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The Internet of Things (IoT) Explained

A smart watch on someone's wrist

September 8, 2023

Ever heard of smart toasters or fitness collars for dogs? These are a couple of the myriad items that can now be connected to the web as part of the phenomenon that is the Internet of Things (IoT). But connected machines and other objects in factories could bring about a new industrial revolution as the IoT is becoming the norm for many new businesses.

Here’s all you need to know about this interconnected world.

What is the IoT?

Broadly speaking, the IoT includes everything that connects to the internet. But the term is becoming more commonly associated with objects that communicate with one another. The Internet of Things is composed of devices connected together. These can be smartphones, wearables or simple things like sensors.

These connected devices can be combined with automated systems. This enables the gathering and analysis of data in order to create actions that could facilitate learning or help individuals with tasks. In real terms, this is already amounting to things like smart mirrors, shop beacons and more.

The IoT brings together devices and provides optimised experiences through data and networking. It enables devices on closed private internet connections to communicate with one another. These devices can communicate within close silos and also across different types of networks to make the world far more interconnected.

What are the benefits of shared data between connected devices?

Just because a device can be connected to the internet, does it follow that it should be? Well, all devices collect data for specific purposes, and these could all be useful to individual buyers and the wider economy.

In an industrial application, sensors on product lines can be used to boost efficiency and reduce waste. A large percentage of manufacturers are already leveraging data from smart sensors to optimise their setups. For instance, many concrete firms use sensors that can be inserted into concrete to analyse the material’s condition as a means of quality control.

With the IoT, we can access new opportunities for efficiency in order to:

  • Save time.
  • Cut costs.
  • Reduce emissions.

Companies, governments and public authorities are gaining the ability to re-think the ways they deliver their services and produce their goods.

The IoT provides an unprecedented scope and quality of data. This facilitates more contextualised and responsive interactions with devices, which creates real potential for change that goes beyond what can be done via a screen.

Advancing Efficiency

IoT devices can automate and optimise processes, leading to huge improvements in efficiency and productivity. IoT sensors can monitor performance across different types of equipment and detect potential issues before they arise, improving uptime and reducing maintenance costs.

Informed Decision-making

The vast amounts of data captured by IoT devices can be harnessed to make data-driven decisions and form new business models. The analysis of this data provides unique insights into things like:

  • Operational performance.
  • Customer behaviour.
  • Market trends.

With this information, businesses can make informed decisions about strategies, allocation of resources and product development.

Saving Money

With fewer manual processes and the automation of repetitive tasks, IoT-enabled businesses cut costs and access greater profitability. One example would be to use IoT devices to monitor energy usage in order to optimise consumption, thus reducing energy costs and improving sustainability.

Improving Customer Experience

IoT technology is excellent for gathering data about customer behaviour. This enables businesses to create more personalised and engaging experiences for their customers. For example, using IoT sensors in stores enables retailers to track the movement of customers within the space so they can offer personalised offers based on individual behaviour.

What are the technologies behind the IoT?

There are several technologies that make the IoT possible. Here are some of the most important ones.

  • Sensors and Actuators: These devices check environmental changes like light or temperature, then cause physical changes in response to them. Placed at the heart of the IoT, they can enable machines to interact with their surroundings, resolving many issues without the need for human intervention.
  • Connectivity: Data is transmitted from IoT sensors to actuators via internet connectivity. This can include things like Wi-Fi, BlueTooth, mobile data, LoRaWAN and Zigbee.
  • The Cloud: The vast amounts of data collected by IoT devices are stored, processed and analysed in the cloud. Cloud computing platforms are the infrastructure these processes require, supplying tools to analyse data and deploy IoT applications.
  • Big Data Analytics: IoT devices collect vast amounts of data, and advanced analytics tools and platforms are required to make sense of it. These technologies extract insights and spot patterns, and can include data visualisation tools, machine learning algorithms and predictive analytics.
  • Security Technologies: The increasing prominence of IoT deployments means IoT security and privacy are paramount. Technologies like access controls, encryption and intrusion detection are all harnessed to protect the data collected by IoT devices.

Are there any risks associated with IoT?

There are many benefits associated with IoT. But it is not without its risks:

  • Security and Privacy: The increasing prominence of IoT devices means greater vulnerability to hackers, so close attention must be paid to privacy and data protection.
  • Data Overload: The vast amounts of data collected by IoT devices can overwhelm anyone that isn’t prepared for it. Analysis must be used to get meaningful insights, and this can be challenging.
  • Cost and Complexity: It can be expensive to implement IoT systems, and their management and maintenance can also be a challenge.
  • Regulatory Challenges: IoT devices are becoming increasingly widespread, leading to the emergence of regulatory and legal challenges. There are various compliance issues that vary from country to country, so it is important to stay on top of this.

Final Thoughts

The future of IoT is an exciting one. There are many new developments and innovations coming, and it looks certain that these devices are here to stay for businesses. Though management can be challenging, IoT offers an abundance of opportunity to gain a competitive edge.

With the appropriate planning and strategy, and the right tools to monitor and maintain devices whilst gathering and analysing data, you can build an ecosystem that leverages the power of IoT.

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