Not long ago, there was a very good joke doing rounds in all the social media, especially Whatsapp where a customer is given a jolt of his life for no wrong of his, but just placing an order for pizza. For the benefit of those who haven’t had the fun, it is about a customer who calls up to place his order for pizza but thanks to the interconnection of the various sources of data, the person who is at the other end supposedly taking orders, provides all details of the customer so precisely and customizes the order in accordance to the health, wealth and taste of the customer, that he is left dumbfound. Welcome to the world of internet of things….! I presume it is this concept that led to that joke which became wildly popular as it is reflecting the current or the near future era of computer science aka Information Technology.
To define internet of things, it can be said as simple as “machine to machine communication” built on cloud computing and connects to form a network of data gathering sensors. There is instant connection between all those gadgets and it is mobile and virtual. Making every aspect of human life smart is the aspiration of internet of things.
To make it clearer, let us make no mistake in saying machines as getting connected physically, it is actually the sensors attached to the machines which collect data, process them and provide intelligence. All data thus collected is used to leverage it make fruitful decisions to support mankind. The infrastructure required for such a huge collection of data is made possible by cloud computing.
Key usage examples of IoT:
Human Body: Key usage of IoT to make it closer to heart of any human is the amount of assistance that can be gained by the sensors and connectivity. There are specific smart phone applications with distinctive names to identify them and their usage. A few examples of their usage scenarios are provided below:
- To check status on a baby: This is aimed at providing real time information of the baby to the parents on the baby. Parents can check if it is breathing normally, the skin temperature, its body positions and activity levels on their smart phones.
- Reminders to take medicines: There are applications which have been designed to remind patients to take the medicines and help them follow the medical regimen strictly. They remind the users to place orders for refilling the medicines and also fix up appointments with the respective doctors.
- Bodily activities: The smartphones now a days are used to track the level of activities. The various sensors viz. Accelerometer, Gyrometer, Video, Proximity sensors, compass and GPS etc and connectivity options viz. cell, wifi, Bluetooth etc., the users can be updated about their movements automatically along with their location and the workouts done to tone their body.
Home: Users in future can monitor their home from their smartphones remotely. It can enable saving bills and cut down on resource usage.
- Temperature controls: In countries where there is vagaries of temperature depending on the climate, the optimum temperature can be set even while the user is away from home but enabled to easy transition from outside world to the comfort of the home.
- Turn on / off devices: Any device which is connected to the net can be controlled to set on or off based on the requirements at a given point in time. Say for example, an electrical gadget left on inadvertently can be turned off from the smart phones.
- Avoid disasters: The sensors and connected gadgets can provide an excellent cover from disasters be it burst pipelines in the home or gas leaks. They can be used to switch the sources off and also alert the owners with messages on their mobile phones to avert the lurking dangers.
City: The place where we live can be made safer, smarter and with almost all facilities available seamlessly with greater efficiency.
- Cleaner streets: There can be embedded chips which can alert the authority in-charge of clearing the bins on streets when they reach a threshold. That avoids overflowing bins and thus keeping the cities cleaner. The options are many more.
- Locating destinations made easier: With sensors on road and their real time web connection, driving around the cities can be made more efficient and there would be no question of losing one’s way in the city while driving around.
- Control pollution: Real time assessments of the pollution in the city can be tracked and action taken to ensure issues like burst in sewer pipes are controlled by managing the pressure.
Industry: The industries can be made more optimized in their operations, their productivity can be boosted and resources can be saved and costs controlled.
- Maintenance and Repair: Sensors monitoring increased wear and tear in the industrial machineries can warn the operators about an impending maintenance or repair work that could crop up based on the working conditions. Timely maintenance brings down the rate of break downs and increases productivity thus increases revenue for the industries.
- Assets tracking: In industries where moving assets are involved, interconnecting them with one another and also to a centralized location enables easy tracking of those assets using GPS and GPRS technologies.
- Safety gadgets: Gadgets like fire extinguishers and fire water hose would provide enhanced security to the industrial environments by providing alerts on any of those gadgets are blocked for access, if any gadget is missing from its designated location or if any gadget like fire extinguisher has dropped in operational pressure requirements. Thus triggering an appropriate maintenance session to keep them at their fighting best.
Environments: Earth we live can be made a better place by making managing and understanding Mother Nature to best of our abilities.
- Monitor pollution levels: The air quality in the cities and water quality in rivers can be monitored and assessed by installing appropriate sensors and connecting them to the relevant gadgets and computers to monitor and alert the authorities concerned to take corrective actions.
- Track water levels: There are gadgets that have already been invented which help in control of floods and can be deployed in responses to unanticipated situations. They are equipped with cell communications, GPS, temperature and salinity sensors which provide the authorities concerned with real time information for helping the citizens to live a peaceful life.
- Protect wildlife: Open collar systems are already in place to help the wildlife experts to monitor their population and migration activities. They use GPS and GSM modules to locate and track the wild animals.
In a report by GE on the industrial application of intelligent machines, just 1% increase in efficiency over 15 years can result in saving of:
- $30 billion worth aviation fuel for the aviation industry
- $63 billion in healthcare industry can be saved by optimized treatments, patient flows and equipment usages in hospitals.
- 3. $66 billion can be saved in fuel consumption on the global gas-fired power plants.
The new technology does come with its own risks. One of the major and immediate risk that we can encounter is that the wireless requirements would put the already sparsely spectrum under tremendous pressure and it would increase the noise pollution levels in the environment.
IoT by far is the next big thing happening to the mankind and a lot of activities are happening around them in India. The department of Electronics and information technology of Government of India and Nasscom are setting up two labs at Bengaluru and Chennai.
Given the rate at which IoT is taking over, days are not far when we would have smart TVs suggesting us to watch movies, tell us where to park our car in a huge parking lot.
Let us embrace technology but ensure we live our life as humans and understand the risks posed by them.