One of the key buzzwords at the moment is the curiously entitled ‘Internet of Things’ – usually abbreviated to ‘IoT’. The term was introduced in the 1990s by a founder of MITs’ Auto-ID Center, Kevin Ashton, who was part of a research team looking at how everyday things could link to the Internet.
Despite the prevalence of the term across the Internet, what IoT actually is eludes many people. What follows is a rough cut analysis of what IoT is, what it does, and what we can expect from it in the future.
What is ‘IoT’?
The Internet is no more than a network of computers. Some of these computers belong to web hosts who own servers that provide the hosting infrastructure that houses websites. Some of these computers sit in the homes of billions of Internet users who use their PCs to visit their favourite websites, enjoy the occasional video, and chat with friends on Facebook.
Imagine now that as well as computers, everyday items were also able to connect to the Internet.
Let’s take your fridge for example. You are at work but the kids are at home. They drink your last can of Coca Cola before you get home leaving you to make a journey to the local 7-11 to pick up a new pack. Now, imagine that your fridge was connected to the Internet and as soon as the last bottle was taken you received an email telling you that you might want to visit 7-11 on the way home to pick up some Coke.
That would be way more efficient, wouldn’t it?
That essentially is the concept behind IoT – everything connected to the Internet giving feedback and relevant information when necessary. At the moment, IoT is in its infancy and remains more of a concept than a reality. The idea is though progressing quickly.
What current examples are there of IoT in operation?
In 2014 Google bought Nest, a Palo Alto, California-based producer of a ‘Learning Thermostat’, a camera and a smoke alarm, each of which can communicate with each other and beyond their limited network.
The Nest Learning Thermostat manages different types of heating and cooling systems (gas, electric, oil, solar, etc.) and makes them work together to optimize heating and cooling costs. Likewise ‘Nest Cam’ communicates with your mobile to enable you to look at what’s happening in your home when you are not there. In addition, when the Nest smoke alarm detects smoke or CO2, it shuts off the Nest Thermostat to avoid further problems.
This type of interconnectedness has obvious advantages.
Will it just impact the home?
Now imagine if industrial machines could talk to each other to adjust performance for maximum efficiency. Or weather sensors could cease operations at airports before a hurricane strikes.
Imagine if road sensors and traffic lights were connected to the extent that they could redirect traffic to maximize road efficiency without human involvement. This is the potential of IoT, but right now, it is at its neonate stages.
Which areas will IoT impact the most?
IoT will impact every aspect of business and everyday life, but where IoT holds immediately recognizable potential is in health care. Already by monitoring users’ daily habits – food intake, sleep, rest, exercise, etc. – IoT systems make a number of suggestions on how to improve an individual’s health. It also provides feedback to doctors and health workers who then have a wealth of information available to them during any consultation.
As IoT develops, so too will its extraordinary potential for taking care of people. Having a Fitbit that can call 911 when you have a heart attack jogging will, by no stretch of the imagination, be extremely useful!
So how does this apply to web hosting?
Essentially, cloud computing is going to be the thread that pulls IoT together.
To be able to view your front room while you are on holiday in Bermuda you will need the Internet. If your company is involved in the cloud as an area of business, you are very well positioned to benefit from IoT as it progresses, particularly those involved in cloud storage.
Like it or not, you will be involved, so now is the time to prepare yourselves.
So how big is this going to be?
Any connection between devices that you could possibly imagine is likely to become a reality within the next 5-10 years. The current concept of Smart Homes will carry to the workplace and then the world in general, and the cloud is going to medium that pulls all this together.
For web hosts involved in the cloud, you are on the threshold of something genuinely amazing. Cease the day!