The term internet of things (IoT) has been around since 1999, but technology has only recently advanced enough to actually make it a reality. IoT is the network of devices that communicate with each other through wireless connections. Sensors in each device gather information on their surroundings and automatically send data to other machines or storage hubs. This is a revolutionary technological advancement, since until now it was necessary for a person to input data into a machine. Inanimate objects can now interact with their environments and with each other to solve problems, which stands to profoundly impact our lives. To get a sense of what this impact may look like, here are three basic things to know about IoT:
1. IoT Links the Digital and Physical Worlds
IoT offers unprecedented new ways to interact with the world, since it builds digital connections between physical objects. Think about having a remote control that could interact with something that’s very far away, like locking your front door through an app on your smartphone while you’re on vacation. Or imagine scanning a physical object with your phone to learn about its production and use. In both examples, the physical world is accessible through digital interaction. IoT is creating a digital nervous system, giving us a new way to interact with our surroundings.
2. IoT Will Change the Way We Do Business
Sensors are becoming cheaper to produce, making it easier to embed them in different kinds of devices. The added information that sensors gather significantly increases our ability to analyze our surroundings and make decisions, especially in business. For example, each station in a production line could have its own sensors that monitor output and communicate with each other to optimize efficiency. The sensors could immediately react to any mechanical problems, alerting maintenance and pinpointing the location of the problem. This automated data gathering and sharing will help improve efficiency across all industries, helping decision-makers make more informed choices.
3. IoT has Risks
Any time information is shared, there are concerns about privacy and security. This is particularly important with IoT because of the vast amounts of information that it collects. While some data may be innocuous, like what room temperature someone prefers, devices could also store sensitive information about doctor visits and prescriptions. There’s also the added risk of hackers being able to directly access and control devices, such as locks, cameras, and cars. Encryption is critical to minimizing these risks, and will play an important role in determining the speed of IoT adoption.
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