Your smartphone… your laptop… wearable devices… sensors… and much more.
They’re all part of the “Internet of Things” (or “IoT”). You may have heard of it. You almost certainly make use of it…
It directs traffic from behind the scenes. It keeps our grocery store shelves stocked. It can even help you find a parking space!
But… what is it?!
Today, we’ll demystify this fascinating global network that will only continue to grow in importance and presence over the coming years. Let’s go!
What is the Internet of Things?
The Internet of Things is, quite literally, the internet… for things.
By that, we mean it’s a special network that allows “things” to communicate with each other automatically.
For the most part, “things” means physical stuff – such as devices. However, you can even use a biochip transponder to include animals (and humans) in the connected network.
In many cases, the IoT relies on Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help automate communication. AI receives signals from devices and automatically decides where to relay the information.
Most IoT devices include either sensors, controllers or antennas. These components transmit data to a centralized location (called an “IoT Hub” or “IoT Gateway”), which analyzes the data and responds accordingly.
How is the Internet of Things used?
The way that IoT devices use this network changes depending on the application.
For example, the IoT is used extensively in automobile manufacturing – the uses are going to grow over time, as more cars are made with IoT-ready devices built-in.
Imagine this: Instead of having to get out of your car to check your tire pressure, your smartphone will simply text you: “Your tire pressure is low.” It’ll do this automatically, too – at the exact moment your tire pressure reaches an unsafe level.
To do this, it would use an IoT-connected sensor inside the tire. This sensor would communicate its (relatively simple) signal to an IoT Hub, which would then relay that information to your smartphone in a more user-friendly way.
Of course, this goes even further. Imagine having your car not only notify you when the tire pressure is low, but also automatically load directions to the nearest repair facility. Then, once you get there, your car will automatically refill the tire pressure – no human needed!
To perform this more complicated procedure, you’d need a few IoT-connected devices: One in the tire, another in your GPS system, and one at the repair facility, which would most likely be able to perform all sorts of other necessary tasks.
Why is the IoT so important?
Naturally, there are TONS of benefits to the IoT. We’re just scratching the surface here!
First off, it eliminates a lot of human error. In the above example, there’s no mechanic needed to read the tire pressure gauge – which can leave room for mistakes. (There’s also less opportunity to rip you off, but that’s another story!)
Additionally, the IoT makes it easier to automate and keep track of a lot of simultaneous processes. This allows us to grow and expand our technological capabilities to previously unprecedented heights.
The IoT will eventually impact pretty much everything in our lives – the way we drive, how we buy things, how we improve efficiency at factories, and even how we maintain smart energy usage in our homes and buildings.
Other current IoT examples include:
- Finding a parking spot (IoT sensors “check” for empty spaces, then tell you if there’s a free spot)
- Improving city traffic flow (Many traffic lights use the IoT to help speed up rush hour traffic)
- Tracking flights and improving aircraft safety (IoT devices can not only tell you where a plane is, but also its current fuel levels and all sorts of other data)
- Restocking the aisles at the grocery store (IoT can tell you if a shelf is empty, and can even tell you which items are most popular in a quick, easy overview)
- Increasing home security (IoT can tell you if someone is entering your home – or it could inform you of a loose window, or even lock your doors for you!)
- Improving our health (IoT devices can even be placed inside animals or humans, allowing them to view important details like vitamin levels or blood pressure)
Plus muuuuch more!
We are still at the early stages of this incredible innovation. However, it’s already finding use all around you. A lot of it is obvious (how else does that “Available Parking Spots” meter automatically go up?!), but there are still plenty more “behind the scenes”.
So, what do you think? Imagine any device being able to “talk” to another, even giving it commands. Can you imagine a fun way to use the IoT in your life? Let us know in the comments below!