When it comes to modern tech, most initialisms represent something complex, and you might still have no idea what they mean even when you know what the letters stand for. IoT is somewhere in the middle, in that it sounds simple, but can be fairly complicated. IoT stands for Internet of Things. In short, it’s all about connecting up things (which can be devices, machines, objects, people or even animals) through the internet, without the need for people to constantly maintain that connection or transfer of data. In many ways, it’s about automation, just as many modern technological processes are.
IoT is a hugely important modern system, and is increasing in its prevalence in everything from domestic to commercial applications, and the likelihood is that it will become as commonplace as using the internet to browse websites. Let’s take a deeper look into IoT, including how it’s applied, how it works, and where the tech is going.
Where is it applied?
In order to fully understand IoT, it can be useful to know how it can be applied. Fortunately, you’re probably already familiar with some aspects of IoT, because the concept of the smart home, or the connected home, comes under the umbrella of IoT.
At the most basic and understandable level, we have smart meters for gas and electricity. These little devices have been around for a good few years now, and work by monitoring energy use, and communicating it directly to the energy provider. Versus old reporting technologies, there are a number of benefits to this. The provider is able to gain much more information about how and when energy is used, and they can be confident of accurate reporting. The customer or end user similarly can see exactly what energy they’re using, giving them the control to decide how much or how little to use.
But the smart home can be far more connected than this. Much of the attraction of the IoT is that networks can be accessed from anywhere. Which means that you can delve into your own home network remotely. When it comes to energy, this gives you the control to use certain services that, for example, allow you to switch on the heating before you get home. Other benefits include the ability to switch lights on and off when you’re away, and even interact with your pets from thousands of miles away.
But of course, IoT is not just a domestic technology. Businesses are investing heavily in the benefits that it can deliver. Couriers for example are using RFID chips with high value parcels to scan them in and out, and monitor basic information such as whether the package has been handled roughly. Vending machines can relay their stock in live time to warehouses that can automatically set new stock for picking. And even animals can be tagged with devices that can monitor their whereabouts or health. M2M (machine to machine) communication is part of the IoT, and you can see some more examples of how this works in a blog post here.
What are the technologies behind it?
There are lots of technologies that go into making IoT work. At the simplest level, you might have home devices such as the smart meter we’ve already mentioned, that are connected to the local WiFi network. They relay information from the device, to a remote server operated by the energy company. This information can then be accessed using a smartphone app, or is used in detail by the energy company.
But IoT uses far more than simply WiFi. Because the IoT calls for connecting everything – not just complex devices- all manner of technologies are needed to facilitate connections. RFID is something we’ve already mentioned, and it’s hugely important when it comes to bringing objects into the IoT.
By using radio frequencies, cheap tags can be used to identify something as part of a network, and they can even be passive. This means no batteries; the reader’s own EM field is what powers the tag and allows data to be read. NFC is a similar technology that’s used by payment cards, but which can also add ‘things’ to the IoT. At the larger end of the scale, mobile networks such as those provided by Top Connect can be utilised to ensure strong device connection from almost anywhere.
Is it the future?
The Internet of Things is most certainly the future. In a few short years, the likelihood is that it will not be referred to as any kind of discrete concept, but rather a normal, everyday part of how individuals and businesses use technology and the internet, just as browsing websites is today.
Perhaps one of the most exciting things about the IoT is that we’re only just getting started, and every single day, individuals and companies are conceiving of new ways that the technology can be used.
Now you know the answer to the question ‘what is IoT?’, you might be considering the ways you can implement it. To find out more about how IoT could help your business, get in touch with us. Our offering is designed to help ensure IoT devices can be connected globally.