When objects become autonomous to make life easier: it’s the Internet of Things

Many of us, if not all of us, have probably seen at least once 1984’s Terminator, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. In that story of more than thirty years ago – which back then seemed pure fiction – it appeared the nucleus for a current concept, the Internet of Things (IoT). The dystopian future the cyborg Terminator came from was in fact controlled by Skynet, a Cloud-like system with sensors everywhere which provided real-time information about people, environment, resources, and so on.

 

Fortunately, the current IoT is all but dystopian and will rather be the way for people to improve their lives and save resources. How? Let’s take a closer look. The IoT includes all the tools and applications that allow not only people to talk to machines, but, better, allow objects to communicate directly with each other, with an impressive impact in every day’s life, especially if we consider that nowadays the communicating objects are already more than seven billion and that it is estimated at 50 billion connected devices in 2020. From refrigerators to irrigation systems, from surveillance mechanisms to biomedical, from industrial monitoring to energy, there is no a field that is excluded from the spread of IoT.

 

But it was perhaps the digital innovation expert Kevin Ashton, in 1999, to best explain the Iot with this quote from an article in the RFID Journal: “If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things – using data they gathered without any help from us – we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best”. Most of us think about being connected in terms of computers, tablets and smartphones. IoT describes a world where just about anything can be connected and communicate in an intelligent fashion. In other words, with the Internet of Things, the physical world is becoming one big information system.

 

Let’s now see some concrete examples of the Internet of Things divided by scope. In the macro-area of personal care, the IoT is able to prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) by monitoring in real time breath, skin, body temperature, body position and levels of activity of the child and sending all these data to the parents’ smartphone (http://mimobaby.com). Then there are there are special caps for medicine packaging (actually much more common in North America than in Europe) with inside wi-fi sensors that send messages at set times of the assumption of drugs and “talk” with your doctor (www.vitality.net/glowcaps.html). And by connecting together the various sensors (Accelerometer, Gyro, Video, Proximity, Compass, GPS, etc.) you can get a portable control center of your physical activity that studies all day movements, places and complete tables of physical exercises.

 

In the “home” field, very interesting are the “smart” thermostats, which know our habits, perceive the presence or absence of people in different rooms, also adjust for the weather forecast, leading to a savings of over 30% on your bill (https://nest.com/). The same principle works with certain new-generation lamps, which not only go off by themselves, but they also warn us – by changing color – when our bus is five minutes away (http://postscapes.com/smart-outlets). Also in the city the IoT has very many possibilities of use: we can immediately be indicated a free parking spot to save time and reduce pollution (www.streetline.com/parking-analytics), it may indicate to the responsible companies which waste bins have to be emptied (http://bigbelly.com/solutions/stations), can monitor pollution, traffic lights or make more efficient electricity grid (www.awesense.com/products).

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