Internet of Things (IoT) is a term coined by Kevin Ashton, executive director of the Auto-ID Center, in 1999; but it is only since the last few years that IoT has become a big and inseparable part of the world of Internet and technology. It has taken inter connectivity to the next level by independently interconnecting devices and not just people through devices. Digitization connected people and systems, but IoT connects our belongings in a seamless fashion to alter the way we live and the world as we know it.
IoT is now embedding itself in not just our lives but our culture as well. For example, you can sync your workouts on your smartphone, change the temperature of your home from the airport, update your navigation maps from your garage, monitor pollution levels and weather from your couch and the instances can just go on. Basically, you can interact with a huge variety of devices opening up the possibility of interconnecting anything from the simple to the complex. It literally means that you can now remotely control, monitor and sense just about everything.
But what exactly is IoT? It is basically an elaborate network of interconnected objects, mainly devices, as well as people, all linked to the internet and interacting with each other, exchanging data through sensors and embedded circuits.
According to research giant Gartner, by 2020 IoT will comprise 26 billion devices, from 4.9 billion in 2015. The McKinsey Global Institute predicts IoT could have a total economic impact of up to $11 trillion by 2025. With all this projected growth, it seems like civilization is on the cusp of an IoT tsunami.
IoT has already changed the way we live. In several countries products have transformed into products-as-a-service with connected homes and industrial machinery, appliances, etc. In developing nations like India, the concept of Smart Cities has been introduced where devices and the data they emit is expected to make buildings, electricity, public safety, transportation, education, water and waste management, etc. more interconnected and smart.
The advantages of IoT are varied and abundant. Increased productivity, better and smarter business operations, better decision-making due to data and expansion for almost any business are some of the primary advantages. For businesses, IoT enablement will eventually become a must considering the continuous refinement and upgrading of the business model, products, service and customer experience due to large scale data analysis and related insights.
However, it will also mean that infrastructure will need better monitoring and security will become the main point of contention.
More devices and increased networking means more risks of cybersecurity, hacking and privacy concerns. Remember the big hack of US shopping chain Target wherein personal information including 40 million debit and credit card numbers of 70 million people was stolen? The entire theft was possible as hackers gained access to the shopping chain’s network via the internet-connected HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems.
According to many experts, the current IoT systems are being built with too little regard for security. IoT will have be built like IT systems with best security practices including employing a risk-based approach, regular software updates, regular backups, multi-factor authentication, privileged user monitoring, etc.