Unraveling the Internet of Things: What is IoT and When is it Coming?

December 20th, 2017 by admin

In 1990, Tim Berners invented the World Wide Web and shook the globe. In 2017, there is a lot of talk about a new internet on the rise, not of information, but an “Internet of Things.” While the Internet of Things presents a world of new opportunities (and new requirements for security)…what exactly would that world look like?

What is the IoT?

In recent years, there is a lot of interest in a phenomenon called the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT is a network of physical devices, homes, vehicles, etc. Related terms are Smart Car, Smart Home, or Smart Phone which are all being integrated together to create the IoT. Experts anticipate the IoT to be a vast network that exchanges data from object to object to create streamlined connectivity for a great number of applications. Imagine a world where your car can drive you to work and it’s connected to your house or work calendar so your vehicle can predict you’re about to go to work and prepares the route, along with any materials for that day's assignments. After work, you stop at the grocery store where you have ordered your items ahead of time with an app on your phone. Everything is paid for already and after verifying your identity, you take your items and head home. Your home itself is connected to this network and your kitchen already has some recipes ready for the groceries you picked up minutes ago. As you settle in for bed, you set the alarm on your phone, knowing your heat will turn on to warm the house automatically 30 minutes before it’s time to wake up. That’s how you set it up...and the IoT is all about doing the work for you. These are hypothetical examples, of course, but they are based on technology trends I’ve been tracking that are starting to emerge. Ultimately, the exact applications will depend on the same economic and scientific limitations that have always driven the rate of innovation...but I thought you might appreciate a glimpse into the possibilities.

When is the IoT?

The idea of the IoT has been around for years. The term was coined by Kevin Ashton in 1999 and he is sometimes credited with its invention. However, the implication that a single person has invented the concept up to this point is not really accurate. In fact, this idea has been a long time coming and as early as 1932 we see comments from Jay B Nash describing the potential for incredibly advanced automation. Similar ideas have been explored in Science Fiction since Isaac Asimov or the 1963 cartoon “The Jetsons.” The reason we know the IoT is just around the corner now, is that we’ve finally accomplished the most difficult part of the puzzle: How do you get powerful computers into most of the homes in America? You get really efficient at making them...and you make them cheap. Early on the problem was getting powerful computers at all. Ten years ago the problem was that computers were too expensive. Now the biggest thing in the way is the integration of decent apps and appliances that are as helpful as the IoT platform has potential for. Nobody wants to invest in Smart Objects and get all of their items connected just so none of it can work quite right. We have seen this final step create hiccups in the past. 3D technology in some capacity has existed since the 19th century but wasn’t polished enough to take off until the 21st! I remember playing a virtual reality game with my dad as early as 1999, but VR is just now clawing its way into mainstream application. With some ideas, it seems like they are jumping the gun for a false start every 5-10 years until they finally break through. It’s worth noting that predicting the rate of innovation and market behavior is incredibly difficult, and it’s hard to say if the IoT is as close as we are hoping. We can see from these examples that our reach exceeds our grasp sometimes with new technology, but I can’t help but think we have already gone through our false starts with the Smart Object technology and this time, we really are on the cusp. Bill Gates has famously said, “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.” If you buy that logic, the IoT might not be in full swing as fast as we are hoping, but some predictions say it’s just around the corner. Only time will tell, but it is a safe bet to say within 10 years, your world will be interacting with technology very differently.   Kender Ostlund

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