What Is The Internet of Things (IoT)?
The Internet of Things may be a hot topic in the industry but it’s not a new concept. In the early 2000’s, Kevin Ashton was laying the groundwork for what would become the Internet of Things (IoT) at MIT’s AutoID lab. Ashton was one of the pioneers who conceived this notion as he searched for ways that Proctor & Gamble could improve its business by linking RFID information to the Internet. The concept was simple but powerful.
If all objects in daily life were equipped with identifiers and wireless connectivity, these objects could be communicate with each other and be managed by computers.
In a 1999 article for the RFID Journal Ashton wrote:
“If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things—using data they gathered without any help from us — we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best.
We need to empower computers with their own means of gathering information, so they can see, hear and smell the world for themselves, in all its random glory. RFID and sensor technology enable computers to observe, identify and understand the world—without the limitations of human-entered data.”
At the time, this vision required major technology improvements. After all, how would we connect everything on the planet? What type of wireless communications could be built into devices?
What changes would need to be made to the existing Internet infrastructure to support billions of new devices communicating? What would power these devices? What must be developed to make the solutions cost effective? There were more questions than answers to the IoT concepts in 1999.
Today, many of these obstacles have been solved. The size and cost of wireless radios has dropped tremendously. IPv6 allows us to assign a communications address to billions of devices. Electronics companies are building Wi-Fi and cellular wireless connectivity into a wide range of devices.
ABI Research estimates over five billion wireless chips will ship in 2013. Mobile data coverage has improved significantly with many networks offering broadband speeds. While not perfect, battery technology has improved and solar recharging has been built into numerous devices.
There will be billions of objects connecting to the network with the next several years. For example, Cisco’s Internet of Things Group (IOTG) predicts there will be over 50 billion connected devices by 2020.