Mohammad Baker Ahmed Almousawi
2 Nov, 2020
What is the Internet of Things?
The IoT encompasses the billions of physical devices that are connected to the internet. The aim is to connect and integrate digital devices with everyday human culture, while amassing and sharing data. Adding digital intelligence to devices that have no sense of digitalism, enables them to completely function without a human being. The formation of these ideas allows everyday objects to become smarter and more responsive using sensors to increase their digital intelligence.
Although the Internet of Things is a new development, the concept or visions of highly responsive machines has been around since the early 1800’s – with the first landline being developed before the mid 19th century and then the first radio voice transmission on June 3rd 1900. One of the first examples of IoT was when programmers, before making their way, would connect to the Coca Cola machine by internet to see if there were any drinks available and if the drink would be cold. Although progress was slow, technology such as GPS and our modern internet surfaced and became a reality. In the last few years the growth of IoT has been unimaginable as more than 26 billion IoT devices have been operating which showcases the speed in which technology is moving.
An IoT system integrates sensors, connectivity, data processing and a user interface.
Sensors (or devices) are the objects that gather information from their environment. This can be as simple as smoke sensing or as complex as converting optical images into electronic signals. Connectivity involves transmitting that data to a cloud through methods such as: LPWAN, WiFi, Bluetooth or using an Ethernet. Your choice of which connectivity option is best, depends on which IoT application you are using. But they all complete the same goal of transmitting data to the cloud. After the required information is sent to the cloud, data processing occurs. Data processing includes matters such as checking there’s no smoke in the environment or the temperature reading is as it should be. Lastly, the user gets involved. The information is made available to the user in ways such as emails or a smart phone notification which enables the user to know if the temperature has increased over the range. The user may have a system to allow them to check on things when they desire or various actions may be carried out automatically, rather than you having to do it yourself. Which increases ease in day-to-day life and encourages devices and systems operating without human interference.
How does IoT affect the different industries?
The Industrial Internet of Things enhances industrial processes by using smart sensors and actuators. They use smart machines to aid the analysis of data in real time to communicate information that could increase accurate business decisions. It’s used to connect machines and devices in the manufacturing, utilities and oil and gas industries to enhance efficiency and drastically improve health or safety, as system failures and downtime in IIoT deployments result in life threatening situations.
Within the Public Sector, wearable devices could improve first responder’s response times during emergencies by tracking firefighters for vital signs at dangerous sites. The European Telecommunications Standards Institute has examined other ways in which IoT devices can be used in emergency situations, an example is making emergency responses more efficient by allowing an IoT device to detect emergency situations and then inform a system to deal with the situation.
The Internet of Things has had a huge influence on the healthcare industry, not only has it made care accessible to all but granted the healthcare professional’s ease at their job. If we date back to healthcare before the implementation of IoT, patient and doctor interactions were limited to physical visits. Doctors couldn’t constantly monitor their patients’ health which resulted in a lack of immediate treatments. However, the application of IoT in the healthcare space has made a drastic difference to it, as the innovative equipment and tools has allowed treatments to be more efficient and lead to a massive reduction in care costs.
A few of the resourceful ideas that the application of IoT has led to includes wearable devices, smart pills, computer vision technology, moodles and hearables. Wearable smart devices have become increasingly popular throughout the last couple of years, they’ve allowed us to track health insights and then improve the data. Alongside this, hearables have completely made a difference to those who suffer from hearing loss and impacted the way they intermingle with the world around them. Furthermore, smart pills are digestible sensors that allow the monitoring of medication in our bodies, and is beneficial used for those with diabetes to sense irregularities and avoid symptoms. As well as the rise of Artificial Intelligence aligned with computer vision technology supporting the development of tech that will aid the visually impaired.
The necessity to store and analyse raw files of data has dwindled by incorporating IoT in the data assortment and analysis part of the work system; it has made a tedious and tough task possible to complete in a much shorter time. The devices used can offer data-driven insights and valuable healthcare analytics which aid in decision making, and are less susceptible to making mistakes.
In agriculture, IoT based smart farming systems can help monitor light, temperature, humidity and soil moisture of crop fields with connected sensors which increases the efficiency of your business because of these automated processes. Better control of the production processes means the volume and quality of what is produced is boosted as it will show you any faults in the health and growth of your farm and allow you to avoid any risks of losing yield, thus these aspects will lead to a higher revenue.
What are the benefits of the Internet of Things for business?
The fast increase in the development of technology for IoT has made it accessible for businesses to enhance their production. An advantage is gained in areas such as time, money, employee productivity, business decisions and improving customer experience.
- Increases revenue/reduces costs
Increasing revenue opportunities is the desire of every business. Implementing IoT in your offices or including it in your business system enables you to benefit from powerful solutions. As well as earning money, it provides you with the opportunity to save. By incorporating it in your operating system, you begin to reduce costs. For example, within manufacturing industries they use devices such as monitor equipment to predict failures on the production line. Costs on energy are also saved as smart buildings or offices are used to monitor and control electricity usage.
- Improves customer service
Great customer service impacts your sales, customer loyalty and enhances your public image. Technologies such as smart trackers that allow customers to track their products or use mobile card readers to process transactions faster can improve customer satisfaction. High customer service may also lead your services or products to be recommended to many others.
- Enhances employee productivity
Enhancing employee productivity is important for the growth of your business. IoT in the workplace could mean aiding your management department by letting them know of any disruptions and permitting remote troubleshooting to take place. Simple tasks such as boiling water for coffee, setting timers on kitchen appliances and setting thermostats can be automated. In addition, making it part of your production process to track and manage raw materials and parts.
- Assists you in strategic businesses decisions
Analysing data to make strategic decisions is a huge part of most businesses as it allows management teams to find critical questions that need answering. Making better decisions can be done using IoT to handle overwhelming amounts of data and eliminates any bias which in turn helps you in the decision-making process – this may also give you new insights and create stronger bonds with consumers.
What are the benefits of Internet of Things for consumers?
Consumers utilizing and including IoT within their homes or everyday tasks has been more popular throughout the last few years. The benefits of have led to making our lives more convenient and improving efficiency, predictability and making homes smarter.
With appliances and devices becoming smarter it means the development of smart home solutions are in high demand. A few current examples include, security devices monitoring your home so whether you are entering or exiting homes it knows to turn lights on and off. Google home and Amazon echo are connected voice controllers giving you information, the latest news, what the weather is like that day, add tasks to a to-do list and can place your takeout order on command – making it easy to get food delivered to your door.
Another benefit of making your home ‘smarter’ is the reduction in energy use. Automating your electrical appliances means it won’t turn on when you’re not using it and relies on sensors so it knows when someone is in the room. This makes your home much more efficient, with less energy wasted.
With the rise of technology, security has become a massive issue to tackle. However, the introduction of devices such as Nest which allows you to monitor your home wherever you are. This dissolves the issue of a possible intruder targeting your home as the camera becomes a deterrent but allows you to act fast if an issue arises.
The Internet of Things and Big Data
Big data is used to describe the combination of data collected by organisations for use in analytics applications and projects for machine learning. The collection of data includes structured, unstructured data to gain insights into trends. With a large amount of data being generated through IoT by the collection of connected sensors and devices where they all stream to one place of enormous data, the role of big data in IoT has become more imperative.
Big data analysis has been used by businesses or other organisations to aid them with the decision-making process. It’s assisted to uncover trends, patterns, correlations and predict behaviour – allowing corporations to be more informed and work with data sets that are in high demand. The incorporation of AI and Machine Learning to support data analysis means streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon can recommend titles for you to watch based on previous movies or TV series you’ve viewed.
To help people understand big data better, data scientists use five V’s to sift through and organise large data.
Volume refers to the enormous amount of data collected through sensors, online transactions, social medium and other mediums. An estimated 44 zettabytes of big data will be accumulated by 2020. Because all of this is too large for traditional computing systems to handle which means multiple servers or clouds are required to store it.
Velocity refers to how fast data is entering servers. Currently, 2.5 quintillion bytes per day which is more than our mind can even process. With 188 million emails sent per minute and 5 billion Google searches per day, this means accumulation of data and the amount that is generated is occurring at high speeds.
Variety refers to the wide range of types data can come in. For example, structured, semi-structured and unstructured data. These can be social media posts, log files or x-ray images.
Veracity refers to the accuracy and trustworthiness of data. The aim is to acquire data that if analysed will prove beneficial. Poor data quality is said to cost the U.S $3.1 trillion per year which proves how important veracity is. Processing data to eliminate bias and duplication also ensures poor quality is avoided.
Value refers to the ability to convert all this data into business and find ways it can be beneficial, useful and valuable. Implementing infrastructure systems to store big data is costly and businesses need this to return a lump sum of profit.
By using big data and IoT together, predictive analytics can consider a machines performance and service alerts which is used to build the library of data required to anticipate upcoming problems. Companies can then be proactive about servicing their equipment to ensure spare parts or service personnel are always available before anything breaks down.
Both emphasise converting data into valuable resources whether that means generating revenue or into insights to act upon. One of the largest shipping company in the world, UPS, have actively used big data analytics and data sensors to improve efficiency, save money and reduce impacts on the environment. They use sensors on their delivery vehicles to monitor speed, mileage and engine health. Similarly, in Barcelona, they can pay for parking on their phone as their city offers smart parking meters which operate on Wi-Fi available throughout the city. This allows them to gain real-time updates on any parking spaces available and where they can park. There’s also smart bus stops to provide passengers updates on touch screen panels and city-wide sensor network to inform them about the air quality, noise level and traffic.
The progress of developing both IoT and big data has created ease and comfort for many people. However, with the lack of importance placed on security it raises serious concerns.
What about Internet of Things security?
Producing computing devices to connect to the internet gives leeway for severe vulnerabilities if not well protected. IoT devices give little importance to security basics such as strong passwords and encryption when transferring data, because of this it leaves data to be intercepted and devices easily hacked. Many IoT devices cannot offer advanced security features due to them being resource constrained and therefore unable to compute the necessary resources to implement strong security – so, they are permanently at risk. For example, routers and webcams lack inherent security and makes them easy to compromise. Additionally, smart home appliances such as fridges, dishwashers and ovens have been open to hackers because of undetected flaws and this may allow criminals to hack power plants or other physical sites to aid them with physical crimes.
Connected devices frequently requires users to input personal information such as names, age, addresses and phone numbers (sometimes social media) which is indispensable information to hackers. Although hackers are a major threat, privacy is also an area of concern for users. Companies who make these IoT devices tend to sell the personal information they have of users.
Product designers and manufacturers place more importance in the design of the product; aiming to get it out on to the market as soon as possible means companies are negligent in placing an importance on security. Building security from the start can be costly and may slow down development for some but the consequences of a data breach can be even costlier.
Security researchers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek conducted a wireless hack on a Jeep in 2015. They turned its windshield wipers and air conditioning on and changed the radio station on the cars media centre as well as preventing the accelerator from working. They could do this by infiltrating the cars network though Chrysler’s in vehicle connectivity system Uconnect.
How can you protect yourself from the security flaws?
To thoroughly guard yourself from security issues it is important to be well versed about the possible dangers and the preventative measures you can take to ensure you are well protected. Necessary measures include regularly updating your devices, routinely changing your password and connecting to Wi-Fi that has a secure network or taking more proactive steps by creating guest networks, incorporating network and hardware security in your devices.
The harsh warning against using unsecure network (public Wi-Fi) is because any valuable information you may have accessed using this network such as logging to your online bank account, checking your email or any other personal information is the same way as handing it over to a hacker yourself. Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is your best solution for this. A VPN grants you safety and allows you to create a secure connection to a public network. Albeit pricey, the added security for your IoT device is worthwhile.
Introducing network security can form a strong barrier from possible hacking and can be a way to safeguard your personal information. This can include using anti-malware, anti-virus and guaranteeing system software’s are up-to date. Likewise, incorporating hardware security on your devices such as making them tamper proof detects and deters unauthorised access. Adopting such measures allows you to avoid complications before they occur.
Continuously updating the software on each one of your devices, once a system update is released, is crucial. Often, they include bug fixes but they also contain critical patches, that could’ve been exploitable entry points, to secure pre-existing holes and a way to protect your data. Most importantly it’s an approach to keep you safe from criminals as outdated software is vulnerable. Equally, changing your passwords lessens the risk of exposing your sensitive data – it’s recommended to do so every 3-4 months and create a unique one for each of your separate accounts. In doing so, you limit breaches to more than one account and prevent hackers gaining access to your personal data more than once.
Some might think setting up a guest network is excessive. A guest network is a feature on wireless routers which allows people to set up a secondary network for external users. This allows the homeowners to control the information others users have access to when they connect to the network, which is important if you feel wary about other devices connecting to the main Wi-Fi network. People also set it up for their IoT devices so that if one network is hacked the devices connected to that specific one will be affected by the breach.
What does the future hold for IoT?
By 2025, IDC has estimated IoT devices will generate 79.4 zettabytes of data and will have an annual growth of 28.7% from 2020 to 2025 – all because of the billions of devices set to be connected to the internet.
The future for IoT seems vast, with the prediction of having billions of IoT devices, cities becoming smarter, the integration Artificial Intelligence in every instance and the large investments that are put forth to bring their ideas to life. Industries such as healthcare, agriculture, manufacturing and the development of smart devices in general all making use of IoT, it seems we are all heading into a future filled with many possibilities.
However, with security as an ongoing issue and the lack of investment in security it seems major mishaps will occur within the future. Without set standards or government intervention the security of IoT is questionable.
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