What is IoT (Internet of Things) and How it Works?

What is IoT (Internet of Things) and How it Works?

by Joe Shara on 7/01/2019

Updated at 2/02/2023

The IoT (Internet of things) denotes the setup of interrelated devices. These devices could be digital and mechanical devices, computing devices, animals and objects, computing devices or mainly people with UIDs (The unique identifiers) and their capability of transferring data via a network. All these do not need a human to computer interaction or a human to human interaction.

An example of IoT could be a heart monitor implanted in a patient, a biochip in a farm animal, a machinery sensor, for example in a vehicle, which alerts the driver when the pressure of the tires is too low, or when they are driving at high speeds. Objects could also be assigned specific IP addresses through which data transfer can happen. Generally, IoT entails everything that has a connection with the Internet. More specifically, it refers to objects that can communicate with each other. Simple sensors in smartphones and watches connected are a further example of the IoT.

The combination of connected devices with other automated systems makes it possible for information to be gathered, analyzed and appropriate action is taken towards the action after the analysis is done. This action will help someone learn from a particular process. Also, this may help them to accomplish a specific task.

In IoT, there is a relationship between devices, network, and data. IoT makes it possible for devices on a private network connection, for example, the Internet, to be in a position to carry out the communication process with other devices. The IoT carries the primary responsibility of bringing the networks together. It provides an opportunity for communication of devices within close range and also of devices that are across various networks. This creates a connected world.

Many organizations under different fields are putting IoT in use. This has helped the organizations to operate quite efficiently and have a better understanding of their customers, consequently enabling them to provide a better service to customers, make better decisions regarding the business and steady growth of the business.

Evolution of IoT

There exists a relatively exciting history about IoT associated with Kevin Ashton. He was among the founders of Auto-ID Center and became the first person to speak about IoT at MIT. This was during a presentation he made in 1999. His main aim was to realize the integration of IoT in radio frequencies and help the management of their Company understand the importance of the adaptation of this technology. Kevin called his presentation "The Internet of Things," and ever since this has been the widely accepted name of the technology.

IoT has progressed from the wireless technology convergence to minute electromechanical systems, to microservices and finally to the Internet. This evolution has helped to remove the silos between information technology and operational technology. This has overseen the analysis of data generated from machines as a basis for initiating improvements.

Despite Kevin Ashton's presentation about IoT in 1999, the concept of devices connected through IoT was first mentioned in the 1970s. However, this idea was still embedded in pervasive computing and the monikers internet.

The first appliance which made use of the Internet, for instance, was the Coke machine at Carnegie Mellon University. This dated back to the 1980s. Internet programmers would check the machine status and decide if there was going to be a cold drink waiting for them. This enabled them to decide whether they should go and pick their drink at the machine.

IoT progressed from a machine to machine type of communication. This type of communication did not require machine interaction. Therefore machines could interact with each other independently. These machines were connected to the cloud which managed them and collected data between them.

An advancement in the machine to machine communication involved the integration of IoT which was mainly made up of a network. This network supported numerous smart devices that connected people, applications and other systems of sharing data.

The supervisory control and data acquisition mechanism is a primary tool for the functioning of the IoT. This mechanism includes all software programs that manage processes, gather data coming from various locations within a specific time and use this data to dictate the control of conditions and equipment. Supervision control and data acquisition systems are made up of software and hardware elements.

The primary role of hardware is to collect data and feed it into a computer with the supervisory and control data software installed in it. After the data is fed into the computer, it is processed, and output is given after a specific time. The evolution of the supervisory control and data acquisition systems saw its last systems being developed into the first IoT systems.

IoT systems did not become a unit of its own until around 2010 when then the China government decided to make IoT a priority for the next five years.

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How does IoT work?

IoT is made up of smart devices with an Internet connection and uses in-built processors. These smart devices have ways of collecting data — for instance, communication hardware and sensors. After the collection of data, they send and take action on the data they have collected. IoT shares the collected devices through connection with an IoT gateway where the data can be sent to the cloud for analysis, or a local analysis could be done.

At times, IoT devices communicate with devices related to it and take action on the information obtained from each other. Most of these processes are done with little or no human interaction. An example of the little human interaction includes setting up the machines and giving them relevant instructions.

Benefits of IoT

Any device that can be connected to the Internet can collect data for a specific use that in the end may be quite useful to a user and carries a broader impact on the economy. For instance, in the application of IoT in industries, the use of sensors in product lines could help to increase efficiency and consequently be an essential tool for waste management. A study approximates about 35% of the manufacturers in the US make use of sensors.

IoT generally gives us the opportunity to be more efficient in our way of doing things. IoT saves on both time, costs and emissions. It has allowed public authorities, companies and the government as a whole to consider better ways of delivering high-quality goods and services.

The easy availability of a wide range of data across IoT gives room for a more responsive and contextualized interaction with billions of devices and consequently giving a platform for change.

The benefits of IoT can be summarized as follows:

  • Improves the experience of customers
  • Monitors the overall processes in a business
  • Saves on both time and cost
  • Increases productivity of employees
  • Facilitates the decision-making process
  • Generates more profits
  • Integration and adaptation of business models

IoT challenges companies to find new ways of approaching their businesses, markets or industries. IoT also presents itself as a tool for improving business strategies.

Applications of IoT

Both consumers and enterprises use iot. Consumers make use of IoT in various ways. For instance, in homes. Thermostats integrated into appliances such as water heaters enable remote control via phones, computers, and other mobile devices. This is made possible with the integration of IoT systems.

Devices that can be worn, for instance, smartwatches, are integrated with special software and sensors that facilitate the collection, analysis and sending user data to other technologies. This makes the user's life more comfortable. Also, they provide more public safety. For instance, improving the time response in case of any emergencies.

IoT is applicable in hospitals for monitoring patients closely. IoT in hospitals generate a patient’s data and analyzes it. IoT is majorly used in hospitals for management of inventory of both the medical and pharmaceutical instrument

IoT is also used in Smart Buildings. For example, automatic adjustment of temperature in a room. IoT turns on air conditioners using sensors. If the sensors detect a rise in temperature, the air conditioners are automatically turned on. Moreover, when the temperatures become favorable, the sensors detect the fall in temperature and turn off the air conditioners.

IoT is used in agriculture majorly as smart farming systems. They help in monitoring temperature, light, and moisture of soil with the use of sensors. IoT is also applicable in agriculture since they can be used for automation of the systems of irrigation.

IoT can also be used in smart cities. The IoT sensors are integrated on streetlights meters. This integration helps to address traffic problems, conservation of energy and address environmental concerns such as the conservation of the environment.

Issues concerning the use of IoT

Some of the issues regarding the use of IoT are privacy and security. Almost everything that has access to the Internet is susceptible to hacking. Therefore, IoT systems, since they majorly use the Internet, could be hacked. This poses a significant security threat.

Regarding privacy, the issue of surveillance mostly arises. Suppose every product is connected, then there is a possibility that the users can be monitored. For instance, if a fridge keeps a record of the usage and consumption of food, then takeaways could be targeted to the people who are hungry and have no food. Another way that privacy presents itself as a significant threat to IoT is in the sense that companies which manufacture IoT devices may use such devices to get the user’s data.

IoT connects a vast number of devices with the Internet. This involves the use of a similar number of data points. This, therefore, calls for the need to conserve all of these data points. The most recent attacks on this system were Mirai, which infiltrated Dyn, a service provider. It brought down several websites for a more significant period. This was made possible by the exploitation of IoT devices with a weak security system by the attackers.

IoT devices are intimately connected, therefore for hackers to bring down the whole system successfully; they are only faced with the task of exploiting one vulnerability so that they can gain access to all the data. The occasional updates that manufacturers make on their systems leave them quite vulnerable to these attacks.

Also, devices which are connected always ask users for their personal information such as ages, social media accounts, phone numbers, names, and addresses. Such kind of information is invaluable to the attackers.

Apart from sharing out private data, IoT presents potential harm to necessary frameworks such as financial systems, for instance, ATMs, electricity, and transportation services.

IoT’s future

People who are currently using IoT will admit that, indeed, IoT is still at its development stage. This can be attributed to the fact that, currently, products always do not connect. Apart from that, the use of IoT has raised privacy and security concerns which need to be addressed. Certain developments will have to be made to address these concerns.

Samsung reported that there is an urgent need to secure each connected device by 2020. The firm's Open document expressed this need as a very critical one. Close to 7.3 billion will need security by 2020. Owing to this, more companies are expected to integrate IoT into their systems. 

It seems that the future belongs to the IoT and the connected devices. Sure there are some challenges to be solved as the security and privacy issues, but this technologies need time to develop fully and integrate into our daily life. We are on the right path, let's hope that the future brings us better and safer Iot devices.

Frequently Asked Questions

The IoT (Internet of Things) refers to the implementation of interconnected devices. It can be digital and mechanical devices, computing devices, animals and objects, computing devices or, mainly, people with a unique identifier (UID) and able to transfer data via a network. All these devices do not require interaction between human and computer or human and computer.

In the IoT, there is a relationship between the devices, the network, and the data. IoT allows devices connected to a private network, such as the Internet, to be able to perform the process of communication with other devices. The IoT has the main responsibility of bringing networks together. It offers the ability to have devices in proximity communicate with each other, but also devices located on different networks. This creates a connected world.

1- Improves customer experience 2- Monitors all the processes of a company 3- Saves time and money 4- Increases employee productivity 5- Facilitates the decision-making process 6- Generate more profits 7- Integration and adaptation of business models 8- IoT challenges companies to find new ways to approach their business, markets or sectors. IoT also presents itself as a tool to improve business strategies.

Joe Shara

Joe Shara is a in-house journalist and Oshara editor. Tech savvy guy who follows all the latest web & digital developments. Loves cats and complex coding problems.

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