The Internet of Things (IoT): What is it?
The intriguing and trendy terms the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) wescoined in 1999 by British technology pioneer Kevin Ashton, co-founder of the Auto-ID Centre at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Ashton states in an interview with the Smithsonian Magazine that computers in the twentieth century “were brains without senses”, and in the twenty-first century, IoT has enabled them to “sense things for themselves”.
This description hints at the overwhelming possibilities of intelligent or smart technologies and artificial intelligence (AI). IoT can be described as “technologies that allow networked devices to sense other devices and interact and communicate with them” (McKinsey:2010).
It is about extending the reach of the Internet beyond computers and smart devices to include a spectrum of connected things, processes, and environments. As the technologies of the Internet of Things become more innovative and abundant, living, working, and traveling conditions may change in many ways. A related yet more ambiguous term is the Internet of Everything (IoE) which denotes an even wider reach of the Internet to include all sorts of connections yet to be imagined.
The ‘Things’ are essentially anything with an embedded sensor able to communicate wirelessly with, for example, vehicles, machines, buildings, people, animals, goods or the environment. Picture individuals fitted with miniature sensors tracked for statistics and the remote diagnosis of some illnesses – this is what the near future holds.
The key technologies driving the Internet of Things are the miniaturisation of sensors connected to wireless networks, through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth with fibre as their backbone and the Internet as the mainstay. Pervasive smartphones are already enabling the monitoring and control of sensors from a growing variety of applications.
Fibre needs of the Internet of Things
The availability of home wireless networks is crucial to the deployment of the IoT and is driving its immediate growth. The scale is potentially large since it is predicted that the average family home will contain more than 500 smart devices by 2022, while Ericsson estimates that there will be 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020 – ten times as many as people online.