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Why you need to understand the Internet of Things (IoT)

29 May, 2014 By: Kathy Vogler, PERRY proTECH

The term the “Internet of Things (IoT)” was coined in 1999 by Kevin Ashton, MIT Auto-ID Director, though the concept had been in discussion since the early 90’s.  The very first Internet application developed was a Coke machine at Carnegie Melon University, where the programmers could connect to the machine over the Internet, and check inventory to determine whether or not it was worth a walk down the hall for a cold pop (1).  And, that was in the early 80’s.

After all, if all objects and people were equipped with unique identifiers and the ability to automatically transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interactions, they could easily be managed and inventoried by computers.  The IoT has evolved from the convergence of wireless technology, micro-electromechanical systems, and the Internet.  Originally, radio-frequency identification (RFID) was viewed as a prerequisite for the IoT.  Now days, in addition to RFID, the tagging of things can be done through technologies such as near field communication, barcodes, QR codes, and digital watermarking (2).

How does this apply to your business and what problem does it solve? Inherently, people have limited time, attention and accuracy – which means that we’re probably not very good at capturing data from things around us in the real world.


If all of your tangible items were tagged with identifiers, you would no longer run out of stock or waste products.  Restocking alerts would bring in more materials at precisely the right time and be exactly the products that are consumed and required.  Currently, some of the “things” in the Internet of Things includes a person with a heart monitor implant, a pet with a microchip transponder, a car with built in sensors that alert the driver when tire pressure is low … yes, things that are already in our lives today.

According to Gartner, by 2020, there will be nearly 26 billion devices on the Internet of Things.  Additionally, ABI Research believes that by that time more than 30 billion devices will be wirelessly connected to the IoT, while Cisco is predicting 50 billion. Check out Cisco’s IoT connections counter in real time: http://blogs.cisco.com/news/cisco-connections-counter -- you’ll notice some of the things that are counted include roads, supermarket shelves, thermostats, and parking meters.

The Internet of Things has the potential to change the world, just like the Internet did (1).

The next generation of Internet applications using Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6), would be the ability to communicate with devices attached to virtually all human-made objects because of the extremely large address space and scalability of the IPv6 protocol (2). Devices can use IPv6 as a source, and destination addresses to pass information over a network. The obvious improvement in IPv6 over its predecessor IPv4 is that IP address are lengthened from 32 bits to 128 bits.  And has integrated security and mobility features as well.  Steve Leibson, Computer History Museum, states that we could assign an IPv6 address to every atom on the surface of the earth and still have plenty available. The Internet of Things could encode 50 to 100 trillion objects and be able to follow the movement of those objects. Today, humans in an urban environment are each surrounded by an estimated 1000 to 5000 trackable objects.


What is not part of the IoT? The trends and characteristics of the IoT may change over time and with new technology discoveries, but ambient intelligence and autonomous control are not currently part of the IoT.  However, there is ongoing research to integrate the concepts of the IoT and autonomous control. Challenges that remain include the constraints of variable spatial scales, the need to handle massive amounts of data, and indexing for fast search and neighboring operations.  There is a global standards initiative to promote a unified approach and development of technical standards for a global scale to enable worldwide service providers to offer the wide range of services expected by this technology.  The US National Intelligence Council reports concerns that an open market for aggregated sensor data could prove fundamentally incompatible with our Fourth Amendment guarantees against unreasonable search to protect consumer privacy. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “big data and the IoT will make it harder for us to control our own lives as we grow increasingly transparent to powerful corporations and government institutions that are being more opaque to us (2).”

It behooves us all to pay close attention to the developments of the IoT.  Researchers and developers are diligently working on the underlying low-energy protocols, routing algorithms and related technologies.  It’s exciting to think of the day that all of these “things” are combined with people, processes and data through the network to deliver transformational value to the world by improving the way we make decisions.  

(* Referenced from: 1 From Tech Target “What is Internet of Things Definition” / 2 From Wikipedia “The Internet of Things”).

Kathy Vogler is Marketing Director for PERRY proTECH, an Employee Owned Company. Contacts: 937.494.2237 (Direct) / (800) 589-9135 / kvogler@perryprotech.com  / http://www.perryprotech.com

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