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Understanding IoT – Your Guide to the Internet of Things

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The Internet of Things is a network of devices (“things”) that use technology to connect and exchange data with other devices over the internet. These devices range from smartphones and home assistants to larger kitchen appliances and complex industrial machines. And industry experts estimate that 22 billion of them will be connected to IoT networks by 2025.

In this guide, we’ll examine how IoT works, how it can be used in industry, and what the future of this technology looks like, giving you a better understanding of the Internet of Things as a whole.

How does it work?

The IoT connects devices that have built-in sensors to a network, integrating multiple data streams and analyzing information to share relevant insights with the user. The main value of IoT platforms is that they can be used to separate useful information from irrelevant information. This information can then be used to identify patterns, make suggestions, and to detect delays or problems.

Tech experts theorized about creating such a network for many years, but it now a practical solution due to advances in the following areas:

  • Low-cost, low-power sensor technology. The creation of affordable, reliable sensors has made IoT technology accessible to more manufacturers.
  • Connectivity protocols. Various network protocols on the internet have made it easier to connect sensors to the cloud and to other devices, so they can share information.
  • Cloud computing platforms. Cloud platforms have become more prevalent, giving consumers and businesses greater access to the infrastructure needed for IoT platforms.
  • Machine learning and analytics. The cloud stores data from multiple sources all in one place. Using machine learning and analytics, businesses can gather consumer insights from this data more efficiently than ever before.
  • Natural language processing (NLP). The integration of natural language processing and IoT has made digital personal assistants, like Alexa, Cortana, and Siri smarter and more appealing to domestic users.

As you can see, IoT has many applications within both the home and workplace. But we want to focus on how it’s transforming operations across different global industries.

Applications of IoT in industry

As IoT becomes more accessible across the board, businesses across a wide range of sectors are realizing the benefits of this kind of technology. It allows CEOs and top executives to manage their businesses more efficiently by providing data-driven insights. IoT increases productivity and operational efficiency within a company, allowing for the development of new business models, and the identification of new revenue streams.

Keep reading to find out the specific applications of this technology in five prominent international industries.

1. Manufacturing

IoT technology can be used in the manufacturing sector to monitor production lines and equipment for possible faults or machine failures. Sensors measuring production output will alert manufacturers if production falls below a certain level, allowing them to run tests on equipment and make sure that it’s operating at capacity. In this way, IoT can help reduce operating costs and improve the performance of production lines in the manufacturing industry.

2. Transportation and Logistics

IoT has a number of useful applications in the transportation and logistics industry. The technology’s sensor data makes it easier for companies to re-route fleets according to road and weather conditions, along with scheduling journeys according to vehicle and driver availability. Inventories carried by fleets can be monitored via IoT sensors, allowing companies to track shipments.

Food and drink and pharmaceutical companies often need to transport temperature-sensitive cargo. Sensors that monitor changes in temperature can send alerts when a hold becomes too hot or cold, helping to prevent spoilage. This kind of temperature-tracking technology has the potential to save such companies millions of dollars.

3. Retail

Advances in AI technology have led to the creation of IoT applications that are transforming the ways in which retail companies control stock, approach supply chain optimization, and reduce expenditure to improve customer experience.

More data and improved analytics can help create targeted offers for customers, leading to a personalized shopping experience. Plus, smart shelves that use weight sensors to monitor when items are removed can send alerts to warehouses, notifying when stock is running low. Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology, which is currently being used in 29 cashier-less stores, is a good example of the concept in practice. 

Find out more about how some of the world’s biggest retailers are using AI technology to improve their internal processes and revolutionize the customer experience here.

4. Public Sector

The applications of IoT in the public sector are varied. For example, if an area experiences problems with its water supply or sewage services, IoT applications can collect data about which neighborhoods are affected. They can also notify homeowners about the issue and send out teams to fix the problem with greater speed and precision than manual coordination would permit.

5. Healthcare

IoT has made asset monitoring in the healthcare industry easier and more accurate. Hospital staff frequently need to locate patient-assistance assets like wheelchairs or vital medical equipment in a hurry. When these assets are fitted with IoT sensors, they can be tracked using a connected monitoring app, meaning that healthcare workers can find what they’re looking for within the hospital more quickly.

This can also benefit the hospital in terms of monitoring usage (demand, frequency, and purpose), inventory control, and departmental budgeting.

The Future of IoT

The Internet of Things started out as a concept, one that’s now being realized thanks to major advances in the fields of cloud computing, machine learning, analytics, and AI. However, we’ve yet to reach a place where the theory of IoT and the practical application of it are on par with each other. Technology is evolving all the time, but smart devices aren’t perfect, and there are several issues that tech and telecom companies must address before the physical and digital worlds can be seamlessly connected.

1. Security

The security of IoT devices is a huge concern. Large networks of interconnected devices are extremely vulnerable to attack, as they provide multiple access routes for outsiders looking to hack into the system. Between 2018 and 2020, there were over 7.3 billion unsecured devices on Samsung’s network alone. The company’s Open Economy document attributed this to “technology […] running ahead of the game”.

2. Privacy

Another thing IoT developers need to be aware of is the potential for invasive surveillance. If all our devices are connected – including our lights, fridges, and watches – those with access to the data collected can use it to target consumers in an exploitative manner.

3. Standardization

Devices on IoT networks rely on data transfer and sharing. If standards aren’t consistent, however, communication is rendered ineffective. According to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Standards Association, new standards are currently being developed for different applications, which will allow more devices to be connected in the future.

When this happens, where will IoT technology take us?

Well, anywhere, according to Matthew Evans, who leads the IoT program at techUK. Matthew notes that, “Ultimately, what makes it [IoT] exciting is that we don’t yet know the exact use cases, just that it has the potential to have a major impact on our lives.” 

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