in the near future? We have narrowed it down to these three.
1. Security and Blockchain
For as long as the concept of IoT has existed, there has been the concern that these devices can be hacked. And it is not just a theory. If this article by Engineering and Technology is anything to go by, it is rather concerning that IoT devices that account for the majority of our devices at home are vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Now that the novelty of connected devices has worn off, manufacturers have turned their attention to encryption and the security measures required to keep intruders out. While this happens at a micro level, the introduction of Blockchain to IoT security is what will trend in the next few years.
In an interesting article published by builtin.com, Sam Daley explains how Blockchain, a Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), is focused on creating trust in an untrusting ecosystem, making it a potentially strong cybersecurity technology. He says, “The ledger system is decentralized, but the information is transparently available to members of the specific blockchain. All members (or nodes) can record, pass along and view any transactional data that is encrypted onto their blockchain.” This makes the system almost impossible to hack.
2. Big Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence
Whether we know it, like it, or not, IoT devices are constantly collecting data. The data is often used to predict user patterns and adapt to the situations in which these devices are being used. Home assistants learn based on patterns in the way commands are made, home appliances such as smart fridges over time can predict usage patterns. All this data that is being collected would be useless if it could not be harnessed for the purpose of detecting problems and making calculated decisions. According to SAS, Big data analytics examines large amounts of data to uncover hidden patterns, correlations and other insights.
In tandem with Big Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence or AI can use historical data to make predictions about problems before they arise, by using algorithms that detect patterns in data. The combination of Big Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence is becoming increasingly relevant as more IoT devices get added to the grid.
3. Edge Computing
As a concept, Edge Computing is relatively new. It has, however, steadily evolved as the number of IoT devices in use has grown in the past few years. As more IoT devices go online and send information to the cloud, all the raw data that is being collected begins overburdening the network. What’s more, the data is pretty much useless outside of the place where it was generated, unless it is summarised for PC, web, and mobile applications. The computers used to process and summarise this data before sending it to the cloud is known as Edge Computers.
What’s interesting is that IoT devices themselves act as Edge Computers, and have already become rather common in certain industrial settings, and will soon be seen cropping up in the consumer market as well. This only goes to show just how quickly IoT is evolving. What is currently a top tier industry and a part of high-end consumer durables, will soon find its way into the environmental and agricultural sectors, as smart homes and offices slowly become the norm.
What are your predictions for the future of the Internet of Things? Are you currently leveraging the power of AI and Machine Learning in our industry? Let us know in the comments below. You can also read more about remote working in our blog titled The skill of remote working, and how to make it inclusive.