What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?
The Internet of Things is often abbreviated to ‘IoT’ and refers to the devices we use, such as voice assistants and smartwatches, that are connected to the internet in order to send and receive data. Essentially, the Internet of Things is the interconnection of all devices using smart technology.
More and more devices are being developed to work with the IoT; there were over 26 billion IoT devices active in 2019 and it is predicted that by 2025 that number will be around 75 billion. Currently, 127 new devices are connected to the internet every second.
Here are some of the best current Internet of Things applications:
Smart homes and buildings
The use of IoT devices in homes is probably the application that most people are familiar with. Home voice assistants such as Alexa and Google Home have been in use for some time and were originally used primarily to play music and radio stations, set reminders and make shopping lists.
While these devices have always had wider capabilities, they are now frequently linked up with other smart devices around the house, such as smart meters, lighting and heating systems, meaning these too can be controlled with simple voice commands.
The most famous IoT wearables are the smartwatches that have been on the market for a while now. These are commonly used to track things such as heart rate, step count and other daily activities linked to fitness. They are also used in conjunction with smartphones to receive notifications and emails.
However, it will soon become much more common for IoT technology to be worked into jackets, boots and other items of clothing. Whilst this idea may seem novel in a leisure setting, it could have a range of applications in the workplace. This is especially the case in manual labour industries such as on construction sites, as it could be used for tracking worker locations, preventing accidents and responding quickly to them.
Wearable technology also extends to healthcare, such as with electronic tattoos that can be used to monitor vitals and overall health. Currently, over 30% of all IoT devices are used in healthcare and the way that these are currently being used is just the beginning of what is possible. In the future, the IoT may be able to save lives by catching signs of illness early and even predicting health issues an individual may face based on their overall health data.
All of the data collected by the IoT devices used in healthcare can be shared in real time with healthcare professionals. Once these devices are in common use, much of the strain on doctors and nurses should hopefully be lifted.
There is a range of Internet of Things applications in what are referred to as ‘smart cities’. In these places, IoT devices can be used to give information in real time about parking availability and the structural health of buildings, automatically control weather-adaptive street lighting, suggest alternate routes on road displays in times of heavy traffic, and manage waste by monitoring the levels of rubbish in industrial waste bins to work out the optimal routes for waste collection.
We are likely to see more and more cities and towns using this kind of technology in the coming years to create easier, more streamlined city management and to fall in line with the required level of eco-consciousness by monitoring pollution levels.
Currently, almost 8% of all Internet of Things applications are security-based. Much like with healthcare, the potential scope of the IoT market within security is huge. At the moment, security IoT devices are used for remote sensors, biometric and facial recognition locks and perimeter access controls, but they also have roles to play in safety.
IoT devices can be used to detect gas leakages, gas and radiation levels in factories and mines, and the presence of liquid in data centres and warehouses.
The application of the Internet of Things in the automotive industry has functionality both in the mechanical operation of the vehicle and the comfort of the driver. Technology is currently being developed which will enable you to start the engine of a connected vehicle remotely via a mobile device, as well as unlock the doors and check levels such as tire pressure.
IoT cars can also be connected to smart home devices, so you can turn the lights and heating on and unlock the garage door, all as you’re pulling into the driveway. The list of IoT uses in cars is still growing. When we do reach full driverless car technology, there’s little doubt that everything will be interconnected and operational via a few simple commands.
The Internet of Things applications in retail will serve to significantly improve the customer experience and the ease with which retailers can operate their business. IoT devices can be used to track inventory, monitor storage conditions, track products, deal with online clients and help customers find the items they are looking for in store.
Retail IoT devices will also be able to use customer analytics, such as how they move through the store, to create better store layouts, find the ideal placement for premium products and keep stock levels higher on the in-demand items.
There’s a lot to get excited about when it comes to the Internet of Things. As the technology develops even further, and more devices become connected, there’s no telling what will be automated next.
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