What is the IoT?

Just like it is with rats, you’re never too far from a mobile device… “thing”. There are currently six billion active mobile phone accounts in the world, with a sixth of them being broadband enabled [Source Silicon India]. This number is touted to reach 7.3 billion by 2014 – that’s more than the Earth’s entire population. Add to this other device “things”, such as tablets and other IoT consoles and gadgets, and the figures quickly become unquantifiable.

A Nike FuelBand "Thing"

A Nike FuelBand “Thing”

Most of you will probably be wondering what I mean by “things”. We now have a great deal of choice with how we live our lives. Many people are choosing to use devices to control their homes & security, monitor their health & leisure time, and even the way that they deal with their pets. These device “things” are becoming smaller, smarter and more numerous. It’s not just confined to individuals either, as industry is embracing the use of Wi-Fi robots & new, device-controllable power sources, together with a bewildering array of other, continuingly developing technologies.

One example of these “things” is the wearable fitness tracker, such as the Nike Fuel, which measures the wearers’ exertions via “oxygen kinetics” [Source Wired.com]. Another example is Revolv, who claim that “Our phones are smart. Why shouldn’t our homes be smart?“ Revolv can automatically find and connect to wireless devices, such as lights, locks, thermostats, netcams, smart-plugs, shades, sensors, etc, so that the home can be run remotely.

How Old is the IoT?

Kevin Ashton, "Internet of Things" coin phraser

Kevin Ashton, “Internet of Things” coin phraser

How long has the IoT been around? This is quite a difficult question to answer. There are many possible claimants to the title of inventor of IoT, from as far back as 1833 when Carl Friedrich Gauss and Wilhelm Weber invented a code that enabled them to communicate within the town of Göttingen in Germany, or when John Romkey demonstrated his toaster in 1989, commonly noted as being the first “device” able to be controlled via the Internet.

Several others may have a claim on the title of IoT innovator, but the actual coiner of the phrase is attributed to Kevin Ashton in 1999. His idea was based on the problem that “people have limited time, attention and accuracy – all of which means they are not very good at capturing data about things in the real world” [Source RFID Journal]. His theory was that if we (humans) had devices that could intelligently and intuitively compile all of this data for us, we could relax and get on with what we (humans) are better at…whatever that might be!

How is the IoT Impacting Upon Our Lives?

Obviously the development of both hard and software is benefitting, nurturing and promoting the growth of IoT. It’s probably fair to say that most people are unaware that there’s actually a term for IoT; something of which they are probably largely oblivious. Open sourced components and rapid prototyping are aiding advancement in this field, as well as more pervasive connectivity in the shape of 4G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Macheen and others. Ironically, even with new standards, such as MQTT emerging, the Internet is less likely than Machine-to-Machine protocols to be connecting “things”.

The community of crowdfunders is not an insignificant element in the mix either. Sites, such as Kickstarter, Seedrs and Buzzbnk offer prospective inventors and entrepreneurs financial support that may previously never have been forthcoming.

And the Future of IoT?

The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things

There are so many other elements involved, which combine to make the IoT an established, tangible part of our lives. Conceptualising, sharing, processing, distribution and storage all have evident “things” associated with them. Smart devices, consoles and gadgets have already been mentioned. What will happen when TV manufacturers actually catch up with the “thing” revolution? The mind boggles!

If you fancy it and are able to get there, the “M2M & Internet of Things Global Summit” is due to be staged in Washington on October 1st and 2nd 2013. If you’re reading this after that date, perhaps there’s another one coming up shortly. The next step in the evolution of the Internet of Things may be massive, arrive quickly with a bang and leave us gasping. Hold on to your hats folks!

More soon,

Chris Gray
Traistorm Media