No matter what business or industry you are working in, chances are that you have been hearing a lot about the Internet of Things (IoT). As a consumer, you may even think you totally know IoT. After all, you are the one switching lights with a simple voice command every evening. “Ok Google? Turn on the lights“. “Alexa? It’s dark over here. Fix it.“. Isn’t it wonderful?
It turns out that IoT is much more than smart fridges and light switches. It has the potential to change just about every aspect of our lives. From a business perspective, it opens an infinite spectrum of new opportunities in any industry.
In this article, we’ll take a deep look at IoT and its benefits to businesses.
What Is the Internet of Things (IoT)?
The Internet of Things or IoT is an extremely broad term. In the most general sense, the field of IoT includes any kind of device, such as home appliances, vehicles which have a dedicated software interface and a method of transferring data through WiFi and cellular networks. Beyond simple connectivity, these devices may also have actuators and other systems that allow them to make adjustments based on user inputs transferred through network communication.
When Did the Internet of Things Start?
The “Internet of Things” term was first used by researcher Kevin Ashton who was working for Procter & Gamble in 1999. It was later mentioned in an article in Finnish, followed by a report presented at the Nordic Researchers conference in 2002.
But actually, the IoT technology can trace its roots back to nearly 40 years ago, when a team at Carnegie Mellon University modified a Coke vending machine. The modification enabled the machine to send data about the number of drinks loaded into it, and whether or not they were cold.
However, IoT remained a niche field for a long time, because of how large and expensive computers were in the 80s, the 90s, and even the 2000s.
Due to the rapid advancements in computing technology and wireless communications over the past decade or so, research and investment in IoT have soared. The market is now predicted to be worth $520 billion by 2021.
What Is an IoT Device?
An IoT device is any kind of device that has embedded technology, and which allows for remote communication, interaction, monitoring, or controlling over the internet.
If you have a car that lets you start it remotely from an app – such as a Tesla – that’s an IoT device. If you have a WiFi security camera, which you can access, move and adjust from a smartphone application, that’s also an IoT device. A heart rate monitor that connects to the cloud and sends data about a patient’s heartbeat to a hospital is an IoT device.
What Makes IoT Devices So Special?
IoT devices are smart and can function autonomously. They are capable of collecting data, send it to a server for computation, receive the analysis results and take action based on these. Taking action does not always need to result from data processing though.
For instance, thermal sensors on a surveillance camera will detect heat. They can trigger a sound and visual alert on the management application to notify the security personnel monitoring the building. Furthermore, the camera will automatically rotate to follow the heat source so it can record the person or animal in action.
The Decentralization of Computing and the Internet of Things: How Are They Related?
It all starts with the smart devices. IoT devices are everywhere: in homes, offices, plants, rural areas, the wilderness, the space or even inside living animal bodies.
Let’s Put It in Context
As an example, we will look at offshore oil rig platforms. In these places, safety is imperative as a single small mistake could claim multiple lives. These platforms operate miles away from the shore and must remain stable.
Controlling an offshore oil rig is particularly delicate as much more environmental aspects must be considered. Seasons, winds, ocean waves, tides, type of seabed and temperatures are just a few of them.
Pressure management is essential in oil drilling and there is one known high risk related to it. It is the kick phenomenon – an influx of gas or fluid in the wellbore or simply, the well. Kicks are an early indication that a well is becoming unstable. Thus, kick detection is critical to the safety of both the installations and the workers on site.
IoT Devices Collect Critical Data
Sensors on the machinery should detect kicks before they actually become worse. This enables the exploration company to stop all activities and stabilize the oil platform. But decisions have to be made very quickly, sometimes in the milliseconds. This means a proper automation configuration should halt the machines instantly at the kick detection.
In reality, the company’s closest data center where data analytics can happen may be hundreds of miles away on the mainland, or even in a different country. So, how can oil companies succeed in automatizing the well operations?
Decentralization Accelerate Data Analytics, Enabling Real-Time Decisions
The analysis of the sensor-generated data has to occur right on the oil platform with a small but powerful-enough IT infrastructure. This is decentralization. It does not rely on private or public cloud data centers far away from the location where the data originates. Rather, decentralization enables to bring the processing power on location.
Sophisticated sensor technologies coupled with powerful data-analytics can now be used for early kick detection, allowing wells to shut in earlier with smaller influx volumes, facilitating well control. All of this will meaningfully benefit safety.
Beyond the Oil Rig Example
The IoT capabilities are infinite. You will notice every industry has a pertinent use case for it. Some industries have been early adopters of the technology and are driving its widespread utilization.
The usage of geographically-distributed cloudlets and computers – rather than just a few centralized data centers, minimizes latency for the applications. Another term for decentralization is edge computing.
A decentralized system guarantees real-time analytics and decision making, using fast-connected smart devices.
Do you want more IoT use cases? Visit our previous article here.
Software Companies Are Busy Developing Decentralized Solutions Relying on IoT
The future of IoT is bright. As time goes on, and the cost of computing continues to fall, IoT devices will become even more affordable. New networking technologies such as 5G offer extremely low data latency and high throughput, which will make the Internet of Things even more reliable and powerful.
In the near future, “smart” devices will be just as commonplace as “dumb” devices are today. We expect IoT to become completely pervasive, and integrate with other revolutionary technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR). In the future, the Internet of Things is likely to affect every aspect of our lives.
Start Betting on Decentralization
Without decentralization, modern IoT applications would not be possible. Computing at the edge may not be required for every IoT innovation, but it’s a sure-fire way to keep your company ahead of the curve.
As Samsungnext.com states “the combination of increasingly powerful decentralized devices, ubiquitous network access, and concentrated compute and storage resources is laying the groundwork for the next paradigm shift in computing.”