What is IoT?

Rob Borley
by
on 29 April 2015

For many years geeks and technologists have been talking about IoT – the fabled Internet of Things. However the release of consumer-focused devices, like the Nest thermostat and the new Apple Watch has forced the concept of IoT out into the open. So much so that even the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, has been talking about it in his most recent budget.

So what is IoT really?

The Internet of Things is used to describe any “smart” device that stores and processes data and which is Internet-connected. Using sensors and monitors, IoT devices collect and report on contextual data, providing an instant insight into systems and situations without manual intervention.

It is this lack of manual intervention that makes the Internet of Things so important. Remote control of connected devices has been possible for many years already – think CCTV cameras or even a Sky+ recorder and accompanying smartphone app – but the volume of available devices coupled with new and innovative applications is seeing IoT move quickly from niche to mainstream.

Often IoT devices are hooked directly into Cloud services, speeding deployment and reducing the administrative burden required to manage them. In this context IoT can be regarded as a hands-off extension of the mobile/BYOD revolution.

IoT devices are also increasingly geospatially aware, tracking and broadcasting physical positioning for instance. This development sees the Internet progress from being a general information repository of data manually managed by people, enhanced with another layer of information gathered automatically – location.

But more than just sensors, IoT devices also offer remote control and “learning” capabilities. The Nest thermostat is one simple example, a control unit that increases or decreases temperature within a building according to a schedule. The thermostat can also be controlled remotely using a smartphone app, allowing owners to change the temperature before they arrive home from work. Between the thermostat device, the smartphone app and the supporting Cloud service, Nest also “learns” the habits and preferences of the owner, becoming more autonomous the longer the device remains in place.

IoT and business

The intelligent sensors and monitors have a range of practical applications for business too. From PoS terminals in high street stores to assembly line equipment in factories to medical implants, the IoT offers businesses (and consumers) a cost effective way to gain a 360º of virtually any process or system using relatively low cost hardware and Internet services.

In the age of Big Data, the ability to add context to sensor data will be invaluable, adding further value to captured information. Factor in a degree of autonomy and the IoT will assist with many common business operations, creating tiny new efficiencies that add up to a far greater whole.

The true business value of IoT lies in the near future when devices gain a degree of autonomy. Sensors and systems capable of making intelligent decisions will help to streamline internal processes, creating new efficiencies and cutting costs in the process.

At Dootrix we are IoT development specialists. Get in touch and we can discuss the opportunities in your business.

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