The “Internet of Things” (IoT), depending where you live, has been a repeated topic or it is the “new kid” on the block. A definition that I find often is that the IoT is the ability to digitally connect everyday’s devices with the internet…a very blunt definition of something very powerful and with countless applications. In my opinion it goes well beyond that: it is the collection and interconnection of data transferred for further analysis upon which decisions will be taken, regardless of whether that communication is through a general platform (internet) or through private networks (i.e. private clouds). The technology may be new but the concept (being able to access data regardless of the location) has been there for ages.
IoT is “nothing” more that the “democratization” (access for everyone) of their data for their own usage. This concept was originated in the old industrial processes where data was gathered from simple sensors that would provide a zero or a one (off-on) with a light as a simple switch, the primitive and original version of a PLC (Programmable Logic Controller), wired to a remote control panel. This is also the origin of the “SCADA” systems (Supervisory control and data acquisition) a control system which architecture is based on computers, networked data communications and graphical interfaces. That original simple SCADA of ones and zeros resulted and transformed very soon after into a militar use known as “command and control”.
Nowadays the IoT has turned into something more general, even of a “domestic” use. Cars are connected to their brand HQ so they get alerts of when you have to do your next maintenance or, for instance, fridges can be setup with a certain amount of food so when you are under-stocked you can receive an alert on your mobile and, taken it one step further, an alert could be sent to your local supermarket so they deliver the missing items for delivery at your convenience…but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Think about the IoT at a big scale: the commercial and industrial use (known as “Industry 4.0”).
Let’s take for a moment your very same car, sending data to your dealer (maintenance, kilometers driven, status of your brakes and so on). Then your car will also be equipped with a GPS and a 4G and Wi-Fi for easy communication. At the HQ can cross all your car data generated with your position and, should you brake down, the car will send an alert to help you rapidly. Now take this into a higher level, with hundred or even thousands of cars delivering terabytes of data that can be cross-checked between all the drivers, creating a database that can be exploited for “big data analysis”, something that I would call the “Big Data of Things” (BDoT). If they crossed-checked this data they could find out, for instance, that there is an abnormal number of cars braking down in a certain area and they would investigate the particular reasons for that. If insurance companies had access to that data they could also run a campaign, getting in touch with their customers, maybe offering special deals for their car insurance for people living in that area as chances are that their car will brake sooner rather than later.
Another example could happen with our fridge: if many people asked for the same item they could either wait for their next customers to ask for that product (as historical data shows that they are bound to ask for it) and offer something special or be proactive in their customer service at the time of taking the electronic order by, maybe, offering another not-so-sold product as a bundle…everything is about marketing and opportunity.
There is no limit for the data that can be gathered though the IoT: What is really important is the use and the right interpretation of the petabytes of data (and I can not see this as an exaggeration) we will have under our control as we will have past and present before our eyes and should be able to predict future trends and situations.
Knowledge without wisdom is a load of books on a fool’s back. — Japanese Proverb