The Internet of Things promises nothing less than automated accuracy in a million things we currently do manually; and it is steadily evolving. The idea is simple while the consequences are hard to conceive to the full extent: if “things” (devices) are being equipped with sensors, tiny computers and communication capabilities, they are able to exchange and evaluate data and provide us with a new basis of decision making.
The information everyday items give us and the actions they take for us are limited only by our imagination. Potential future examples range from coffee cups that communicate when they are empty, summoning waiters to deliver a refill to traffic systems that analyse all movements of vehicles throughout the city in real time, triggers redirections if needed and guarantees a smooth flow of traffic.
Connect & Share
While the Internet of Things has been brewing for many years (the concept of an automated home was popular in the 1990s but so far has not quite materialised), it has become a reality with the emergence and convergence of several technologies, including low cost sensors, rising network capacities, machine-to-machine communication (M2M) and cloud-based services.
The concept of connected things can be compared to a smartphone, with its biometric, motion, sound, location and other sensors. As a matter of principle, smartphones are able to recognise conditions such as your current location and offer you individual services accordingly.
The main difference to other connected devices in the emerging Internet of Things will be that we won’t recognise them as being communication devices by all means. As more and more things around us get connected, the world itself will act as our interface.
Consider wearable technology. We already have Google Glass (currently being field-tested in the US) and the Apple iWatch is expected imminently. Devices like that foster the development of augmented realities and increasingly merge virtual and physical worlds. But they also promise great potential in areas such as healthcare. Wearable devices could monitor our heart rates and recommend more exercise or a visit to a doctor – or indeed, summon a doctor in the case of an emergency.
And just as sensors can monitor vital signs, they can also monitor machine conditions. Embedded systems will monitor themselves, run their own health checks automatically and continuously, and call out maintenance engineers to fix potential problems before they become machine failures.
The EU has already mandated that by 2015 all new motor vehicles shall be fitted with an eCall system and able to automatically summon assistance from, and report details to, the nearest emergency centre in the event of an accident. This same technology could be expanded to include motor vehicle predictive maintenance.
Cooperating For A Successful M2M Eco-System
Organisations are already working together to advance the Internet of Things. The M2M Alliance brings together companies such as Telit and Intel to advance the international M2M ecosystem by developing more uniform standards among other things. M2M marketplaces also bring together software developers and hardware manufacturers of all sizes. Companies can offer their applications and services for M2M and the Internet of Things to millions of customers worldwide.