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The smart way to live

IoT has the power to make our lives more connected, more productive and more rewarding. In use and exploited much better by the developed nations, it is hoped other countries, like ours, will also be able to catch up soon.

The internet has been around since the early 1980s, linking computers and enabling the exchange of information. With people operating networks, the internet became the medium to link people and this became more pronounced when mobile telephones joined the internet and the whole world started talking to each other without the intermediary of the computer. And then the capability of the computer got built into the phones themselves, leading to a whole new world of smartphones.

Controls the devices through the internet

Experiments were done to link devices to the internet. In 1999, Kevin Ashton of P&G introduced the term ‘Internet of Things’ or IoT, visualising individual devices to be managed via the internet. So, what is IoT? It is ‘the extension of internet connectivity to physical devices and everyday objects, which embedded with electronics, internet connectivity and other forms of hardware, can communicate and interact over the internet and can be remotely monitored and controlled.’ In simple terms, it is the concept of taking all the things in the world and controlling them through connecting to the internet to which computers, smartphones, and people are already connected and are usually referred to as ‘smart devices.’

What is the objective of connecting the devices to the internet? It is to essentially control the devices, like to switch on the lights or the fan. It is also to check status as a prelude to a controlling action. As in, checking the temperature of a bearing and take action to prevent seizure due to overheating.

How is the status checked? By having ‘sensors’ fitted on these devices. Sensors are sophisticated electronics used to detect and respond to electrical or optical signals. A sensor converts physical parameters like temperature, pressure, speed, humidity, etc. into a signal which can be measured electrically and feeds the settings to computers or smartphones leading to control of the devices as required.

In an IoT system, people, computers, and smartphones are linked to the internet.

Now some real-life examples – Bulk of the applications today relate to home, industry, and wearables in that order. Most homes have a relatively large number of equipment which, when connected, result in exciting possibilities. Simplest would be that the morning alarm in mobile is linked to switching on the geyser and coffee filter. In an example of advanced Smart Home application, a person stuck in traffic can check items in fridge and pantry and work out dinner options, get recipes, keep oven preheated, get the rice cooked in an electric rice cooker so that cooking time is minimal after reaching home!

Benefits to Industry

The industry can put IoT to good use. Sensors embedded in manufacturing equipment helps to identify bottlenecks in manufacturing processes. Temperature and vibration sensors placed at strategic locations in equipment serve to alert in time to avoid breakdown. Another area is in optimal energy usage through intelligent algorithms acting on lighting, temperature and energy usage.

With watches and Fit Bits becoming ‘smart,’ one can visualise the enormous power and possibilities IoT brings literally in to one’s hand. From controlling home appliances to monitoring one’s health parameters, wearables acquire massive reach and control.

Look at some advanced and even exotic applications: in agriculture, IoT senses soil moisture, presence of nutrients and accordingly controls the quantity of water and fertilizer used. In the health area, glucose sensors placed under the skin relay information on glucose level to a monitoring device.

Some concerns do arise on IoT’s broad reach. First is a breach of privacy – despite security measures, hacking and stealing of vital information cannot be ruled out. Next would be shrinkage of jobs consequent to the automation of monitoring and control activities. However, in the overall, the benefits have a decisive edge over the negatives.

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