The Internet of Things is a term that has been used for a good few years to describe any number of devices, sensors and equipment that is connected to the internet. There are estimations that that there will be approximately 50 billion of these devices in use before the end of 2020. That's more than 6 devices for every person on the planet.
Often confused with...
Computers and phones (!)
Arguably anything and everything that has a wired or wireless connection, talks IP and is connected to the broader internet is an IOT device. But when people talk about this market sector, it is often the more unusual examples that are discussed. We've all heard of the internet enabled fridge, but there are coffee machines, sensors in utillity equipment (for instance water meters), security cameras, cars, wearables, smart buildings and smart highways.
How it's done
As electronics have continued to be miniaturized, the market has opened up. Adding a radio capable of communicating wirelessly with a WIFI or cellular phone network, means that pretty much anything can be internet enabled.
Manufacturers in all spaces have been considering the benefits of being able to remotely control things, read sensor data, add intelligence, add applications and much more besides. IOT has enabled the concept of Smart Cities, where for the first time city planners have been able to consider the full application of a connected infrastructure. Anything from reading meters & power grid usage, to enabling emergency services to understand critical incident information, to population movements, to building planning, traffic management, weather tracking, and even gunshot detection. Imagine a world where every conceivable element has the ability to monitor, track, sense and react to the human condition, and that is what IOT is trying to enable.
The downside ? Security is the single biggest concern. If anything talks in IP, if anything is on a wireless or cellular network, it has the possibility that someone, somewhere will take it upon themselves to prove it can be hacked. People hacking computers is an annoyance, and sometimes damaging. People hacking companies can be devastating to customer and Wall St confidence. Now imaging someone hacking an element or two of a smart city... It's a big challenge to overcome.
Another area of concern is that of privacy. If a world of smart sensors if detecting your location, your in-house movements, your temperatures, your energy usage, your spending patterns, your social media activity, your purchasing habits, your heart rate and blood pressure, your average speed in your car, where does it stop ? Privacy becomes a really interesting problem because you don't necessarily own everything that is monitoring your life.
In the author's opinion, the positives far outweigh the negatives and the negatives can (and likely will) be resolved through security companies focussed in this space.
Who is doing it ?
Pretty much all consumer electronic company on the planet is considering how they can internet enable whatever it is that they create.
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