The Internet of Things Future of Tomorrow

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the inter-networking of physical devices, vehicles (also referred to as “connected devices” and “smart devices”), buildings, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity which enable these objects to collect and exchange data. The IoT allows objects to be sensed or controlled remotely across existing network infrastructure, creating opportunities for more direct integration of the physical world into computer-based systems, and resulting in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit in addition to reduced human intervention. When IoT is augmented with sensors and actuators, the technology becomes an instance of the more general class of cyber-physical systems, which also encompasses technologies such as smart grids, virtual power plants, smart homes, intelligent transportation and smart cities. Each thing is uniquely identifiable through its embedded computing system but is able to interoperate within the existing Internet infrastructure. Experts estimate that the IoT will consist of about 30 billion objects by 2020.

Typically, IoT is expected to offer advanced connectivity of devices, systems, and services that goes beyond machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and covers a variety of protocols, domains, and applications. The interconnection of these embedded devices (including smart objects), is expected to usher in automation in nearly all fields, while also enabling advanced applications like a smart grid, and expanding to areas such as smart cities.

“Things”, in the IoT sense, can refer to a wide variety of devices such as heart monitoring implants, biochip transponders on farm animals, electric clams in coastal waters, automobiles with built-in sensors, DNA analysis devices for environmental/food/pathogen monitoring, or field operation devices that assist fire fighters in search and rescue operations. Legal scholars suggest regarding “Things” as an “inextricable mixture of hardware, software, data and service”.

These devices collect useful data with the help of various existing technologies and then autonomously flow the data between other devices. Current market examples include home automation (also known as smart home devices) such as the control and automation of lighting, heating (like smart thermostat), ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) systems, and appliances such as washer/dryers, robotic vacuums, air purifiers, ovens, or refrigerators/freezers that use Wi-Fi for remote monitoring.

As well as the expansion of Internet-connected automation into a plethora of new application areas, IoT is also expected to generate large amounts of data from diverse locations, with the consequent necessity for quick aggregation of the data, and an increase in the need to index, store, and process such data more effectively. IoT is one of the platforms of today’s Smart City, and Smart Energy Management Systems. The term “the Internet of Things” was coined by Kevin Ashton of Procter & Gamble, later MIT’s Auto-ID Center, in 1999.


As of 2016, the vision of the Internet of Things has evolved due to a convergence of multiple technologies, including ubiquitous wireless communication, real-time analytics, machine learning, commodity sensors, and embedded systems. This means that the traditional fields of embedded systems, wireless sensor networks, control systems, automation (including home and building automation), and others all contribute to enabling the Internet of things (IoT).

The concept of a network of smart devices was discussed as early as 1982, with a modified Coke machine at Carnegie Mellon University becoming the first Internet-connected appliance, able to report its inventory and whether newly loaded drinks were cold. Mark Weiser’s seminal 1991 paper on ubiquitous computing, “The Computer of the 21st Century”, as well as academic venues such as UbiComp and PerCom produced the contemporary vision of IoT. In 1994 Reza Raji described the concept in IEEE Spectrum as “[moving] small packets of data to a large set of nodes, so as to integrate and automate everything from home appliances to entire factories”. Between 1993 and 1996 several companies proposed solutions like Microsoft’s at Work or Novell’s NEST. However, only in 1999 did the field start gathering momentum. Bill Joy envisioned Device to Device (D2D) communication as part of his “Six Webs” framework, presented at the World Economic Forum at Davos in 1999.

The concept of the Internet of Things became popular in 1999, through the Auto-ID Center at MIT and related market-analysis publications. Radio-frequency identification (RFID) was seen by Kevin Ashton (one of the founders of the original Auto-ID Center) as a prerequisite for the Internet of things at that point. Ashton prefers the phrase “Internet for Things.”  If all objects and people in daily life were equipped with identifiers, computers could manage and inventory them. Besides using RFID, the tagging of things may be achieved through such technologies as near field communication, barcodes, QR codes and digital watermarking.

In its original interpretation,[when?] one of the first consequences of implementing the Internet of things by equipping all objects in the world with minuscule identifying devices or machine-readable identifiers would be to transform daily life. For instance, instant and ceaseless inventory control would become ubiquitous. A person’s ability to interact with objects could be altered remotely based on immediate or present needs, in accordance with existing end-user agreements. For example, such technology could grant motion-picture publishers much more control over end-user private devices by remotely enforcing copyright restrictions and digital rights management, so the ability of a customer who bought a Blu-ray disc to watch the movie could become dependent on the copyright holder’s decision, similar to Circuit City’s failed DIVX.

A significant transformation is to extend “Things” from devices to the physical space. The thought model for future interconnection environment was proposed in 2004. The model includes the notion of the ternary universe consists of the physical world, virtual world and mental world and a multi-level reference architecture with the nature and devices at the bottom level followed by the level of the Internet, sensor network, and mobile network, and intelligent human-machine communities at the top level, which supports geographically dispersed users to cooperatively accomplish tasks and solve problems by using the network to actively promote the flow of material, energy, techniques, information, knowledge, and services in this environment.  This thought model envisioned the development trend of the Internet of Things.


Media – In order to hone the manner in which things, media and big data are interconnected, it is first necessary to provide some context into the mechanism used for media process. It has been suggested by Nick Couldry and Joseph Turow that practitioners in media approach big data as many actionable points of information about millions of individuals. The industry appears to be moving away from the traditional approach of using specific media environments such as newspapers, magazines, or television shows and instead tap into consumers with technologies that reach targeted people at optimal times in optimal locations. The ultimate aim is of course to serve, or convey, a message or content that is (statistically speaking) in line with the consumer’s mindset. For example, publishing environments are increasingly tailoring the messages (articles) to appeal to consumers that have been exclusively gleaned through various data-mining activities.

The media industries process big data in a dual, interconnected manner:

  • Targeting of consumers (for advertising by marketers)
  • Data-capture

Thus, the Internet of Things creates an opportunity to measure, collect and analyse an ever-increasing variety of behavioural statistics. Cross-correlation of this data could revolutionise the targeted marketing of products and services.  For example, as noted by Danny Meadows-Klue, the combination of analytics for conversion tracking with behavioural targeting has unlocked a new level of precision that enables display advertising to be focused on the devices of people with relevant interests.  Big data and the IoT work in conjunction. From a media perspective, data is the key derivative of device interconnectivity, whilst being pivotal in allowing clearer accuracy in targeting. The Internet of things therefore transforms the media industry, companies and even governments, opening up a new era of economic growth and competitiveness. The wealth of data generated by this industry (i.e. big data) will allow practitioners in advertising and media to gain an elaborate layer on the present targeting mechanisms used by the industry.

Environmental monitoring – Environmental monitoring applications of the IoT typically use sensors to assist in environmental protection by monitoring air or water quality, atmospheric or soil conditions, and can even include areas like monitoring the movements of wildlife and their habitats. Development of resource constrained devices connected to the Internet also means that other applications like earthquake or tsunami early-warning systems can also be used by emergency services to provide more effective aid. IoT devices in this application typically span a large geographic area and can also be mobile. It has been argued that the standardization IoT brings to wireless sensing will revolutionize this area.

Infrastructure management – Monitoring and controlling operations of urban and rural infrastructures like bridges, railway tracks, on- and offshore- wind-farms is a key application of the IoT. The IoT infrastructure can be used for monitoring any events or changes in structural conditions that can compromise safety and increase risk. It can also be used for scheduling repair and maintenance activities in an efficient manner, by coordinating tasks between different service providers and users of these facilities. IoT devices can also be used to control critical infrastructure like bridges to provide access to ships. Usage of IoT devices for monitoring and operating infrastructure is likely to improve incident management and emergency response coordination, and quality of service, up-times and reduce costs of operation in all infrastructure related areas. Even areas such as waste management can benefit from automation and optimization that could be brought in by the IoT.

Manufacturing – Network control and management of manufacturing equipment, asset and situation management, or manufacturing process control bring the IoT within the realm of industrial applications and smart manufacturing as well. The IoT intelligent systems enable rapid manufacturing of new products, dynamic response to product demands, and real-time optimization of manufacturing production and supply chain networks, by networking machinery, sensors and control systems together.

Energy management – Integration of sensing and actuation systems, connected to the Internet, is likely to optimize energy consumption as a whole. It is expected that IoT devices will be integrated into all forms of energy consuming devices (switches, power outlets, bulbs, televisions, etc.) and be able to communicate with the utility supply company in order to effectively balance power generation and energy usage. Such devices would also offer the opportunity for users to remotely control their devices, or centrally manage them via a cloud based interface, and enable advanced functions like scheduling (e.g., remotely powering on or off heating systems, controlling ovens, changing lighting conditions etc.).

Agriculture – The IoT contributes significantly towards innovating farming methods. Farming challenges caused by population growth and climate change have made it one of the first industries to utilize the IoT. The integration of wireless sensors with agricultural mobile apps and cloud platforms helps in collecting vital information pertaining to the environmental conditions – temperature, rainfall, humidity, wind speed, pest infestation, soil humus content or nutrients, besides others – linked with a farmland, can be used to improve and automate farming techniques, take informed decisions to improve quality and quantity, and minimize risks and wastes. The app-based field or crop monitoring also lowers the hassles of managing crops at multiple locations.

Medical and healthcare – IoT devices can be used to enable remote health monitoring and emergency notification systems. These health monitoring devices can range from blood pressure and heart rate monitors to advanced devices capable of monitoring specialized implants, such as pacemakers, Fitbit electronic wristbands, or advanced hearing aids. Some hospitals have begun implementing “smart beds” that can detect when they are occupied and when a patient is attempting to get up. It can also adjust itself to ensure appropriate pressure and support is applied to the patient without the manual interaction of nurses.

Building and home automation – IoT devices can be used to monitor and control the mechanical, electrical and electronic systems used in various types of buildings (e.g., public and private, industrial, institutions, or residential) in home automation and building automation systems. In this context, three main areas are being covered in literature:

Transportation – The IoT can assist in integration of communications, control, and information processing across various transportation systems. Application of the IoT extends to all aspects of transportation systems (i.e. the vehicle, the infrastructure, and the driver or user). Dynamic interaction between these components of a transport system enables inter and intra vehicular communication, smart traffic control, smart parking, electronic toll collection systems, logistic and fleet management, vehicle control, and safety and road assistance.  In Logistics and Fleet Management for example, The IoT platform can continuously monitor the location and conditions of cargo and assets via wireless sensors and send specific alerts when management exceptions occur (delays, damages, thefts, etc.).

Metropolitan scale deployments -There are several planned or ongoing large-scale deployments of the IoT, to enable better management of cities and systems. For example, Songdo, South Korea, the first of its kind fully equipped and wired smart city, is near completion. Nearly everything in this city is planned to be wired, connected and turned into a constant stream of data that would be monitored and analyzed by an array of computers with little, or no human intervention.

Consumer application – A growing portion of IoT devices are created for consumer use. Examples of consumer applications include connected car, entertainment, residences and smart homes, wearable technology, quantified self, connected health, and smart retail. Consumer IoT provides new opportunities for user experience and interfaces.

In India?

A couple of big things happening in the IoT space are mobile payments, and the creation and implementation of smart devices. Despite the existence of over 750 million active, physical, credit and debit cards, mobile payment options are poised to dominate the market in the coming years. You’ll most likely be paying with information stored on your phone or with payment apps like PayPal or Venmo. To take a deeper look at what is happening with smart devices, we can explore what Airtel did to help power and energy storage company, Luminous.

Luminous, a market leader in inverters manufacturing, wanted to take their customer experience to the next level. Their goal was to offer an inverter that would offer analytics and tracking capabilities, so that users would be able to monitor their use and performance in real time. Airtel developed an IoT solution for a smart inverter that does just this: Data is collected with this IoT technology and shared via a best-in-class mobile app that customers can access with ease. With this data, the experience of both the customers and Luminous has improved. Users were able to respond to problems proactively, which made their inverters more reliable and long lasting. Luminous is using the information they receive to improve their product even more. So, simply by adding the IoT to a product used daily, Airtel made the entire experience around that product better.


Many theories have been formulated about the development of IoT, particularly in the manufacturing and automotive sectors. For manufacturing in particular, IoT is expected to provide insights at every stage of production on a unit level. This means that every single product can be controlled throughout the entire creation process. This increased visibility can help decision-makers monitor progress and hopefully prevent or fix problems before a chain reaction occurs. This kind of quality control has never existed before, and can potentially lead to safer products and better standards. Smart manufacturing like this has been adopted in companies like General Electric, Siemens, Cisco, and even Harley-Davidson.

As for the auto industry, there are many ways the IoT can be an asset. Many cars with GPS capabilities are already part of the network. This tech allows you to navigate your route without the use of a map, and instantly redirects you in case you make a wrong turn or have to make a pit stop. From things as important as emergency roadside assistance, to luxuries like internet radio and music streaming services, our cars can be as web-enabled as our computers. Some are even projecting that future generations will see cars as “smartphones on wheels,” with text alerts and hands-free calling as well as internet connectivity.

Companies like Google are even working on self-driving cars, which could be on the road by 2020. These cars eliminate the need for a driver and would allow passengers to relax or be more productive while travelling ­­– whichever they prefer. Some of these predictions will come to pass and some won’t, but one thing is for sure – our world is about to become much “smarter.”

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