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Making Sense of IoT

Posted by: on February 05, 2015

It’s easy to see how technology and the data centers behind it all are significantly changing our lives. With the number of connected devices now outnumbering the world’s population, it looks like The Internet of Things (IoT) is no longer just a vision—it’s now reality.

IoT

A quick Google search defines IoT as the “interconnection of uniquely identifiable embedded computing devices within the existing Internet infrastructure.” How’s that for a definition that really doesn’t tell us much?

Furthermore, the term “things” is rather vague. Many define the term as essentially referring to any device, machine or object with an IP address for connectivity—in other words, “things” like personal smart devices, laptops, security systems, thermostats, vending machines, stop lights, factory machinery, and even our cars.

But the “things” of IoT are so much more—sensors. Sensing technology is what lies behind researchers estimating that the now more than 12 billion connected devices in the world will reach 50 billion by 2020—or about 6 times more connected “things” than people.

Let’s try to make some sense of it.

A Sense of Good, and Bad


Sensors include any technology that has the capacity to measure things like temperature, orientation, speed, motion, light, pressure, vibration, noise or any number of other measurable factors. One of the simplest examples is something many of us use every day—when you turn your smartphone from vertical to horizontal, the device’s accelerometer sensor senses the change in orientation and tells the smartphone to rotate the screen.

Humans and IoT

When it comes to the IoT, we’re talking about sensors that are paired with an application-specific integrated circuit and a connected device. Now we have sensing devices that not only detect and deliver information, but devices that can also receive information and provide a corresponding output.

In January, the Chicago Tribune showcased several new devices with sensing technology. There was the Bluetooth-connected, dishwasher-safe Pacif-i Smart Pacifier that sends a baby’s temperature to a parent’s smartphone and sends an alert when it’s out of range. Or the Wi-Fi-connected garden sensor that analyzes soil conditions around plants, tells the corresponding water valve when and how much to water, and provides recommendations via its smartphone app about what to grow and when. I guess now pretty much anyone can have a green thumb.

Devices that allow us to sense and control the conditions of our homes are also a big driver for IoT—everything from detecting water in the basement and remotely unlocking your door for the plumber, to having the lights on and the house at a comfortable temperature in time for your arrival. “Things” with sensors are also populating public spaces.

From detecting empty parking spaces, potholes on the road or the surface temperature for highway departments to determine the best time to apply salt, to monitoring pacemakers and environmental hazards, no one can deny that a lot of good will come out of these sensing technologies and provide the potential to improve many aspects of human life.

But it is also expected to cause plenty of not so good—a whole new level of security threats and lack of consumer privacy, not to mention an exploding amount of e-waste due to the sheer number of devices. I’m curious what you, our readers, think about this. Take a minute to ponder these questions and respond in our comments section below.

  1. Do you feel our world is getting smaller and less private due to IoT devices?
  2. How do you feel about businesses using IoT devices to track purchasing habits for marketing via spam email or video displays as you walk through the mall?

Behind the Senses


One of the biggest drivers of all of these sensors is the growth in analytics that is required for making sense of the vast amounts of collected information. Big data analytic systems are rapidly maturing as the means to process information from billions of devices and their sensors and then transform that information into response.

Behind it all is the need to quickly store, manage and transmit this enormous amount of information, and that’s why most industry professionals believe that IoT will go nowhere without cloud computing. Not only is cloud computing recognized as an essential for big data storage and analytics coming from all of these devices and diverse locations, but it will also be a catalyst to further drive IoT.

In my last blog on Bi-Modal IT, we discussed how cloud computing is ideal for trying out “fail fast” applications. Sense and respond systems are the perfect example. Cloud-based platforms will allow companies to quickly build and release applications alongside sensing devices, collect and analyze the data, and send real-time recommendations and responses.

In other words, it’s the cloud that will allow sensing data streams from “things” to be stored, processed and analyzed, and it’s the cloud that will allow the development of new applications and sensing devices that ultimately leads to more “things.”

But where IoT and cloud computing come together is where data center infrastructures that ensure performance, reliability and scalability are paramount. So apparently neither of the two can go anywhere without quality components and systems to formulate these infrastructures. That’s where Belden comes in.

Please see my questions above and feel free to comment below with your thoughts on IoT.

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