“Internet of Things”, simplified!

I have been asked about “The Internet of Things” several times lately, especially by Engineering Students who are currently preparing for their next graduation projects. I thought of posting my answer here (along with some useful resources) publicly so that everyone can benefit from it. My aim is to keep my answer as simple as possible while using it to help you understand some of the jargons & buzzwords that you have been hearing lately (Cloud Computing, Big Data, Wearables, etc…) by tying everything together in the context of “Internet of Things”.

Rather than giving you a scientific definition for “Internet of Things” or “IoT”, I want you spend a few moments counting the number of internet-connected Objects that you currently have. Your PC? Your smartphone? Your tablet? Your iPod media player? Your XBOX gaming console? Maybe your smart watch? Your fitness gadget? Your smart TV? Your home sensors? Your Car? Ok you got it, the world is moving beyond standalone devices into a new era where everything is internet-connected. That’s exactly what is meant by “The internet of things”.

Now compare the number you concluded from the first exercise with the number of internet-connected objects you had a decade ago! The chart below says it all.

In 2004, PCs were the only internet-connected objects. What about now (2014)? Looks like smartphones are even surpassing PCs? Still wondering why Facebook acquired WhatsApp?

Analysts are expecting that by 2020, there will be around 50 Billion objects connected to the Internet. This means that for every person living on our planet, there will be 6.6 internet-connected objects. Sounds huge but we are almost there. For me, I have a PC, a laptop, a tablet, 2 smartphones, a smart TV, a Fitbit, a gaming console (XBOX) and I’m planning to buy a Google Glass once it’s officially released in my region. Oh, I already have eight internet-connected objects and I know a few people who are lucky enough to have more!

World will be full of sensors everywhere that is monitoring everything around you and uploading them to the cloud. The world will transform as you walk through because technology that you may not be aware of is monitoring your moves. It’s a world that is constantly changing around us due to these sensors.

Let me give you a few examples:

  • When you wake up in the morning, your smart watch advises you about the best route and how long it would take to go to work based on the traffic conditions.
  • Based on your blood pressure, music changes in your room to match your mood.
  • In case of any smoke or Carbon monoxide detected at your home, you receive an audio alert on your phone (or watch)
  • When it’s time for a video conference, music stops and lighting increases in your room.
  • When you walk into home, temperature changes based on your temperature changing habits in the four seasons.
  • Based on your activity & the calories burnt, your smart refrigerator will recommend the suitable meal (based on what already exists inside it).
  • Based on your mood, social media interactions and your personal calendar, your smart TV recommends a movie for you to watch in a free slot in the evening.

Again, software will anticipate what you want before you even know you want it and it will give you recommendations or even take actions. The examples above are simple ones & some of them are even available now.

For example, With Google NOW & the available wearable gadgets like Samsung Galaxy Gear or Google Glass, the first scenario is already available. Also, With Nest Learning Thermostat (Acquired by Google in Jan 2014 for $3.2 Billions), the 3rd and 5th scenarios can be easily setup @ your home.

Now, think about it, what enables the “Internet of Things” scenarios?

  • Software to run the objects?
  • Cloud Computing?
  • Social Media?
  • Big Data?

I’ll explain those terms in the context of “Internet of Things” in the next post. But before I leave you, I would like you to take a deep look at a very useful research conduct by Business Insider. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter in case you have any questions.




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