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There are many names for IoT (Internet of Things). Terms such as IoE (Internet of Everything), Machine-to-Machine (M2M), ubiquitous computing, pervasive computing, smart services, and Industrial Internet are all used to describe the network of physical objects embedded with software and other smart programs that enable the collection and exchange of data. One of the biggest challenges has been taking this data and getting it into a format that allows analysis.
Technology today affords us the ability to derive information that wasn’t available before. Miniaturization, affordability, along with the proliferation of wireless devices have made this the ideal time to begin formulating IoT strategies. Electronic devices have become smaller and more powerful and as a result of the adoption, the price has steadily diminished. Couple that with wireless devices becoming the norm, and more data can be located anywhere.
The growth of smartphones has definitely helped drive this change. Once Apple introduced the first iPhone with Android following shortly thereafter, smartphones over took the industry in just a few short years. Now, they are the preferred and most common daily-use devices. These mini-computers now provide connectivity any time and anywhere, so that users have access to whatever information they want at the tips of their fingers. The cellular carriers helped to drive this growth. While it took considerable time to build out 3G networks and ensure their stability and reliability, once that was achieved, the migration to 4G and LTE was swift in comparison.
Retail and healthcare are two industries that are already seeing the benefits of IoT. With the inclusion of Bluetooth beacons, retailers are now able to get real-time information about their customers. At some locations staff are alerted when someone is standing next to a rack for a fixed amount of time. This allows the retail staff to assist the customer in ways that were not seen before. Retailers are also using it to market to their customers. By knowing the items being purchased, they can target coupons and discount offerings directly to their customers through their app to drive revenue into their stores.
In healthcare, we are seeing the proliferation of body-worn sensors (Fitbit, UA Fitness in a Box, AppleWatch, to name a few). These devices typically communicate via Bluetooth with a smartphone which then sends the information to the cloud and is interpreted and put into useable data by an accompanying app which can be used by the end user. Presently the primary function is weight-loss or maintenance, but in the near future this technology is expected to expand diagnosing and treatment. The day is coming where one can imagine these devices monitoring sugar or blood pressure and releasing the necessary medication at the appropriate time. Sensors are being developed smaller so they can be digested and provide diagnosis that was otherwise not thought of in previous generations.
IoT is moving beyond merely controlling one’s home through thermostats and lighting. There are countless uses for IoT and more being developed daily. While there are still challenges surrounding IoT, it is evolving and changing the way we communicate and interact every day.