The Internet of Things solutions are among the most prominent tech trends to have come up over the last few years. IoT is defined as a network of physical objects that are connected to the internet. It involves objects (like TV, security camera, and more) that are equipped with sensors, software and other technologies, which enable them to collect and share data with other systems and devices. These "things" communicate in real-time over the internet.

While ‘Internet of Things’ might seem an unfamiliar term, you might perceive this ecosystem better as ‘connected homes’ or ‘smart homes’ that include various IoT devices making your life more manageable.

You can also find IoT devices outside the home. They can range from a Wi-Fi camera on the bookshelf to a medical implant into your body, like a pacemaker. As long as the devices can connect to the internet and have sensors that transfer data, they are IoT devices.

How does IoT work?

IoT devices are our eyes and ears when we can’t physically be there. Armed with sensors, they collect the insights that we may hear, see, or sense. They then share that information as instructed, and businesses examine it to help them make critically sound actions or decisions subsequently.

The entire process includes four main phases:

  • Capture the data: IoT devices contain mini-computer processors and sensors that collect data via machine learning (ML). This can be as complicated as a real-time video feed or as simple as the humidity or temperature.
  • Share the data: With available network connections, IoT devices make this data accessible through a private or public cloud accordingly.
  • Process the data: At this stage, the software is configured to do anything as per that data – like send an alert or turn on the lights.
  • Act on the data: The collected data from all the devices within an IoT ecosystem is assessed, delivering powerful insights to help take informed actions and business decisions.

Technologies that have made IoT a reality

While the concept of IoT has been around for years, a stack of recent tech advances has made it possible and accessible. 

  • Sensor technologies: With the gradual rise in demand for IoT sensor innovation, the industry went from a couple of pricey, niche providers to a highly globalized and price-competitive sensor manufacturing market. Throughout the past two decades, the average size, weight, and cost of IoT sensors have slumped significantly, fueled by a demand-driven surge in better diversity and functionality of these products.
  • Connectivity: As per the IDC report, by 2025, IoT devices will produce 73.1 ZB worth of data, up from 18.3 ZB in 2019. This tremendous growth in IoT data volume could only have happened with adequately solid internet connectivity to transfer and receive it. At present, several IoT devices rely on a local Wi-Fi network to send voluminous and complicated data. But with the advancement of 5G and other cellular networks, experts outline the subsequent impact and how it may unshackle IoT connected devices from Wi-Fi networks.
  • Cloud computing: Like connectivity, the emergence of cloud computing has also been actively engaged in the evolution of IoT solutions. With the capability to provide high-volume storage and processing power on demand, cloud IoT services have set the stage for IoT devices to collect and transfer increasingly large and complex data sets. Also, private cloud models have enabled businesses to handle more significant amounts and types of IoT data while maintaining the defence of a closed system.
  • Machine learning and analytics: The advances in ML and analytics, coupled with the access to diverse and extensive data amounts stored in the cloud, have helped businesses collect data quicker and more efficiently. The rise of these connected technologies continues to extend the limits of IoT, and the data it generates also feeds these technologies.
  • Conversational artificial intelligence (AI): Advancements in neural networks have brought natural language processing (NLP) to IoT devices (like virtual assistants - Cortana, Alexa, and Siri) and made them affordable, attractive, and feasible for domestic usage.

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

Industrial IoT (IIoT) is the usage of connected devices, machines, and sensors in industrial settings. When operated by a modern enterprise resource planning (ERP) with AI and ML capabilities, industries can analyze the data generated by IIoT devices and leverage it to boost efficiency, transparency, and so on.

IIoT networks generally support machine-to-machine (M2M) communication and transmitting data. Also, IIoT-connected devices regularly receive automation configuration from the central hub.

Industrial Internet of Things is sometimes known as the fourth stream of the industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0. Some common uses for IIoT include:

  • Smart power grids
  • Smart manufacturing
  • Smart cities
  • Connected assets and preventive and predictive maintenance
  • Smart digital supply chains
  • Connected logistics

The future is ‘connected’

With the end of a turbulent 2020 and the beginning of 2021, connected devices will continue to shape several industries. Businesses are optimistic that IoT will play a critical role in their future success.

Also read: The future is data: how can IoT help?

Developments in IoT are pushing people beyond than ever imagined. So, even though the pandemic and equipment shortfalls might hinder progress for the moment, businesses need to invest in emerging technologies to tussle swarms of big competitors in the long run. Further, 2021 promises to be yet another year of disturbances and ambiguity around the globe. And IoT services will surely provide effective solutions to deal with numerous challenges and complexities faced by people doing hard labour.

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