Internet of Things
The Internet of Things is often confused with the notion of connected object. A growing system, the IoT is present in domestic life as well as in industry, commerce or agriculture. Improving and automating processes, optimizing the understanding of needs, customer service and facilitating decision-making: the Internet of Things represents progress in daily life and enhances businesses. Want to know more ? This page will allow you to simply understand the concept of the Internet of Things and to perceive its advantages and disadvantages through telling examples.
Internet of things: definition
The Internet of Things (or IoT for Internet of Things) refers to both the process of connecting physical objects to the Internet and the network that connects these objects.
By “objects”, we mean everyday devices (home automation, fitness watch, etc.) as well as medical devices, agricultural machinery, supply chains, industrial robots or road traffic lights.
Ultimately, the IoT connects anything capable of transferring data over a network. And this, without requiring interactions between humans or between a human and a computer. However, human-machine interaction is made possible, if only to proceed with setting up, configuring or simply to access information.
How does the IoT work?
An IoT ecosystem is made up of objects that are compatible with the Web or that use embedded computer systems.
An object connected to the IoT is able to collect data on its environment via sensors. It then uses these via processors before sending them to one or more recipients using its integrated communication equipment.
It shares collected data through an IoT gateway. It is a solution allowing communication between devices or between them and the cloud. The information is therefore transferred directly to the cloud for analysis and exploitation or to another IoT device for local analysis.
Here is a telling example to illustrate this point. When you approach your home in your connected car, it sends your geolocation information to the thermostat of the home’s heating system. By analyzing this data, the latter is able to adjust the interior temperature of any room in your absence according to the settings established beforehand. Human intervention therefore only takes place at the time of configuration, with the Internet of Things doing the rest.
Of course, the data collected can be used in real time and over the long term. Ultimately, the analyzes can be carried out by humans as well as by an artificial intelligence (AI) with a machine learning system.
Thus, the IoT system of a connected house acts in real time to determine the ideal time to adjust the heating. It can also rely on data collected by the car over a long period of time. In addition, all the IoT data collected day after day by all the connected thermostats represents a huge source of information for the company supplying the energy. It can indeed analyze them for the purpose of improving its services.
Examples of IoT that are revolutionizing our daily lives :
- Consumer IoT
More and more household appliances and household objects are equipped with sensors and connection systems with the aim of improving comfort or safety (connected toaster, wine bottle with a touch screen and compatible with WiFi, etc.). As it is technically possible to add IoT sensors to virtually any everyday object, consumer IoT covers a very large number of uses. For instance :
smart homes equipped with connected thermostats and boilers, smart lighting systems and connected electronic devices that can be controlled remotely via a smartphone or computer (e.g. smart plugs, motion sensors, animal feeders, home cinema, machines laundry, video surveillance, locks, etc.);
connected cars improve driving comfort as well as safety: air conditioning, speed control, battery and tire pressure monitoring, vehicle location, automatic opening of the garage door or gate;
portable health or sports devices: implantable sensor, insulin pump, glucometer, heart rate monitor, pedometer, calorie counter, GPS tracker, etc.
Through an IoT application, all these devices can work together harmoniously and facilitate the daily life of their users.
- Enterprise IoT and Industrial IoT (IIoT)
The Internet of Things is democratizing in all sectors of activity: production, transport, retail, health, agriculture, infrastructure, home automation, public services, etc.
In the health sector, for example, the IoT has many applications:
detailed monitoring of patients via continuous analysis of data generated by implants or sensors;
management of stocks of products and instruments and maintenance of devices in the hospital;
monitoring the vital signs of firefighters on call or workers on high-risk sites;
in the event of an emergency, route calculations optimizing the response time of first aid, etc.
In the field of security, the Internet of Things provides many solutions to the problems of access control and authentication:
connected sensors controlling the entry and exit of employees via a smartphone;
sensors on machine tools enhancing occupational safety;
systems improving the safety of goods and people in shops;
fire detection, etc.
In the area of supply of goods, supply chains are monitored and optimized using IoT sensors and analytics. Thanks to the precise control of the availability of a commodity directly at the consumer and in the warehouses of the supplier, all based on the orders in progress, an IoT system can automatically determine the most practical delivery operation for the two parts. At the same time, the need for labor is optimized, which leads to a minimization of costs for the company.
In general, the IoT makes it possible to improve production, reduce unplanned downtime of tools and raw materials and increase the safety of a large number of tools or systems. All industrial sectors can benefit from it, with applications as diverse as the recovery of fibers in the wood processing industry or the control of drills on an oil platform.
The “smart city”, packed with sensors and IoT applications, constitutes a perfect ecosystem of the Internet of Things: emission control to reduce air pollution, monitoring and control of vehicle traffic, energy savings , etc. It thus includes multiple so-called intelligent devices and systems, ranging from a simple lamppost to the optimization of urban traffic, via video surveillance or the mapping of sound emissions.
Finally, in the agricultural sector, systems using the IoT participate in the monitoring of fields and greenhouses: brightness, temperature, air and soil humidity, soil composition, weather forecasts, location monitoring and livestock health, etc. “Smart” agriculture and livestock farming are also benefiting from IoT resources in automating soil irrigation and livestock feeding systems.
In summary, the application possibilities of the Internet of Things are almost endless.
What are the disadvantages of the Internet of Things?
Computer Security and Internet of Things
The Internet of Things today poses problems of data security and privacy. Indeed, the IoT connects billions of devices to the Internet. This therefore requires securing as many data points, each representing a potential point of attack.
A cybercriminal can, by exploiting the single-point vulnerability, take advantage of the tight connection between IoT devices to gain access to all network data. He would thus have the capacity to steal them, even to corrupt them in order to make them unusable. The growth in the number of connected devices and therefore in the volume of data exchanged and shared makes the risk of intrusion and hacking increasingly high.
This risk is all the more present as the updating of IoT devices, in particular filling security vulnerabilities, is often the responsibility of users. The latter do not perform them as regularly as necessary, the system therefore becomes more and more vulnerable.
What is the history of the Internet of Things?
The first object connected to the Internet was a cold drink dispenser at Carnegie Mellon University (United States) in 1982. The notion of connected device has existed since the 1970s. term “Internet of Things” is not yet invented: it is then referred to as the integrated Internet or pervasive computing.
It wasn’t until 1999 that Kevin Ashton, a computer scientist at Procter & Gamble, first used the term “Internet of Things”. This designation was intended to arouse the interest of decision-makers in radio-identification technology (RFID) as well as the other sensors that he wanted to put in place on the products in their supply chain.
That same year, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor Neil Gershenfeld published When Things Start to Think. In this book, he clearly describes the direction taken by the interconnection of machines, without however using Ashton’s expression.
The evolution of the IoT was then strongly built on so-called “machine to machine” (M2M) communication. It refers to devices capable of connecting to each other over a network without human interaction.
Today, the IoT is a network of sensors made up of billions of smart objects, connecting people, computer systems and applications with the aim of sharing and collecting data. The IoT is made possible by the current strong technological convergence (Internet, wireless technologies, microelectromechanical systems, microservices, etc.) which lies between operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT).
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