IoT – What? Now? Future? Problems?

IoT (Internet of Things), what is it? Where is it going? Is it the future or now? Over the past few years, we have seen through first-hand experience here at HLH an exponential growth in IoT projects just based on the number of projects coming through our facility. If you are new to IoT products stick with this blog for a quick overview on the IoT.

IoT, what is it? In the simple terms, IoT is any device that has an on/off switch that can talk to the internet and exchange data. This includes everything from obvious products like cell phones, wearable devices, or other less obvious examples like washing machines, coffee makers and lamps. IoT is any product or “thing” that is connected to the internet. The examples above are all examples of consumer-related devices. Devices that we can all imagine in our everyday lives. Things that can make our life easier and more connected at home, or in the office, or in your car. What isn’t mentioned is the unbelievably massive industrial applications that one would not normally think about. From Oil Rigs to Jet Engines, to Drones and Ocean Monitoring Buoys, IoT has crept into or will creep into every aspect of our evolving connected world.

IoT, where is it now? Conservative number will put IoT device numbers worldwide at 18 billion now and 25 billion in 2020. Some estimates would put that number at 100 billion in 2020. That is a massive number, so how is that number calculated? Well, that is up for interpretation, but if you think of IoT as a giant network then the relationships on that network of people to people, people to things and things to things grow these estimates very fast. Right now it is here, you are using an IoT device to read this, you likely have 4 or 5 IoT devices within 10 feet of you. The only thing slowing down IoT is access to the internet. Where there are broadband connections and good WiFi internet infrastructure there will be millions of IoT devices close by.

IoT, where is it going? I took Creative Photography in college as my major back when 4 x 5 was the norm for commercial photography, back when 2-1/4 was the norm for people photography, back when one had to really work hard to capture a good image, develop that good image and print that good image. Great skills learned and I wouldn’t change that traditional foundational training for all the tea in China. But man it was a lot of work. Fast forward 20 years, digital photography technology reigns supreme and I love it! But, I don’t love the fact that my current DSLR camera is missing WiFi, that it is not an IoT device. That small but impressive convenience of taking an everyday tool and removing some of the laborious work that goes along with operating that tool can take that tool to the next level. Being able to send my photos to my phone, the cloud, my laptop or instantly share with others at the touch of a button, bring it. Now, WiFi technology in cameras has been around for a few years, but as IoT grows this technology in Cameras is becoming mainstream, a standard feature at certain price points that were not available prior. That is where IoT is going, in the very near future, if your consumer product can be an IoT device, if it is not IoT feature ready, forget about it because your device will be dead on arrival.  From a commercial perspective, IoT is revolutionizing the gathering of information in remote areas, creating entire new Smart sectors within existing industries like Medical and Power. Allowing for real-time data gathering and processing of information that all industries are finding useful for saving money and creating efficiencies. Where is it going? Everywhere.

IoT, is it the future or now? Right now many will think it is the future, we have never been so connected to each other or to digital information. But I don’t think the everyday person can even imagine where IoT is going. I certainly can’t and I have a pretty good imagination. That is how powerful interconnectivity is, every time we add another layer of connection or miniaturize technology or reduce manufacturing costs we open up new possibilities that did not exist before. We open up a solution for someone who has been working on a problem for years. We will all be connected in the future, every “thing” possible will be able to connect to the internet, IoT will be everywhere. The future is now, but not even close to the future.

IoT, any problems? There are moral, ethical and philosophical arguments to be made for and against IoT, as there has always been with any emerging technology. Is a connected life a better life? Is it a simpler life or does it actually complicate things? Will it fundamentally change the world for better or worse? All important questions to be sure but these are really personal opinions and positions to be reckoned with, and while we are doing that the market marches on. Where there is a real danger with IoT is security. If you have a connected device your device will get attacked, people will try to hack you, they want your information for free. There are many examples of security issues as IoT becomes more and more prominent in our lives, security is the biggest challenge to a more connected IoT world. The other problems with IoT are the unforeseen problems. One example in the news recently is how troop locations in Afghanistan became public. This was not a hacking issue but simply wearable technology that was tracking soldier movement through wearable fitness IoT devices, tracking for innocent reasons, doing what it was designed to do. Someone simply noticed this public information and they were able to quickly discern base locations, troop movements, patrol routes and supply routes in a war zone. That is how connected we are right now, so connected, so fast, that the military did not even foresee this problem. IoT technology is growing so fast that security issues relating to hacking and simple unforeseen issues from an emerging and evolving technology are the biggest problems that IoT needs to continue to battle against.

IoT, here to stay? Yes, yes, and yes. Can’t unring that bell. We came out of the cave, made fire, tamed horses, learned to farm, built wood, then brick, then steel buildings, we made trains, planes and automobiles then went to the Moon. Progress moves forward, does not wait for skeptics, fixes any unforeseen problems on the go and never looks back. In the past 15 years with the rise of the personal computer handheld IoT devices (smartphones) we have massively embraced technology and we love it. IoT is where the money is so it is going nowhere.

My personal opinion, I want that next generation IoT DSLR Camera, other than that I am 50/50 on the rest, IoT is here to stay, come what may 🙂

Gary Moran

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HLH Precision Metal July

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