Imagine as you wake up and head for the bathroom, where you step onto the inbuilt scale in the bathroom floor and it monitors your health parameters like stress, heart rate, weight and compares it against your goals. Then as you are brushing away to those perfect pearly whites, your brush checks the oral health and reminds you about the spot that you missed. All this data, gathered and systematically ordered in the wall mounted electronic hub in your home.
Now wake up for real, for this is no dream but the reality of the 21st century. The Internet of things has arrived and is here to stay. A total of around 10 billion devices were connected to the internet in 2015 and this number is projected to reach 34 billion devices by 2020. It is estimated that IoT devices will make up around 24 of the 34 billion, while conventional computing devices like computers, smartphones, tablets, etc, will comprise the rest 10 billion.
What is IOT?
The Internet of Things (IoT) is exactly as it sounds. It is things/devices or products, which have inbuilt electronics say sensors in them working in tandem with software, collecting and exchanging data by communicating with each other over a network (The internet). When we say things, they could be from as small as a button to as large as a building.
This image represents the environment of the Internet of Things. Source: businessinsider.com
⦁ The IoT devices would be present in multiple locations gathering data.
⦁ They would be coordinating with each other while connected together through a common network.
⦁ The gathered data would be sent back via the network to the Cloud or Data Storage or to a remote ( Computer, smartphone etc.) .
⦁ This data would be crunched and analyzed using algorithms for that purpose.
The integration of these devices with the internet points to the use of IP addresses as a means of unique identification. There is a problem here though in the form of the limited address space of IPv4 (4.3 billion distinctive addresses). Devices in the IoT will have to use IPv6 to accommodate the extremely large address space required. The IoT revolution will not made possible without the assistance of IPv6 and would be dependent to a large extent on the global adoption of this protocol.
How was IOT conceptualised?
The idea of smart devices in a network was thought of as early as 1982. Carnegie Mellon University had the distinction of harbouring the first appliance to be connected with a network. It was a Coke machine with the ability to report its contents and tell if the drinks that were just loaded were cold or not.
However it wasn’t until 1999 that IoT as a concept gained popularity. This was in-part due to the Auto-ID Center at MIT. Its founder Kevin Ashton saw RFID as a requirement for IoT. The thinking behind it was that if devices were equipped with identifiers, computers could inventory and manage them. This notion of devices with identifiers is one of the central features of Internet of Things.
The horizons stretching before IoT
The early analysis of the various possibilities of IoT are staggering. From a report in Business Insider (BI) on the Internet of Things, we gain few key insights :
⦁ Around $6 Trillion expenditure will occur over IoT platform within 5 years from now.
⦁ The investments in infrastructure of IoT will be in six key areas :
→ Data Storage
→ System Integration
→ Device Hardware
→ Application Development
⦁ The biggest adopters of the IoT platform will be
→ Businesses, followed by
→ Governments, followed by
⦁ The total return on investments (RoI) by IoT is estimated to generate a whopping $13 trillion by 2025.
Safety and Security Concerns
With such staggering numbers predicted for IoT adoption in the coming years, the issue of the importance attached to safety and security becomes easily apparent. The vast amounts of data on people that will be collected by IoT devices would benefit from being regulated by a comprehensive policy on data collection, it’s usage and privacy.
In a survey conducted by Business Insider (BI) Intelligence, 39% of the responses were related to the security concerns of adopting IoT. These security concerns won’t just be virtual but physical as well.
⦁ IoT Devices controlling onboard systems in automobiles like automatic braking, horn, etc have been shown to be vulnerable to remote exploitation.
⦁ In 2008 cybersecurity researchers had demonstrated the ability to gain access and control pacemakers without authority.
As a response to these security concerns the Internet of Things Security Foundation (IoTSF) was launched on 23 September 2015. It is an international collaborative and vendor-neutral initiative led by technology providers and telecommunications companies including the likes of BT, Vodafone and Imagination Technologies.The mission of IoTSF is to promote knowledge on the best practises to be followed when dealing with the Internet of Things.
In the US, the Federal Trade Commission expressed its opinion that the protection surrounding devices, i.e. security and shielding of privacy have to be integrated at the very beginning itself than as an afterthought. It recommended that data minimization ought to be followed which would prevent firms from keeping any data beyond what they need. The necessity for data anonymization was also put forth so that, data could never be used to link back to specific individuals.
Although this is a good start, there’s still a lot of ground to be covered to fully protect the privacy and security surrounding new devices.
The Future of IOT
We have come a long way from 1982 with just 1 IoT device for the whole human population. Take a look at the top ‘10 countries by IoT devices online per 100 inhabitants’ published by OECD in 2015
That IoT is going to impact our lives in a major way can no longer be in doubt. It may so become that, power companies may remotely read the meters indicating power consumption levels, Smart homes may take care of our every needs from ventilation, temperature control security to even ordering new utilities when needed.
The future of IoT seems certain. It will be implemented in almost all the spheres of our life. The technology that it will bring to us would be personal and tailor made to our needs, knowing us and predicting our requirements before hand. No longer would Iron Man be the only owner of a smart personal assistant but so would be, a million other human beings. The stuff of science fiction would finally unfold in the settings of everyday life.