The Internet of Things (IoT) is being called many things—revolutionary, a disruptive force, a change of the status quo, a backbone on which our communications system is based—by IndustryWeek. The Global Standards Initiative on the Internet of Things, defined this thing we call IoT as “the infrastructure of the information society.”
With IoT being central to automation not only in the workplace, but in our daily lives, it is growing by leaps and bounds. IDC, a global marketing intelligence firm, predicts that IoT will grow at a compound annual growth rate of more than 19 percent through 2020, IndustryWeek reported. An IoT report by Technavio predicts a growth rate of more than 20 percent, while IT research firm Gartner said that IoT devices “will exceed 26 billion independent units installed by the year 2020.” DHL and Cisco released a report that put devices at 50 billion by 2020.
IndustryWeek reported that uses for IoT are endless. They include:
- machine-to-machine communications
- enhancements to safety and security
- improved environmental sustainability
- manufacturing processes at work, with sensors that can indicate the precise amount of paint to spray on automobile parts or alert machine operators when a die has reached the end of its life and is likely to soon exceed established parameters for quality metrics
- manufacturing processes at home, with refrigerators that know when you’re running low on milk, toasters that can alert your smartphone when the toast is ready and thermostats that help conserve energy by knowing when you’re in the room
- smart cities that use sensors and actuators to wirelessly connect components like lighting, traffic routing, heating and cooling, emergency response systems and all of the services we associate with city living (McKinsey Research predicts 600 smart cities by 2020)
- driverless cars that communicate with each other to avoid traffic jams and fender benders
- sensors on farmland equipment alerting farmers to the amount of moisture in the ground
- floating buoys sending alerts to boaters and researchers about water temperature, direction and speed of currents and water alkalinity
IndustryWeek said that the Netherlands and South Korea have already established an IoT trend, with wireless networks “devoted to serving IoT devices with Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWANs).” IoT also communicates on a low bandwidth with minimal latency issues or interruptions. M2M communications in manufacturing facilities, according to IndustryWeek, require a higher bandwidth, but devices like field sensors require a lower bandwidth.
The challenge, IndustryWeek reported, “is ensuring that wireless networks are capable of providing the service without interruption or signal degradation. Whether the solution is a distributed antenna system (DAS), small cell wireless, LPWAN, WiFi or a heterogeneous network (HetNet) which combines all of these technologies, the systems architecture must be thoughtfully designed, appropriate for the space and capable of being upgraded to meet future needs.”