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The promise of IoT – Part I

The promise of IoT – Part I

Summary

The Internet of Things (IoT) is getting a lot of publicity. Projections today have it growing to several $Trillion in the next five years. In this series of articles, I will share my experience with IoT so far, trying not to violate any of the NDAs that I have signed. It is my intention to drag this discussion as long as I am able too, since the so called IoT revolution is just getting started.

What is it?

Great question. It is different things to different people. Just do an internet search and you will find various technology evangelists trying to shed some light (from their end of the room: big data, sensors, gateways, machine learning, etc.).
Wikipedia defines IoT as: “the network of physical objects — devices, vehicles, buildings and other items — embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity that enables these objects to collect and exchange data.”
Not too different from many others, this definition seems to leave out the Internet. Wasn’t it the Internet of Things that we were talking about?
There are some debates, often from old school techies like myself, that a lot of what is being touted as IoT has already been done. Based on this definition, I have to agree. We have already implemented lots of “networks of physical objects — devices,” for example, in industrial, utilities and transportation domains. But the fact that is that now we are enabled to do so with internet technology: managed data centers, cloud-based big data storage, inexpensive and pervasive wireless connectivity infrastructure, low cost ubiquitous devices, etc.
So a more complete definition must include “enabled by the infrastructure and technology of the Internet.”
Some say “it is a solution looking for a problem.” Technology is just a tool. In reality, it is what we do with that tool is what benefits the world and drives progress. So IoT is not just about devices or Internet Technology. It is about both being leveraged to solve real problems.
So, stop asking: “what are some cool IoT projects which we can try?” Think hard about what our planet and its citizens need and how can that be enabled by IoT. After all, IoT is is just another readily accessible technology. Which brings me to the final part of my complete definition for IoT: “… that is readily accessible via open source sharing”.

The first IoT Device

Using my extended definition of IoT, I argue that the Smart Phone is the first real IoT device. It has enabled data to be “piped” to the internet for valid purposes like:

  • Location Intelligence (locating places, navigation, etc.)
  • Fitness tracking (as an interface to various monitor devices, etc.)
  • Health monitoring (calorie counting, heart rate monitors, etc.)

In this sense, the Smart Phone has been a “gateway” with an almost permanent Internet connection via Cell networks or Wi-Fi. There are still opportunities to develop sensors that can be plugged into this “gateway,” provided that they do not drain the battery of the phone or are too big to carry around or wear.

Why is IoT important?

It is important because it is an empowering technology that can be used for many purposes. We need to really look at the needs of the world and focus on delivering IoT solutions that make ours a better planet. I am not only talking about only social and environmental advances but also those that will make us a more productive society.
So what is the killer IoT app? In the next of this Series of Articles we will examine some applications of IoT to which I have been exposed in hopes that they will stimulate creativity as well as provide a “reality check” where due.
Read also our article on the components of IoT.
 


Mario Brenes, CTOAbout Mario

As the CTO of IT Vizion, Mario Brenes leads the development of all new software products. Prior to IT Vizion, he was the Director of Technical Services of IndX (a software startup) and was part of the management team during the company’s acquisition by Siemens in 2003.
With his 25+ years of experience in industrial IT and automation, Mario continues to be a relentless innovator, focusing on developing products that provide a balance between new technologies and business values.
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