Internet of things, intelligent objects and other fantasies

Since the term Internet of Things (IoT for friends) was coined in 2009 at the well-known P&G conference by Kevin Ashton [1] Has rolled a lot of ink (and paper) on what is and especially, what is not.

To go straight to the point, IoT is the conjunction and evolution of M2M technologies [2] and WSN [3],  seasoned with the benefits offered by TCP/IP and the Web. Essentially, an IoT device is an electronic device centered on a microprocessor (or microcontroller) with access to various sensors and/or actuators, and with communications facilities to the outside through the use of some means of access, either direct or indirect, to the Internet.

Philosophy of IoT

The foundation of IoT is that any object can be connected to the Internet. By object we mean anything, of any size, in any location. It may even be one thing, but rather one or more physical environmental constants. The basis of this definition is that every object possesses physical measurable variables (temperature, pressure, voltage, etc…), behavior (activity, mode of operation, operating state, etc…), physical presence (location, weight, volume, etc…). In other words, any factor that is measurable in the object can be captured, processed and transmitted and stored for immediate and/or subsequent use and/or consumption. As quoted above, Kevin Asthon is credited with the term Internet of Things, but the applicability of the IoT concept is long before, specifically in 1982, a Coca-Cola machine at Carnegie Melon University. Programmers could connect to the machine over the Internet, and determine if there was or was not a cold drink before deciding to make the trip to the machine [4]. Essentially, for what object can be an IoT thing, you have to add a little electronics, a lot of software, and why not, a lot of patience.

Differences between IoT, M2M and WSN

If we read the definitions of M2M and WSN in Wikipedia, we can read by definition:

M2M: Communications between machines.

WSN: Network of small devices equipped with sensors.

In the case of M2M, devices using this technology are deployed and communicated over large networks and exchange information between them. These devices are not necessarily physical in the sense that it is an apparatus, but rather can be software applications. A practical example of M2M systems are the so-called Web Services, where there is a device that generates information and there is another device that consumes it.

On the other hand, in the case of WSN, it is also a widely deployed network, but not necessarily a TCP/IP network and therefore not a requirement that is connected to the Internet. These types of networks are generally of industrial application and their function is the acquisition of data and the transmission of these to a collection and processing center. A WSN network can be as simple as star type or as complex as a mesh type.

The conjunction of M2M, WSN and TCP/IP form the primitive basis of an IoT device. It is not a banal statement, nor is it simplistic. Each of the mentioned technologies was created with a definite and defined purpose. The joint use of these together opens the door to a device with greater capabilities and extends its reach to other applications [5].

Where does the Internet of Things go?

Currently, Internet of Things in a chaos. And why is this? Well, quite simply, a lack of standardization. Since IoT is an emerging technology, every major player in the IT world wants to propose its solution and ecosystem of access, control and use of IoT device networks. At the time of writing these lines, there is a very wide range of control and management systems for IoT devices in the cloud. To this must be added the equally despicable offer in processing platforms, programming APIs, communications protocols, access media and data formats.

Currently, the IoT ecosystem is fragmented. This fragmentation is so complex that no one wants to make the decision to take any of the available options as standard. For this reason some alliances between the most important actors of the industry are being carried out to form the Industrial Internet Consortium for IoT standards [6], In order to minimize the risks of integration in IoT applications and to advance by a single direction in the definition of standards. There are five challenges to achieving this goal:

  1. Infrastructure: Define interconnection rules and methods between IoT devices.
  2. Protocols: Establish a lingua franca for the exchange of data between IoT devices.
  3. Data protection: This is a tricky subject, touching on aspects such as the type of data, the sensitivity of these and their international mobility.
  4. Security: Another difficult issue, because of the nature of restricted resources in IoT devices, it is difficult to implement in these algorithms solid data encryption.
  5. Autonomy: It is desirable that an IoT device can be as autonomous and unattended as possible, that is, it can operate with little or no human intervention.

What can we do with the Internet of Things?

For practical purposes, the most immediate goal of IoT is to equip things with intelligence. Such intelligence will be born in function of the interconnectivity between objects, and the way in which they communicate. This intelligence lies in what has not yet been discussed in this article, and is the object controlling element, which will establish the relationship between them to decide what action is going to be taken. These actions may have different focuses, but the most important are the optimization in the use of resources and in the prediction of actions to be performed. Given the wide and complex aspect of this aspect, leave your discussion for another occasion.

However, it is desirable that IoT devices have a certain level of intelligence and independence, so that they can interact with other devices more or less freely. A case in point would be the temperature control thermostats for the control of the ignition of heating or cooling systems, or garden irrigation systems, always with the focus on the optimal use of the resources to be consumed (electricity and / or gas in The first case, water in the second).

At a more formal level, the applications that are currently being deployed using IoT as the technological base are:

  • Smart Home
  • Smart Cities
  • Smart Energy
  • Smart Health

Note that all have implicit the word smart. The trend is that the instant availability of data allows the use of complex analysis and prediction applications to determine the next action to take.

What will we see ahead?

I do not have a crystal ball to see the future, but I can say that we will see a vertiginous growth in the following areas:

  • Hardware
  • Wireless links
  • Data services
  • Deep Learning applications

The use of Internet of Things technology opens the possibility of interacting, determining, predicting and acting according to the context of the data. The honest and correct application of these four aspects using the right software can help improve the quality of life and make the world a more pleasant place to live.


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