The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects or "things" embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity, which enables these objects to collect and exchange data. Simply put, it revolves around increased machine-to-machine communication; it’s built on cloud computing and networks of data-gathering sensors; it’s mobile, virtual, and instantaneous connection; and they say it’s going to make everything in our lives from streetlights to seaports “smart.”
So what is the great fuss around machine-to-machine communication (M2M): devices talking to like devices? And do we really understand what is it that they do when they talk to each other?
But a machine is an instrument, it’s a tool, it’s something that’s physically doing something. When we talk about making machines “smart,” we’re not referring strictly to M2M. Then what difference are we exactly talking about?
We’re talking about sensors.
A sensor is not a machine. It doesn’t do anything in the same sense that a machine does. It measures, it evaluates; in short, it gathers data. The Internet of Things really comes together with the connection of sensors and machines. That is to say, the real value that the Internet of Things creates is at the intersection of gathering data and leveraging it. All the information gathered by all the sensors in the world isn’t worth very much if there isn’t an infrastructure in place to analyze it in real time. Analyze-interpret, investigate-evaluate, understand-comprehend, and later transmit it from point A to point B. The Internet of Things doesn’t function without cloud-based applications to interpret and transmit the data coming from all these sensors. The cloud is what enables the apps to go to work for you anytime, anywhere.
For example, the strength of a bridge depends upon the steel plates and the cement’s load bearing capacity. A bridge can collapse, when the stresses is beyond its yield strength capacity. But what if we are alerted about the threshold way before it reaches it maximum limit? We can control and possibly avoid the eventuality of a disaster. When we rebuild bridges, we can use smart cement: cement equipped with sensors to monitor stresses, cracks, and warpages. This is cement that alerts us to fix problems before they cause a catastrophe. And these technologies aren’t limited to the bridge’s structure. If there’s ice on the bridge, the same sensors in the concrete will detect it and communicate the information via the wireless internet to your car. Once your car knows there’s a hazard ahead, it will instruct the driver to slow down, and if the driver doesn’t, then the car will slow down for him. Similarly if there’s no ice in the refrigerator, if you are running out of milk, if there is a circuit error in the defrosting mechanism of the fridge, everything is programmed to suit our convenience. It rightly behaves so. Smart! And this can be applied to all things machines. So now we have sensors monitoring and tracking all sorts of data; we have cloud-based apps translating that data into useful intelligence and transmitting it to machines on the ground, enabling mobile, real-time responses. So each has a mind of its own…each is intelligent to think. Not to act on its own, as yet. Another example here is ‘smart lighting’ where sensors are being already used in India. The lights dim or go off when they sense no presence of humans. In India facilities have been programmed such that automatically air conditioning moves its temperature up and down depending upon the number of people in the room. It maybe basic but it needs to enhance as there are financial savings in such ‘sensing.’