Internet of Things: IoT, examples, devices, smart home

Internet of Things: IoT, examples, devices, smart home

Some IoT technologies are already being used by many of us, and we often are not even aware of them. Here we will explain what the Internet of Things consists of and what are its advantages and risks.

What is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of connected devices that collect data and communicate with each other and with users over the Internet automatically, without human involvement. When several devices are used at the same time, their efficiency and scope increase exponentially. The Internet of Things covers a wide range of devices. IoT components can be both small gadgets that help us in everyday life, and complex and large technological objects, for example, entire buildings and other infrastructure elements.

How did the Internet of Things appear?

Probably the first IoT network appeared in 1982 when a Coca-Cola vending machine in Pittsburgh was connected to a particular system that allowed the company's distribution center to remotely get reports on the consumption of the drink's stock from the machine. The Internet of Things concept as "the integration of people, processes, and technologies with connected devices and sensors to enable remote monitoring" was first formulated by communications specialist Peter T. Lewis in 1985. Later, in 1999, the British entrepreneur Kevin Ashton independently used the term "Internet for Things", referring to a system allowing computers to control many individual things. 

However, it took years for this concept to be technically feasible. The advent of microchips, low-cost microcircuits, and broadband Internet has finally made it possible to connect many devices simultaneously. The introduction of the new 5G communication standard accelerates the development of the Internet of Things because data can be transferred faster and more stable. For example, devices connected via a 5G network can send and receive data even when there are a million devices in 1 square kilometer. With 4G, you can only control 100,000 devices per square kilometer. At the same time, the emergence of Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies made it possible to interpret large amounts of data to come up with the most convenient scenarios and algorithms for the operation of various systems and devices, up to entire production cycles, transport systems, and urban infrastructures.

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From smart home to smart city

When we often talk about the Internet of Things, the concept of smart home comes to mind, which is controlled by ubiquitous gadgets and sensors. And this is not only about the emergency closing of all doors and windows when there are signs of a robber entering the house - the spectrum of the concept of a smart home is much broader: we find here light bulbs equipped with motion sensors, cleaning robots and washing vacuum cleaners, air conditioners and purifiers, smart kitchens or coffee machines with sensors for monitoring the quality of water and coffee beans. The house owner receives information from them on his smartwatch or smartphone, even if they are thousands of kilometers away. 

The smart home industry has been growing rapidly in recent years. In the U.S., the smart home technology market is expected to be $5.17 billion in 2023 and grow to $7.37 billion by 2027. This is for the private consumer. However, entire cities also belong to the Internet of Things. The IoT is the leading technology for creating smart cities, in which all infrastructure elements interact with each other and monitor their work, for example, street lighting or heating. Gadgets equipped with intelligent sensors can automatically adjust the operation to optimize energy consumption, traffic flow, and other factors. One example of the successful implementation of the concept of a smart city is the Norwegian capital Oslo, where for several years, a particular program has been conducted for the comprehensive collection and analysis of data on the state of the air, mobility of residents, traffic, cars and cyclists and other information. An essential point of this program is that the collection of this data is used in planning new buildings and quarters and infrastructure, up to the details, such as the choice of building materials and architectural design.

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What gadgets can be called IoT devices?

We can call IoT devices the ones that are equipped with a sensor that can transmit data to other gadgets or people using the Internet autonomously, without human control. We have already mentioned the different components of the smart home. However, the list here is much longer, from innovative bicycles and self-driving drones to equipment for monitoring patients' health in hospitals and their homes. The field of IoT is not exclusively run by giant corporations but has become one of the most exciting areas for startups. Many create software products and technologies not visible to ordinary users, such as nanosatellites or technologies for creating new IoT applications. But there are also projects working in the consumer market. For example, California-based startup Innit has created a "smart kitchen platform" that is integrated with a wide range of home appliances and sensors and supports cooking tutorials helping consumers to eat healthier.

What is the Industrial Internet of Things?

There is also the concept of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). This is the IoT used in industrial technology. The Industrial Internet of Things enables the collection of vast amounts of data that can be used to optimize the manufacturing process and make it more environmentally friendly and sustainable. For example, to save water and other resources and not to pollute the atmosphere. In agriculture, these technologies include climate monitoring stations and irrigation systems for crops.

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What are the risks of the Internet of Things?

If we are surrounded by sensors that everyone knows about us, isn't it scary, and doesn't it remind us of dystopias? Of course, the danger of losing privacy can excite each of us. For example, an intelligent assistant knows our shopping preferences, restaurants, and daily routines. And IoT device providers must keep this data confidential so that it does not fall into third parties, including substantial data encryption.

Another important problematic aspect of implementing the Internet of Things is cybercrime. Criminals can infect networks of interconnected devices with malware (known as botnets) and carry out DDoS attacks or distribute ransomware. For example, in 2021, the IT network of the Colonial Pipeline in the United States was infected with ransomware, which caused the pipeline operation to be interrupted. The vulnerability of IoT systems lies in the fact that by hacking one gadget, you can gain access to the entire system and even possibly other systems. Therefore, there are severe challenges for companies and government organizations to protect and monitor the ever-increasing arsenal of IoT. 

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