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January 8, 2014

How The Internet of Things Will Transform Us All

Posted by Sanjay Dalwani (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:57 AM

Designing for the Internet of Things: Rodolphe el-Khoury at TEDxToronto [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcUvg9jcfG8]

The Internet of Things: Talk about a broad topic! Just what do technologists mean when they refer to a "thing"? Whatever the subtleties involved in defining it, one aspect of the Internet of Things is that it will be a transformative force in our society.

How we get there is another story. So what we need to start out with is sensors. For anything to be connected remotely to the Internet and to smash the old paradigm of a cable-dominated world, we have to have sensors that not only work well but can work with just about any device.

Therein lies the secret to the success of the Internet of Things: That just about any device that hitherto existed on its own can, with the flick of a sensor, connect itself to the Internet and be controlled and manipulated remotely. Just think about being halfway around the world and being able to unlock your door to let in your spouse who has lost her keys.

Sensors have a lot more potential than just the home, of course. Sophisticated sensors will be able to detect whether someone has a heart murmur or a cancer-causing gene. Yet the underlying promise is the same: Someone, somewhere, can use the Internet to hook up to something with a sensor that relays vital information.

Connectivity is an integral part of the equation. What fascinates me is that connectivity will be taking on a whole new level of meaning. That is to say, the connection might occur where you assume it would take place: within the "thing" itself. But the connection might also happen in a hub, smartphone, or even a base station. The last of the three is the neatest of them all - a base station has the power to collect information from multiple sources and devices and transmit that data to a cloud.

Retailers are especially keen on this kind of connectivity because of the many advantages they can receive with real-time inventory, distribution, and even spotting consumer trends before the competition does.

And the best part of it all - most worthwhile, useful IoT devices will not leave one lighter by a couple million dollars. In fact, think about how much money a retailer could save if, implanted in their perishable food items, were small transmitters that relayed to the store when those items were about to ripen. The food distributors could get perfectly times and sized orders that would trickle back right to the growers, who wouldn't waste so much as a square foot of farmland on crops that he didn't need to grow. In order to have that many chips, you'd have to have a technology that is easily attainable just about anywhere and by anyone.

Finally, let us not forget security. If you're a heart patient and your doctor has implanted a chip in your body to detect a number of vital health statistics, you don't exactly want your data transmission being able to be deciphered by the local newspaper! That's why enterprises that can ensure IoT security will be among the most formidable in the coming year...and decade.

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