RFID tags are cheap. Sensors are dropping in price. Many factors are aligning to usher in the Internet of Things.
Factors Feeding into the Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) covers all different objects that are capable, at the very least, of identifying themselves in a digital format. It means that every tool, box, device, computer or object that can send its identification to other devices belongs to the Internet of Things. Of course, an object can send more information than just its identification: sensors (temperature, light, humidity, vibration, etc.); its status (a trashcan warning it is almost full); or even receive commands to react to the environment (a valve closing off the water supply, a heater system beginning to heat your house before your arrive home).
All of this information is sent and received through the Internet, so it can connect people with people; people to objects; objects to people; and objects to objects. The communication to the Internet is done in multiple ways, from direct connection using ethernet cables, to complex Wireless Sensor Networks, where devices communicate wirelessly to each other to reach an Internet connected node.
With the falling cost of technology, more and more IoT products will appear in the near future. The cost of RFID tags, used to track goods and manage inventories, fell by 40 percent in the last 18 months and now cost $0.10. Sensor technologies have fallen by up to 80 percent in the last 5 years. Also, communication devices are falling in cost: a few years ago, WiFi routers were expensive; now they cost less than $50.
In addition, the ubiquitous presence of smartphones is boosting IoT, enabling people-to-object, and object-to-people communication. Now it is possible to control an air conditioner at home with a smartphone located anywhere, or to switch off an alarm system as your smartphone crosses your doorstep.
To add all these new devices to the Internet, a new Internet Protocol (IPV6) was introduced in 2012. This protocol made trillions of unique addresses available, enabling every single object to have an identifier with no restrictions. Some say we could label every atom on the earth, and there would still be plenty of unused addresses!
Two Examples from the News
Google's acquired Nest earlier this month-- a company which makes smart thermostats and smoke detectors -- for $3.2 billion. How will Google integrate your home heating system with its services? Google will probably start heating your house in advance of your arrival, perhaps by allowing you to control it through a web application inside Google.
Excitement has been building around iBeacons, a small device protocol supported by Apple. These devices, based in Bluetooth Low Energy, continuously send their ID to any device capable of listening to them. In this way, applications will know which devices (and people) are around. Can you imagine entering your favorite bar and getting your favorite drink without even asking for it?
These new kinds of devices (smart thermostats, iBeacons) are only two such examples of what we will see in the coming years regarding technology surrounding us and our devices, where object-to-object communication will surely be the king of new applications and markets.
These IoT products will enable a new set of markets and provide a platform for new business services -- creating a landscape of applications and markets. As these objects will produce more and more data, without data management and analysis technologies like big-data and cloud computing, the data will be meaningless.
Title image by abimages (Shutterstock)