IoT – Internet of Things

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What is IoT?

As we know from a previous article, Internet can be defined as a computer network consisting of all the computers in the world which are interconnected to each other. The word itself is a combination of the words “interconnected” and “network”. Traditionally, the Internet consisted just of the computers, and lately tables & mobile phones. But now-a-days we have devices apart from computers, tablets and mobile phones that can connect to the Internet. Some examples of such devices can be Watches, Air-conditioners, Coffee Machine, etc. All such devices can gather information locally and then share & receive information over the Internet. A network consisting of such devices is known as Internet of Things (IoT). Since IoT devices work over the Internet, they also use the Internet Protocol.

IoT

IoT has introduced a smartness into the devices that are presently available. Such devices have some sensors embedded in them. These devices take input from the environment through these sensors and perform some function based on predefined settings.

IoT makes life easy

Let us look at an example of how IoT can be useful to a person in his morning routine:

You’re wearing a smart watch that monitors your vitals thus tracking your sleep quality including sleep stages. It wakes you up with an alarm when you are in light sleep and thus you wake up fresh. Low lights are automatically turned on as you wake up form the bed. As soon as you get up, your watch sends signals to the bathroom geyser to turn itself on. You get fresh with the freshly warmed water. As soon as you move out of the bathroom, all electrical and electronics in the bathroom are turned off. You get ready in front of your smart mirror which will show you the latest news headlines and the weather forecast. Meanwhile your coffee machine is now turned on and as soon as you come out of the bathroom, you get a hot cup of coffee ready for you. You drink it and go for a run or to the gym.

IoT - Smart Home

Your watch tracks your running or gym session. It will tell you about the quality of exercise that you are doing and the energy that you spent during your fitness session. When you start moving towards your home, your mobile phone automatically turns on the geyser again. You get fresh. You have your breakfast and maybe a little piece of that sandwich is left which you keep inside the refrigerator. Your refrigerator senses that it is a sandwich and alters its temperature to an optimal range to keep it fresh. Meanwhile you leave your apartment on the 10th floor for the parking. The lights and other electronic equipment inside your home get turned off automatically. Your mobile phone’s altimeter senses that you’re descending down and notices that since it is office time, it turns on your car’s air conditioning. Your car’s inside is now cozy when you get into it and you sail off to work.

Introducing smartness into devices

The entire scenario mentioned above, and more of such devices which can be used by a person at home constitute what may be called as a “Smart Home”. The smartness stems from the ability to perform certain actions after taking environmental or user’s inputs. Thus, IoT extends the power of computers to devices beyond computers. The Zigbee and Z-Wave protocols allow us to create small networks for home automation.

We know that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a branch of computer science that aims to bridge this gap and give a computer this ability to “think” and mimic human brain. If AI can be used to inject some smartness into the various devices, they will be able to make decision which are traditionally made by humans.

Mention must made here of 3 electronic devices:

  1. Arduino
  2. Raspberry Pi
  3. Nvidia Jetson

These three devices, due to their small size, have given the users ability to make small projects that are also smart. They are so tiny that they can be kept even behind other output devices (e.g. printer, monitor, speaker, etc) and someone may not even come to know of their presence behind the output device. This provides them extensibility to be adopted and applied for a wide variety of application – smart mirror (mentioned above) is one of them.

Not only that, daily use devices like electric bulbs, tube-lights, fans, etc are also WiFi enabled these days. Such devices allow the user to control various parameters of their functioning, e.g. brightness or color of light, speed of fan, etc. They can also be considered as smart devices.

IoT Applications

Some of the applications of IoT are as follows:

  1. Smart homes can have various devices which can be programmed to work centrally and maximize comfort level of the user, i.e. home automation.
  2. Such smart homes can be used for managing energy expenditure.
  3. Smart devices can be used for Inventory Management in companies by tracking individual items.
  4. It can be used for providing support to elderly and medically unwell people.
  5. If cars are fitted with special devices, there can be provision of smart traffic control mechanisms.
  6. In agriculture, these devices can measure the various environmental factors and help the farmers take informed decisions.

Advantages

  1. Ease of use of various devices since devices will take input from environment and perform actions themselves.
  2. It allows for an efficient and better resource utilisation and thus saves time.
  3. It also allows for better coordination between devices and thus they can produce better output than can be produced by a single device.
  4. The data generated from these devices will enable manufacture of better devices in future.
  5. It allows us to work remotely.
  6. It minimizes human involvement in a task.
  7. Using Artificial Intelligence along with IoT will open more possibility and applications for the same.

Disadvantages

  1. Since IoT devices will communicate over the Internet or a local network, the data can be intercepted by an adversary.
  2. The IoT devices can be hacked into since they are tiny comptuers on a network.
  3. People will be giving up personal data for taking the benefits of these devices.
  4. IoT devices are costly as of now.
  5. Various IoT devices are not compatible with each other.
  6. It may lead to loss of jobs as devices will take over the tasks traditionally done by humans.

For Wikipedia entry on Internet of Things, click here.

For more posts on Advanced Topics, click here.

For more posts in The Cyber Cops project, click here.

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