With the exception of the autonomous car, all the underlying capabilities for IoT exist today and are part of the Internet of Things. What does not yet exist, though, are the software and services to aggregate and manage the discrete capabilities to make them commercially available.
Defining the Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) is simply a concept wherein machines and everyday objects are connected via the Internet. Within the IoT, devices are controlled and monitored remotely and usually wirelessly. IDC predicts that the IoT will include 212 billion things globally by the end of 2020. That sounds like a big number, but for context, in 2014 there are over 10 quadrillion ants on the planet. Although ants are not yet members of the IoT, Wifi-connected bees are now in development to help with pollination. MIT is working on smart sand that will be able to move and duplicate 3D objects, and Harvard has already developed 1000-robot swarms. Throw in smart dust motes and IDC’s 212 billion IoT device estimate begins to look conservative.
The Depth and Variety of Internet Things
Not long ago, devices on the Internet had to be wired to a fixed location. One of the important drivers behind the Internet of Things is how easy it has now become to wirelessly connect mobile items to the Internet via WiFi, Bluetooth, or proprietary wireless communications protocols.
Smart IoT devices include everything from structural health monitors for buildings to smart egg trays that know how many eggs you have and how old they are. Home automation devices include Google’s Nest, and two competing families of home and healthcare IoT systems: ZigBee and Z-Wave. The Vessyl smart drinking cup that monitors exactly what you are drinking, the HAPIfork tracks your eating habits, and the Beam tooth brush reports on your brushing history.
Although cars may not yet be autonomous, new models have many Internet-addressable capabilities including remote start, remote climate control, location tracking, as well as the currently-latent ability to track many of your driving habits. Every time you hear a warning beep, another item of data is recorded.
Almost anything can now be connected to the Internet of Things via wireless sensors, such as the Node+ series, which measure temp, color, CO2, and other metrics.