What is the Internet of Things?

22 February 2018 | Lewis Campbell | About a 4 minute read
Tags: internet, Internet of things, IoT, smart, smart technology, tech

The Internet of Things is a hot topic these days, you’ve probably heard a lot about it, with talk of smart cities and smart homes being all over the news lately. It’s definitely becoming more of a mainstream idea where everyone is trying to upgrade their home with smart thermostats or smart fridges, which was the big one not so long ago. But what actually is the Internet of Things? Well, it’s the concept that physical items will be connected to the Internet, so that the state of the object is monitored and up to date information is then collected and reacted to. This allows for opportunities to react to complex/critical situations while optimising the efficiency of the way these objects perform tasks.

These “things” would be turned into Smart Objects, which are conventional objects, upgraded digitally. These Smart Objects could be as simple as; parcels given an RFID Tag and/or GPS Sensor which would allow the tracking of a parcel’s location, to a car tracking how it is running and relaying this data to the manufacturer, alerting them to potential faults. Though with most of these Smart Objects the overarching theme is the need to improve efficiency, both in time and energy savings.


Current devices using the Internet of Things

You probably know of several IoT technologies, such as a Smart Bulb which is similar to a regular light bulb, but it allows you to control the bulbs from anywhere. This could be to ensure that it’s turned off, or to schedule the time when these Smart Bulbs are on or off. With the main focus of these technologies being to remove the need for repetitive Human Interaction, it also has the potential of making energy savings. Forgetting to turn off the lights in your living room could be rectified with the use of your tablet/mobile/laptop, that is if you’re still manually switching your lights on and off anyway.


Another smart object is the Smart Thermostat, which you’ve probably seen or maybe even got one of these. It connects your central heating to the internet, giving you the ability to control it remotely. Similar to the Smart Bulb, a Smart Thermostat allows you to schedule what temperature you would like your home kept at during the day, or even to change the temperature when you’re away from home. It can even learn your routine, changing the temperature if you’re at home or if you’re asleep, removing the need for human interaction completely.


Future systems using the Internet of Things

With those being a couple of the more personal devices that could give you your smart home, there are greater uses of the Internet of Things. An example of this are the improvements to Britain’s railways. Sensors have been installed along the track that can detect if a piece of track needs maintenance, and can alert people to this issue. This can only be a good thing for us as commuters, lowering the amount of cancellations and delays caused by unexpected track faults.

Another use, is having street lights which only switch on as a pedestrian or vehicle approaches. Both saving energy and money on a light that is rarely used in the dead of night. However, a different approach to street lamps, is to have the light increase brightness if it detects a loud noise, as well recording a video of whatever is happening. Hopefully, this would act as a deterrent to potential crimes.

Another future concept quickly gathering steam today is the smart grid, which takes the current electrical grid and connects it to smart meters installed in homes, transmitting up-to-date pricing. This would allow prices to fluctuate as demand changes, meaning the smart meter could draw more power at off-peak times (cheapest) using market forces to balance the supply and demand of power. This, in theory, would lower the chances of blackouts and improve the efficiency of the current grid.

This was a basic look at the Internet of Things, along with detailing some current and future uses of the concept, to move the internet from simply connecting people together, to connecting everything together. It’s a growing industry with Governments, Businesses and People all wanting to make use of it. The internet of things is definitely worth keeping an eye on, if you aren’t already filling your home with all these smart devices.


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