The Internet as we know it today had humble beginnings as the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects (DARPA) data packet sharing project in 1973. Today it has metamorphosed into a huge decentralized juggernaut used to coordinate, collaborate and above all control the way modern societies transcend borders and languages to communicate and trade.
Once human communication became a ubiquitous phenomenon, the next frontier for Internet supremacy was the control of machine communication. The wonder of silicon has already caused most mechanical devices and machines to have electronic circuitry at their core. With a simple chip connecting electronics to the internet, these machines can now be controlled from anywhere via smartphone apps. The internet brought families together where expats living in Boston, for example, could communicate regularly with elderly relatives in Bangalore through audio and video.
The health and condition of electronic devices at their place of origin located thousands of miles away could be easily probed through human-machine communication (H2M). Connected devices like the smartwatch on our wrists can report important health metrics on demand. These parameters are also continuously monitored using machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and any anomalies or deviations from the usual pattern are immediately alerted. Indeed, slowly, these devices are taking over our lives, facilitating smarter choices through Machine-to-Human (M2H) communication, resulting in a better quality of life.
The application of such systems ranges from simple household appliances to extremely complicated industrial tools allowing the automation of processes and the reduction of manual labor costs.
This network of physical objects or “things” containing sensors that can connect to the “Internet” for the purpose of transferring information with other devices, systems, or humans is commonly referred to as the “Internet of Things” or IoT. These connected objects encourage companies to rethink their value chain and their strategies.
The immediate benefits across the board are access to on-demand device information and better synchronization between processes contributing to automation. Already, segments like utilities and transportation have brought the technology into the mainstream. Water meters can notify users of leaks and possible contamination.
Electric meters can detect potential line faults and send alerts to users. In the transportation segment, new age cars already have such smart sensors installed inside the cars. A network of such sensors also helps us reach the next frontier of innovation for connected cars and smart fleets. These sensors can detect the failure of particular equipment and can trigger security measures and alerts in advance. In cold weather, the owner can remotely turn on the engine heater before setting off on a trip.
In the agriculture and animal husbandry segment, these IoTs help in monitoring light, temperature, humidity, etc. in the ground with provisions for automatic irrigation. In segments like retail, IoT is used to optimize inventory and reduce waste. Smart cameras or smart weight panels can detect when items in shelves are below a given threshold and trigger reorganization.
In the smart city of the future world, IoT sensors help save energy, send signals when sanitation conditions are poor, alleviate traffic, and monitor and address environmental issues in the city like toxic gases and pollution. .
It has been estimated by Gartner that building automation or connected building will be the fastest growing segment, followed by automotive and healthcare. Some of the technologies that have made IoT effective, efficient and viable are access to low cost and low power sensors, internet connectivity, software and network sensors, cloud computing platforms, cyber security and data analysis. Experts in these evolving technologies are still scarce, and organizations are devoting considerable effort to training the workforce.
The downturn in the electronics industry has a new area of focus with a focus on manufacturing these sensors, so electronics graduates have something to rejoice about. Those skilled in networking can focus on building the 5G network so that the connectivity of these IoT devices can reach even the most remote villages, enabling better healthcare, education and communication. . With IoT devices, a lot of data is generated. The cloud computing ecosystem has grown rapidly to meet the demands, so those working in database management and data engineering fields have a good time ahead of them.
With a plethora of such devices and data generated and used to control critical infrastructure, cybersecurity and surveillance become even more important in controlling the well-being of citizens using these technologies on a daily basis. The data generated from these devices can be analyzed to detect anomaly patterns and predictions on cases such as surge in demand, equipment failures can be effectively mitigated using the analysis of data.
In fact, the most sought-after practitioners will be those who work at the intersection of data analytics and cybersecurity to spawn a new generation of cyber analytics professionals. Larger organizations working in agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare, supply chain to environment and public safety are already embracing IoT, enabling new use cases to surface.
This will encourage small and medium-sized businesses to realize the benefits of technology by enabling cost reduction through automation and manual labor to stay competitive. It has been estimated that by 2025 around 22 billion IoT devices will be in use, while forecasts by technology analyst firm IDC put the number at 41.6 billion.
With such massive adoption and commercialization of technology, it is important that organizations encourage skills development and job creation for this technological marvel whose possible commercial values are virtually limitless. The basics of some of them are taught in many technical schools, but only a few prepare learners for the strategic and financial implications of the IoT.
With the changing technology and business landscapes of the IoT ecosystem, the program is unable to keep pace with rapid change. Practitioners who study the technological or business aspects of this ecosystem must constantly learn on the job and participate in the evolution of the ecosystem. It is imperative that academia and industry work together to close the skills gap and produce a productive and efficient workforce to help mature the IoT ecosystem.