The Internet of Things (IoT)
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What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?
It seems to be a modern trend to talk in acronyms
and especially when it comes to technology. One of the ones that get
bandied around is the IoT (Internet of Things). This is a term which is a
huge subject and this article is intended to give a very basic idea,
hopefully in fairly plain English, what this term means and how it
affects not only peoples’ everyday lives but especially how businesses
can use this new technology.
A basic definition of IoT
is a variety of physical devices that connect and communicate with
other devices, usually using the Internet. This means obvious things
like computers, tablets and cell phones that we are all familiar with,
but increasingly more everyday objects have connectivity embedded in
them, which means they can communicate with other devices and also be
remotely controlled. Remote control of many devices in our homes has
become a reality.
Some examples of the thousands are:
like Apple Watch which alert the wearer to emails and messages, monitor
health and sleep patterns and can upload health data to medical
- Televisions that connect to the internet are the norm.
have built-in shopping lists that upload to a cell phone and cameras
inside so we can check what is on the shelves while we are shopping.
- Amazon Echo (Alexa) is another example. It is a smart speaker which can act as a home automation hub.
- Delivery drones, which send messages notifying when the parcel has been delivered and to where.
It is estimated that by 2021 an average North American will own 13 internet-connected devices. It is estimated that there are currently about 26.66 billion IoT devices and this is predicted to rise to about 30.37 billion by 2020.
The other term that comes up together with IoT is Big Data.
This simply means all the data that is being generated and stored by
all the devices connected to the internet (IoT) and which may include
data stored in older databases that predate the advent of the internet.
The thing about Big Data
is that there is a huge amount of it (hence the word big) and that it
is expanding exponentially. It is also comprised of structured,
unstructured and semi-structured data which makes working with it a
challenge. However, the ability to work and analyse this Big Data has
unlimited possibilities, applications, and uses.
Without getting too technical, Big Data Analytics
essentially allows the identification of patterns, trends, consumer
preferences from data derived not just from in-house databases of
customers, etc. but from other external sources as well, such as social
media, texts from customers’ emails, web servers and mobile phone
records, essentially all the IoT devices. The analysis is then done
using complex applications with elements such as predictive models,
statistical algorithms and what-if analysis all delivered by complex
analytics software systems.
The above is an extremely basic
description of Big Data as it is a huge subject and not one that can be
adequately covered in an article such as this.
IoT and Business
devices and technology have a big role to play in how businesses and
organisations operate. Not only can it improve internal processes such
as manufacturing in a factory environment but it can enable businesses
to gather information about their products once they have been sold. It
can provide the ability to forecast sales and to recognise market
trends. In fact, the uses are endless.
Below are just two examples of the type of technologies already used by IoT.
(Radio Frequency Identification). This is a system where RFID tags
embedded into objects communicate with an RFID reader device using radio
waves. This RFID reader can potentially be connected to the internet.
It is also possible for RFID readers distributed globally to pick up
information from these embedded RFID tags. These RFID tags can also
contain sensors that pick up environmental changes. The ability to have a cost-effective method of tracking and its location has huge possibilities. Just some of the endless examples of the application of RFID technology are:
- Tracking shipping containers passing through a port.
- Switchgear and Power Distribution. Monitoring signs of wear and tear and sending alerts of potentially dangerous situations.
- Monitoring location and information about raw materials and goods in a factory or a warehouse.
- Making stock takes easy and efficient.
- Access cards on public transport
- Tracking medications in hospitals
- Monitoring goods in transport for temperature changes
- NFC (Near Field Communication).
This technology has its root in RFID. It uses electromagnetic fields in
embedded chips to communicate with other NFC chips. There are two types
of NFC chips, active and passive. Active chips can both send and
receive information and passive can only send. NFC communications often
use encryption to secure
- information being shared. Some examples are:
- Mobile wallets such as Apple Pay use NFC technology.
- The Tap-and go functionality (e.g. using credit card)
- Hotel room access. Using a downloaded app on a mobile phone, you can use it to open your hotel room door.
- Easy ability to connect devices.
- Animal and wildlife tracking.
IoT is being used by countless types of industries and businesses, such as:
- Fleet Management
- Supply Chain Management
- Healthcare Industry
- Customer and Field Service related industries
- Inventory and Warehouse Management
- Retail and Wholesale businesses.
IoT and ERP
the glimpse of possibilities and the rapid expansion of IoT, it should
become clear that businesses should not ignore this new reality and it
is important for business owners and entrepreneurs to become informed
about how IoT can benefit and will impact their business.
clear is that in order to take the first steps in taking advantage of
Io, a business needs to have an existing Enterprise Resource Planning
ERP software system in place. The volume of data that is generated as
well as the need to have a centralised fully integrated system as a
foundation arguably of vital importance.
article merely scratches at the surface of the whole Internet of Things
(IoT) subject. It is by no means comprehensive and is intending to try
and demystify the topic in some small way.
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