By Jim Walsh .
A term like The Internet of Things (IoT) can be overused and lose all its meaning. Those of us who witness the birth of “Web 2.0” know this situation very well. In retrospect, the result of this movement was the interactive Internet, which is how we know it today: Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and blogs, among other services. In the world of technology, once something becomes successful it becomes the “natural” way, and it no longer needs a particular name. I think we will see a similar phenomenon around the Internet of Things: once you have transformed the world, you will no longer need a name, and it will simply be the state of technology.
In this series of notes we will discuss the concept of IoT, the reasons for its progress, and how the world will change even more profoundly than its predecessor, Web 2.0.
The Internet is evolving rapidly, allowing everyone on the planet to connect through various computing devices. With the advent of smart and increasingly accessible mobile devices, access to the Internet has come close to ubiquity in the last decade. For this year, more than 40% of the world population (about three billion people) has access to the network. In the group of industrialized countries commonly called G5 (United States, England, Germany, France and Japan), more than 85% of people have access to the Internet, and the rest of the world is not so far away.
As the cost of computing and storage has drastically decreased, coupled with wireless connectivity, technologies seek to link not only people, but also “things” through the Internet. In this sense, IoT describes what many consider to be the next evolution of the Internet. The vision of IoT is that the elements of the physical world will have a presence on the Internet, as well as more than a billion people today have a presence on Facebook. In this way, an object such as a coffee machine can become smart, and notify us of the state of our coffee through the web.
The concept of physical objects communicating with each other through the Internet is not necessarily new. When we talk about “people” in the network, we only do it figuratively. They are really our machines (whether notebooks, desktops or mobile devices) which are connected and not the humans themselves. The Internet is already composed entirely of “things”; and we use them as means of communication and alter egos. So, what is changing? When we talk about the Internet of Things, what it implies is that the devices themselves will begin to take on a role that until now has been reserved for humans. In particular, the devices will create and take advantage of enormous amounts of information that will circulate on the Internet and that will not require the intervention of humans. Increasingly,
This has not yet happened on a large scale. Currently, and in the course of Internet history, people create most of the content by typing, scanning, speaking, recording, photographing and filming, among other possibilities. In 2012, only 30% of all new information was generated by machines such as sensors, computer logs and security cameras. The remaining 70% was created by people, directly or indirectly.
Not all this information is available through the Internet, but this situation will change as the world interconnects. The trend indicates that the information generated by machines will exceed that created by humans in the coming years. This is because the amount of things on the Internet starts to exceed the number of people. According to estimates, in 2014 there were approximately twice as many devices connected to the Internet.
The idea of machine-to-machine communication is central to the Internet of Things, but the concepts are not the same thing. M2M can be considered as a call from one point to another, while IoT is more similar to an entry in a blog, in which the information is persistent and can be accessed by anyone with permissions. The difference is that in information between humans, intelligence resides in the person performing, reading or responding to certain content. In the Internet of Things, intelligence is found in the network or in the device itself. It is this intelligence that gives meaning to the data delivered by sensors, and which decides the way in which to act.
It is clear that some of these devices will become increasingly intelligent, such as cars. However, in many cases the brain of the Internet of Things will not be on the device, but on the Internet itself. Or, rather, in cloud computing. Many everyday objects will gain sensory abilities, and they will take advantage of the Internet to communicate what they feel. In 10 years, the cups may have a sensor to measure the temperature of the coffee, another pressure to determine the amount of liquid, and even connectivity and a source of energy. All this does not qualify as a brain, however.
The brains will be in the clouds. This approach allows linking information from multiple sensors, which opens the door to complex and really interesting behaviors. It also allows you to learn from past behaviors, and make relationships with other situations. By maintaining devices with sensors but without brains, the systems can be quickly updated without generating conflicts in the rest of the network.
As the cost of storage and processing continues to decline, as predicted by Moore’s Law, intelligence will be distributed among more and more devices. If we look further ahead, even disposable devices can become smart. However, for now, genuinely intelligent equipment does not represent the essential of the Internet of Things. This essence is in distributed sensors and interconnected devices, with a brain in the clouds becoming more intelligent and capable of acting on information in real time.