The Internet of Things: Advances in technology

‘The Internet’ is a common term generally used to describe the massive network of computers that exist today. This network connects people globally and allows them to communicate with each other, provided they are connected to ‘the internet’. For the purposes of this article we will call this the Internet of People. The Internet of Things – however, is a very different matter altogether.

You may have already heard of the Internet of Things (IOT). The term has been floating about for over 25 years. As a concept, it wasn’t officially named until 1999. One of the first examples of an Internet of Things is from the early 1980s, and was a Coca Cola machine, located at the Carnegie Melon University. Local programmers would connect by Internet to the refrigerated appliance, and check to see if there was a drink available, and if it was cold, before making the trip. From this example we can begin to understand what the term ‘The Internet of Things’ actually refers to.

In 2019, many of us are already living alongside this kind of technology. Smartphones, Smart bracelets and watches and Smart hubs or thermostats are all current examples of this. Products such as Amazon’s Echo can help us create Shopping and To-Do lists hands free with the Alexa App and microphone. The Google Hub can turn off the lights and television, lock the door, and set an alarm at the end of your day. The Internet of Things is the concept that eventually, all household and other physical objects will be connected to the Internet, able to communicate with each other and their environment.

“ As a keen futurist and techy I am always looking for ways to support our customers when it comes to new technology or issues around new technology. This subject has some amazing possibilities for business around data management. SustainIt are keen to keep our clients informed and support them with new technology”

– David Stockford Technical Director at SustainIT

IoT technology pushes us towards a future that is far more convenient and efficient. By minimising our food waste, heating buildings automatically and monitoring crop growth the IoT has the potential to bring many of us massive time, energy and financial savings.

With great power comes great responsibility, and there are understandable concerns as well as very exciting opportunities. Whenever a new technology is introduced into society, it inevitably causes some level of anxiety. In the late 1800s there were concerns about how the humble telephone could invade people’s privacy. In 1940 Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of radio asked himself if he had “done the world good” or just “added a menace?” The Internet of Things has not escaped this kind of criticism. Concerns that have been raised regarding the Internet of Things include:

  • Hacking of CCTV, webcams and microphones to secretly spy on victims.
  • Taking control of electronic garage doors etc to gain access to property
  • Monitoring lighting use in a home to determine occupancy patterns
  • Sharing of personal information with insecure servers or third parties.
    • Insurance companies already collect data from fitness trackers. Currently, these business models work as an incentive where consumers can benefit from discounts and cheaper premiums if they are willing to share their data. However, there are concerns about privacy and liability – How much information is being shared, and if the data shows a health problem — like a heart arrhythmia — who is responsible?

Another issue that critics have brought up is how IoT objects may not be safe, potentially putting lives at risk. A car is a good example of a familiar yet complex everyday tool that may seem easier, safer and more efficient to use when fitted with high-tech tools such as GPS and IoT devices. During the 2018 Hurricane Florence, Tesla gave all Tesla car drivers additional battery capacity and free Supercharging to drive longer distances for the hurricane period providing them with the additional power to “get to a safe location”.  This met with great praise, however, some people argued that the ability to gift these drivers those extra few miles is a moral dilemma. This is because it could be the difference between life and death in less publicised emergencies.

Despite the above, The Internet of Things is certainly set to improve our lives in many ways.

Here are some suggested advantages of Internet of Things:

  • Access to information away from our location, in real time, giving people the ability to better organise their lives even if they are not physically present.
  • Improved communication over a network of interconnected devices therefore reducing inefficiencies. Eg multiple machines at a manufacturing or production units can communicate with each other to improve processes and results.
  • Automating tasks in a business or at home to boost service quality and reduce human intervention. Again, this may improve efficiency and aid convenience.

There’s a growing community of people who are excited about IOT and they are looking at it in a very different way. This community consists of enthusiasts and inventors who are building their own internet connected “things”, adding connectivity and intelligence to this world in their own individual ways. This is thanks to affordable and easily accessible controllers such as Arduino boards, which are designed to make the process of using electronics in multidisciplinary projects more accessible. This has brought an exciting and refreshing DIY culture to the forefront of the discussion of IoT.

The IOT has been making our lives and work more convenient since it’s conception in the 1980s. In 2019 it is a familiar concept to many of us, we welcome it into our lives without so much of a second thought. Designed with a primary focus to make life easier and more convenient – it also has the power to save lives and improve our health and potentially helping solve some of our planet’s biggest challenges. Critics of the OIT worry about the imposition on our privacy and safety. This could just be the price we pay in return for improved communication and automation of our daily tasks. Many new technologies arouse fear for some people before being accepted by society.

IOT is already a big part of our daily lives and will only become more so.  This huge shift in technology and emerging technologies will start more and more to dominate our lives although of course it will have its limitations …. But what are those limitations and where indeed should we stop?  Please share this post and leave your comments via the links below.

By Jessica Knights , Creative Marketing Assistant at SustainIt Solutions

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