Internet of things - Anything that can be connected, will be connected
You've probably heard about the IoT (Internet of things) but you just don't know yet how it's going to impact your life. A short definition for the IoT is: "A network of Internet-Connected objects able to collect and exchange data using embedded sensors". In other words, IoT is the concept of connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other), from coffee makers to washing machines, to headphones, to lamps, to cars and almost anything else you can think of.
The Internet of Things concept became popular in 1999, through the Auto-ID Center at MIT and related market-analysis publications. Radio-frequency identification (RFID) was seen by Kevin Ashton (one of the founders of the original Auto-ID Center) as a prerequisite for the Internet of Things at that point. Before this concept was given the name "Internet of Things", there was a Coke machine at Carnegie Melon University in 1982, that was considered "the first Internet appliance". The Coke machine was able to report its inventory and whether newly loaded drinks were cold.
Business Insider's premium research service expects there will be more than 24 billion IoT devices on Earth by 2020. That's approximately four devices for every human being on the planet. Despite that 87% of the people haven't heard of the term (according to Forbes), IoT is here to stay! And giants like Google and Samsung can confirm that, since Google bought Nest Labs - a home automation company that designs and manufactures programmable thermostats and smoke detectors - for 3.2$ billion, and Samsung purchased connected home company Smart Things for 200$ million.
How does an object become part of IoT?
The IoT is a very complex and open discussion because the possibilities are infinite. Any object can become part of IoT, through 4 simple steps:
- The object must be assigned an identity - an IPv6 address. With the huge increase of address space, people could easily assign an IP address to every "thing" on the planet.
- The object must have the ability to communicate via a wi-fi connection.
- The object must have senses through sensors (to detect noise, heat, taste, etc.).
- You must be able to reach out to the object and control it from anywhere in the world.
From Smart Homes to Smart Cities, everything can be interconnected. Imagine that you could sync your coffee machine to your alarm clock so that it would start preparing your coffee as soon as you got out of your bed. Imagine your printer at work knew it was running low on toner and would order it by itself. There is no limit to what all these connections can become.
Is IoT safe?
The Internet of Things is set to connect every device out there. We live in a world where hacking is a full-time job. If everything is connected to everything, how can you protect your devices and your data?
IoT gives hackers and cybercriminals more entry points, so you have to do more than just securing the actual device. People must consider building security into software applications and network connections that link to those devices otherwise, manufacturers or hackers could use a connected device to virtually invade a person's home.
Consumers are concerned about their data security, and that could prevent the IoT from fulfilling its true potential. As soon as the security issues appeared, so did the solutions! Amazon came up with IoT Device Defender - a service that will monitor an entire fleet of devices for compliance policies and best practices to limit risks from unsecured IoT devices. Bitdefender released the Bitdefender Box - a Smart Home Cybersecurity Hub that protects an unlimited number of Internet-connected devices from malware, stolen passwords, identity theft, spying, and so on. The more the IoT will spread, the more security solutions will appear.
What industries use IoT?
The IoT is growing fast and it is set to change the way people carry out everyday tasks and potentially transform the world.
For starters, the benefits of IoT can make your life easy and comfortable. You can start and stop every appliance in your Smart Home, at the push of a button. Smart lighting can reduce overall energy consumption and lower your electric bill. IoT is also changing the way energy companies do business, as utility companies like PG&E are beginning to use smart meters as an effective IoT solution.
The transportation industry will also benefit from IoT evolution, as self-driving cars will hit the road in increasing numbers. One of the most famous self-driving cars is Google's Waymo, who's software anticipates and reacts to all types of scenarios from the velocity of a nearby bicycle to the sun in the eyes of the other drivers on the road. Also, companies can now ensure that perishables arrive in at their destination in a safe condition, by connecting shipping vehicles with sensors to monitor temperature.
Agriculture is another field that benefits from IoT. Farmers can collect data about their crops and livestock using sensors in the tractors to connect them to the internet. Farmers can get a sense for the best times to plant crops and how to optimize their yields, by combining those sensors with advanced data analysis.
The biggest industry impacted by IoT is manufacturing. Manufacturers in all sectors place sensors on equipment in factories so that data can be collected about the performance of the machine and systems. A manufacturer can also use IoT solutions to better track assets in the factory and help consolidate control rooms.
As IoT grows bigger and better, Smart Cities arise. Smart cities use Internet of Things devices such as connected sensors, lights, and meters to collect and analyze data. They use the collected data to improve infrastructure, public utilities and services.
By far, the most important benefits of IoT are found in the medical field. For example, hospital staff can get alerts for when repairs are needed, by connecting medical devices up to the internet. From a simple wearable watch that monitors heart rate, calories and steps to a life-saving pacemaker, IoT promises to change the healthcare industry as we know it.
Kepler used IoT to revolutionize healthcare
One of the revolutionary devices that use IoT in Healthcare is the Consult Station, for which Kepler built the entire software system from scratch. The Consult Station is a daring idea from Health for Development that allows people to give themselves a medical exam, in a similar environment to the one inside a medical office.
The challenge for us was to retrieve the measurements from medical utensils (like a stethoscope or a tensiometer) and store them into a program, from where they can be used. With the help of the Chair of Ergonomics, from the University Art and Métiers in Paris, the first prototype was created. The Consult Station was a vertical capsule with medical instruments inside. But it still needed to work! That's where we stepped in and built the software designed to retrieve measurements from the utensils and gather them in a program. There was a lot of research done on the first prototype, regarding the utility and convenience of the Consult Station.
When the second prototype was released, we've already built in a "Doctor Application" that allows the patient inside the capsule to communicate with a doctor, in real-time, via video connection. The retrieved data from the utensils inside the cabin is gathered in one folder (the patient's medical file) that can be communicated to a hospital and seen on the internet by the patient. Since then, the Consult station has been industrialized, being certified as a medical device with laboratory tests.