Last updated on 5. June 2019From fridges that self-order milk when it’s running low to cat flaps, which scan the faces of animals and only allow one’s own cat entry into the house. The term Internet of Things basically means nothing else than the interconnection of objects with the internet. Some are already familiar with this, for example from their fitness tracker, which measures and analyses calorie consumption, distance and speed and then transmits this information to a smart phone. And this is exactly the aim of IoT: Capture information from the real world, connect it and make it available in a technical system.
Things have a number of conditions, such as temperature, position, refill capacity etc, but these are normally not known to a network. If real objects are now able to make this information available, many devices can be inter-connected via the internet and communicate with each other to some extent by exchanging information. This networking allows them to request a status from each other and to compare it in order to incorporate information from other devices into a process. Another well-known example for this is the tracking of parcels. Customers are able to follow the status of their parcel in real-time – from order placement to consignment preparation to exact tracking of location. The systems involved in the process are able to coordinate relevant steps with the preceding systems partner. While internet users generally deliberately surf on the internet, the Internet of Things is to be an unnoticed companion. The technology is to merge intuitively and seamlessly with the real world, which would benefit user experience and efficiency.
In short: The aim of IoT is to close information gaps between the real and the virtual world.
What is the Internet of Things for?
Internet of Things in Health Care
Why is such an immense effort being made to equip all kinds of things with sensors and connect them? Is the intention of all the data capture in the end simply to boost the buying behaviour of users? It is clear that the use of IoT technologies enables companies to generate very high profits. McKinsey estimates that in 2025, the added economic value will be around 11.1 trillion dollars worldwide.
However, not only economic processes can be optimised by the Internet of Things. For example, health care will be raised to a completely new level through IoT. Discreet sensors can permanently measure and transmit values such as blood pressure, blood sugar or inflammatory values. This allows doctors to always keep an eye on the state of health of their patients, without them having to be present or needing to conduct measurements of tests. For the more distant future, there is even research into technologies such as ‘Smart Pills’, which after they were taken, will be able to identify in the body which active ingredients are needed and are therefore released and which are not. Another vision are injectable nano robots which, for example, are meant to clean arteries and detect cancerous growths.
The Internet of Things at Home
Wouldn’t it be nice if the washing got ironed all by itself and the floors were cleaned by robots? In the home sector, the Internet of Things is to mainly automate everyday tasks and save resources. Experts estimate that in 2025, the costs for tasks, such as cleaning, shopping and cooking, will be an annual 23 trillion dollars worldwide. According to estimates, this sum could be reduced by 17 percent through automation. Devices could also learn to adapt their tasks to people’s lifestyles and, for example, do household chores when the residents are at school or at work.
Sensors in the house can also help save energy, for example by regulating room temperatures as required using smart thermostats or by adjusting activities of household devices depending on daily fluctuations of energy prices.
The City and the Internet of Things
In particular urban areas face big challenges due to the growing world population. According to estimates, in 2025 around 4.7 billion people will live in cities – this is around 60 percent of the world’s population. All of these people have to be supplied with food, water and consumer products. Energy consumption in large cities is immense and the environment suffers from pollution and exhaust emissions. In order to make the supply process and transport more efficient, some larger cities are already making use of Internet of Things technologies. For example, sensors can help measure air and water quality and raise the alarm as soon as limits are exceeded. Intelligent traffic management systems can observe the flow of traffic, for example to avoid traffic jams. Resources such as water and electricity can also be transported and distributed more sustainably and efficiently.
These are only a few of the countless innovations, which can be achieved with IoT. Companies have long discovered the Internet of Things and almost all could, according to a recent study of Computerwoche and CIO, identify added value through IoT projects (95%). The greatest obstacle, when implementing IoT projects within companies, are security concerns. 44% of the interviewees fear an increase of hacker attacks and are concerned about topics such as data security and operational safety.
The vision is that almost everything is to be connected with everything. How far the Internet of Things will actually spread remains to be seen. However, even the biggest technology sceptic will surely agree that such technologies have to be pursued, if they have the potential to avoid traffic accidents, detect tumours early or raise environmental awareness.