IoT and its future implications
In the past few years, we have often heard the phrase Internet of Things or IoT and probably wondered what it means. The term basically refers to a network of devices connected to each other and ultimately the internet. These things or devices can be anything electronic that can collect data from surrounding and send them to a central device via the internet.
As compared to the past decade, the use of IoT devices has increased by millions in the past few years. Anything from wearables like fitness trackers and smartwatches or a blood sugar monitor device or a fire alert system to the trackers used in cattle falls under the scope of IoT. You can probably already see the reason behind the increased use of IoT devices.
We’ve had all sorts of devices like temperature sensors, health monitoring devices for decades that have the potential of collecting data from their surroundings, and these data are useful when used locally. A large scale of such data from similar devices can be far more helpful in research purposes and retain practical conclusions.
Take this cow for example. You wouldn’t know if it’s sick or healthy just by looking (A seasoned farmer wouldn’t either). Take a thermometer, take the body temperature and you’d probably know if it’s sick. Make the thermometer in such a way that it stays inside the stomach, constantly measuring body temperature and sending temperature data to a nearby station (Yes this technology already exists). You’d know when the cow is sick or requires special attention, all without the hassle of doing it every time you suspect something. While it might not seem to make much difference with a single cow but with hundreds of cattle on a single farm, this technology can save hundreds of hours of work and thousands of dollars that could have been spent to control some kind of disease outbreak.
While it may seem like data collection is the only objective of IoT devices, it’s not. Internet of Things is a whole another dimension in itself. Data is only the tip of an iceberg in this context and sensors embedded devices are only the means to something bigger and much exciting realm of technology. The continuous inflow of data from IoT devices for predictive analysis means there’s more room to achieve what we couldn’t before.
Imagine your room full of IoT devices: smart speakers, smart lights, and even say a coffee brewing machine. You’re wearing a smartwatch for example. Let’s say you went out with a friend but forgot to turn off the lights. IoT means that these ‘things’ or devices are connected to each other and talking to each other in a way. The lights will automatically turn off as you walk out of the door. Again, it might not seem like much for a person, but for a whole city, that’s a lot of electricity wasted.
Another implication would be the current scenario we are all facing. A virus outbreak limited only to science fiction. Let’s suppose everyone was wearing some sort of IoT devices like a smartwatch that can measure blood oxygen level and body temperature, which are directly linked to the early symptoms of CoViD-19 infection. The device would be constantly monitoring these factors and could warn individuals about their health conditions. A GPS tracker embedded within the device could give information about where the person has gone in case of the infection and warn other individuals who might have come in contact with the person based on the location. This could save millions from possible infections and could be life-saving. While we already have sufficient technology for this, how it’s going to be used is in our own hands.
While talking about the implications might be easy, there is a greater number of constraints at play. IoT might seem like an easy catch to ‘save the world’ but it’s not. With billions of IoT devices, comes a huge amount of data and all of it is not useful to get conclusive. Privacy is one of the major roadblocks when it comes to the development of the IoT sector. As devices are ultimately connected to the internet, personal data become more vulnerable to thefts and it has become more of a challenge for security researchers to secure them. Plus let’s face it, everyone wearing an IoT device doesn’t seem like a perfect solution.
As computational power has increased at an unprecedented rate and the cost of technology has decreased by many folds in the later years, we can stay optimistic that most of the above-mentioned limitations can be overcome in near future. While there are many limitations, the implications of the IoT are huge and could positively change the way we live, could change the healthcare system for the better, and could change the direction of human civilization towards sustainability.