An installed base of 212 billion connected „things“ and an overall economic benefit of $8.9 trillion by 2020 are impressive numbers behind the hype of the „Internet of Things“, or short just IoT. According to IDC, the „Internet of Things“ will change everything and be “a new construct in the information and communications technology world.” With an estimated compound annual growth rate of 7.9 percent, the “Internet of Things” could be the future motor for the currently stalling worldwide economy.
For becoming more than hype, the “Internet of Things” needs applications and the appropriate infrastructure that is not yet developed and installed. Many more technologies will influence future markets and will interact with each other. Gartner provided in 2012 a study about the “Hype Cycle of Emerging Technologies”, shown in the picture below.
As one can see, there are many interacting and IoT supporting technologies at the horizon, which together will create (perhaps) the big market for the “Internet of Things”. Just to name a few of the upcoming technologies:
- Augmented Reality
- Mobile Robots
- Autonomous Vehicles
- Big Data
- Hybrid Cloud Computing
- Wireless Power
- Machine to Machine Communicating Services
- … and many more
All together we will face a phenomenon that Mark Weiser, the “Father of Ubiquitous Computing”, described as follows:
A new way of thinking about computers in the world, one that takes into account the natural human environment where computers would vanish into the background, weaving, themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.
But what exactly is the “Internet of Things”? How could the anatomy of the “Internet of Things” look like? Well, IoT (and the technologies behind) will differ fundamentally from classic Human-to-Human data exchange we already know from the Internet, Social Media and so on. Often IoT is called the Machine-to-Machine communication (M2M) or the Internet of Objects (IoO) and brings a magnitude more nodes with typically lower band-width and upload-biased traffic. Many M2M applications will need to deliver and process information in real time, or near-real-time, and many nodes will have to be extremely low-power or self-powered (eg. solar powered) devices.
Charles McLellan describes the anatomy of the “Internet of Things” as follows:
- Things: The ‘things’ in the IoT, or the ‘machines’ in M2M, are physical entities whose identity, state (or the state of whose surroundings) is capable of being relayed to an internet-connected IT infrastructure.
- Sensors: These are the components of ‘things’ that gather and/or disseminate data — be it on location, altitude, velocity, temperature, illumination, motion, power, humidity, blood sugar, air quality, soil moisture… you name it.
- Comms (local-area): All IoT sensors require some means of relaying data to the outside world. There’s a plethora of short-range, or local area, wireless technologies available, including: RFID, NFC, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (including Bluetooth Low Energy), XBee, Zigbee, Z-Wave and Wireless M-Bus.
- Comms (wide-area): For long range, or wide-area, links there are existing mobile networks (using GSM, GPRS, 3G, LTE or WiMAX for example) and satellite connections.
- Server (on premises): Some types of M2M installation, such as a smart home or office, will use a local server to collect and analyse data — both in real time and episodically — from assets on the local area network.
- Local scanning device: ‘Things’ with short-range sensors will often be located in a restricted area but not permanently connected to a local area network (RFID-tagged livestock on a farm, or credit-card-toting shoppers in a mall, for example).
- Storage & Analytics: Hybrid Cloud Computing and Big Data for an incredible amount of data.
- User-facing services: Subsets of the data and analyses from the IoT will be available to users or subscribers.
A visual impression of all the stuff described so far provides the video clip by IBM below:
Coming back to the initial question if the “Internet of Things” will be a revolution or just a smooth transformation, the statement will be: this depends on the individual perspective and the time frame. Industrial revolutions take their time. There are typical waves of 30 years and more until new technologies are established (and accepted by the users). The IoT revolution already has started and will culminate to standard in approximately 12 to 15 years. The picture (*) below shows how the “Internet of Things” raises between all the “traditional” technologies like Personal Computers, Laptops, Smartphones and the “new” technologies like Smart TV’s and Wearables (e.g. iWatch). In 2018 almost 50% of all connected devices will be “objects” – the “Internet of Things” (numbers in 1000 devices/things, numbers for 2013-2018 estimated).
(*) Data by Gartner and others