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Defining Iot: Internet Of Things

  • Ravi Pal
  • Jul 28, 2023
  • IoT System
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In a world where it is almost impossible to imagine life without the non-living things such as smartphones and smart vehicles, Internet of Things or IoT has truly become the internet of everything. It is as if we’re surrounded by connected devices, dictating our every move, be it connected cars, smart lightings, smart kitchen and smart showers, or more intrinsic IoT proximity sensors and RFID enabled apparel and shoes. With over 15B connected devices at present that is estimated to double by 2030, we are drowning in data. Thanks to advance data storage facilities available today, and with technologies like AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Learning), we know what to do with this kind of data.

The data today is not just limited to data silos but mined and processed at great speed. It reminds me of IBM z196, which was the fastest commercial processor a decade ago, but now an iPhone 11 can provide four times more computing power. But we have different problem now. With AI and ML based Large Language models (LLM) running analytics on terabytes of data; we are again short of computing power however that’s a different story.

Internet of Things: History

The most popular theory about Internet of Things is that it gained popularity around 2005, when ITU’s (International Telecommunication Union) report came out describing in detail how IoT and RFID can be utilized for smart homes, smart cars, and even a smart society. It might be true in the context that we have not seen much development before in the field of IoT but machine to machine communication (M2M), which later become the basis of IoT, existed long before in mid 1970s and the most popular Carnegie Mellon University Computer Science Department Coke Machine story is the proof. The story is that during mid 70s, departmental expansion at Carnegie caused people to shift farther away from the terminal room where the coke machine stood and coming to the machine and finding it empty became a nuisance. Imagine trekking all those stairs to the third floor, only to find no coke in the coke machine. This prompted some people to devise a plan to install micro-switches in the coke machine that could sense how many bottles were left, or the amount of time any bottle had been there, if it was cold or still worm. The switches were “hooked up to CMUA, the PDP-10 that was then the main departmental computer.” A server program was written to keep tabs on the status. The impressive program worked over a decade.

Now coming to IoT, Internet of Things was supposedly first mentioned by Peter T. Lewis in a speech to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation 15th Annual Legislative Weekend in Washington, D.C (Sept., 1985). In this particular speech, he mentioned, “The Internet of Things, or IoT, is the integration of people, processes and technology with connectable devices and sensors to enable remote monitoring, status, manipulation and evaluation of trends of such devices.” So, pretty much he conceptualized the idea behind IoT and how it will shape the technology world in future. I must, however, mention that I could not find this supposed speech on the internet.

Kevin Ashton, however, is known as the father of ‘Internet of Things’ as he independently coined the word “Internet of Things”, while he was at Procter and Gamble (P&G), in1999. He later co-founded (1999) MIT Auto-ID centre, a research group dedicated to RFID and sensing technologies. Auto-ID is also behind Electronic Product Code (EPC) (encoded in the RFID tags) that now has successfully replaced UPC (Universal Product Code).

Defining Internet of Things

When you try to define what IoT is, the one thing that comes to mind is how this whole thing works. IoT connects physical devices to the digital world but how? Well, it uses sensors, RFID tags, actuators that can use any of the wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, BLE as medium and it allows one device to transfer data and communicate with other device, internet being another integral part of this process.

So, by definition, Internet of things is a network of physical devices capable of sharing data and communicating with each other, automatically, over the internet, via use of a wireless network standard such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, NFC, UWB or BLE amongst others.

The Internet of things has evolved over the last decade into a self expanding network of connected devices, nearly double the no. of people we have on earth as of now. This boost and wide acceptance is complemented by recent development in the field of network technologies as well. We have moved away from the 2G internet to 3G and 4G, quickly heading towards 5G and 6G. The advancement of LPWAN (Low Powered Wide Area Network) technologies such as LoRaWAN, Sigfox, Zigbee, and cellular network such as NB-IoT, LTE-M has been transformational in advancing the reach of IoT to remote areas as well. Power consumption is also a concern while deploying an IoT, but low powered wide area networks such as LoRa, and NB-IoT have solved that problem as well.

To conclude, it is true that Internet of Things did take off post 2005 and the advancements in internet technology and the wide availability of smartphones have boosted it even further but machine to machine (M2M) has been around since 70s and IoT was first conceptualized by Peter T. Lewis in 1985 in a speech he gave at Washington DC. Internet of Things (IoT) was independently coined by Kevin Ashton (1999) who later co-founded the MIT Auto-ID centre.

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