Last week was a very busy one for me as I was hosting and chairing various sessions at NigeriaCom which is one of Nigeria’s foremost events. On the last day of the event however, a session specifically caught my session because of the subject the speaker was discussing. Internet of things – IoT.
According to Tony Smallwood, Vodacom’s Executive Head of IoT, “IoT drives digital transformation, helping businesses to remain relevant in today’s digital world. Overall, 63% of adopters say they have seen “significant” ROI from adopting IoT”.
Truth be told, many tech journalists and bloggers don’t have really deep understanding of what IoT is all about. To some of them, it just another tech jargon that the world will be talking about. But when Smallwood said that there is an increased interest in adoption and growth in the number of connected “things” across Africa; and that the Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to transform business operations and maximise efficiency across all sectors, it got my full attention.
So, what is IoT?
Simply put, IoT is a proposed development of the Internet in which everyday objects have Network Connectivity, allowing them to send and receive data. Someone once said “if one thing can prevent the IoT from transforming the way we live and work, it will be a breakdown in security”.
Wikipedia described it as the internetworking of physical devices, vehicles, buildings and other items—embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data.
Basically, IoT allows objects to be sensed and/or controlled remotely across existing network infrastructure, creating opportunities for more direct integration of the physical world into computer-based systems, and resulting in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit.
Under the purview of IoT, each thing is uniquely identifiable through its embedded computing system – yet it is able to interoperate within the existing Internet infrastructure. It has been estimated that IoT will consist of almost 50 billion objects by 2020.
It is also expected to offer advanced connectivity of devices, systems, and services that goes beyond machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and covers a variety of protocols, domains, and applications. The interconnection of these embedded devices (including smart objects), is expected to usher in automation in nearly all fields, while also enabling advanced applications like a smart grid, and expanding to the areas such as smart cities.
“Things,” in the IoT sense, can refer to a wide variety of devices such as heart monitoring implants, biochip transponders on farm animals, electric clams in coastal waters, automobiles with built-in sensors, DNA analysis devices for environmental/food/pathogen monitoring or field operation devices that assist firefighters in search and rescue operations.
It has been suggested to look at “Things” as an “inextricable mixture of hardware, software, data and service”. These devices collect useful data with the help of various existing technologies and then autonomously flow the data between other devices. Current market examples include smart thermostat systems and washer/dryers that use Wi-Fi for remote monitoring.
As well as the expansion of Internet-connected automation into a plethora of new application areas, IoT is also expected to generate large amounts of data from diverse locations, with the consequent necessity for quick aggregation of the data, and an increase in the need to index, store, and process such data more effectively. IoT is one of the platforms of today’s Smart City, and Smart Energy Management Systems.
Examples of IoT applications
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