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What is IoT?

Everyone is talking about IoT…but what exactly is it?

IoT is an acronym for ‘the Internet of Things’. ‘Things’, as I’m sure you may have thought, does not sound particularly tech savvy compared to many of the world’s current pioneering technologies, however I assure you that IoT is the omnipotent master of all devices. So much so, in fact, that many are in fear of its’ potential influence.

In a nutshell, IoT is a network of physical objects—devices, vehicles, buildings and other items—embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity that enables these objects to collect and exchange data. In effect, everything can talk to everything and there is no limit to how far the network can span.

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Smart Homes

On a small scale, this means that micro networks can be established in the home. Often referred to as Smart Homes, this IoT technology allows homeowners to control and automate heating, lighting, ventilation and security, as well as home appliances such as washers, driers, ovens and refrigerators that use Wi-Fi for remote monitoring. Most systems generally consist of switches and sensors connected to a central hub, which can in turn be controlled by a smartphone app. Warm the oven up as you’re five minutes from home, turn off the bathroom light as you head to your next meeting – a smart home claims to be both convenient and energy efficient.

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Smart Cities

On a larger scale, macro networks are beginning to be established in cities. Often referred to as Smart Cities, the vision is that IoT will enable cities better management of their assets. For example, IoT could tell you the location of the nearest available parking space, and notify you when your time is up. Smart bins can notify crews when they are full, allowing them to send rubbish trucks to areas where they are most needed and Leeds University has even led a £4.2m project to create a fleet of robot repair workers that can spot infrastructure problems before they become disruptive.

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Intelligent Transportation Systems

IoT also gives rise to Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). These systems boast ideas such as driverless busses and trains, claiming that they will enable a faster, more frequent and reliable service as well as boosting capacity on the lines. In 2014, Transport for London unveiled 250 driverless tube trains, explaining that their current tube trains are only operated by the driver in emergency situations. These trains should come into service from 2022.

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IoT Fears

As with any revolutionary tech breakthrough, IoT is causing a stir.

Many are in favour of its remote access and energy saving abilities, while others suggest that only some forms of IoT will be energy efficient. According to experts, smaller scale IoT networks will store data in the cloud and hence won’t have a big impact on energy consumption, whereas applications that require rapid data access and response times – such as health monitors and autonomous vehicles – will need data to be stored locally and therefore efficiency gains from offshoring of data storage could diminish.

People are also worried that IoT’s ability to cut humans out of certain processes could not only lead to job losses, but also to serious accidents. For example, on the subject of driverless trains and busses, many worry that these I-transport machines could change the interactions that characterise urban life. Rick Robinson, IT director of smart data and technology at Amey asks: “Are pedestrians and cyclists sharing street space with automated vehicles going to feel more or less safe if they can’t look into the eyes of the driver and understand whether they’re about to stop to let them cross? These are very basic things, but they have a huge influence on the vitality of urban environments and what takes place within them.”

What the future holds

IoT is a technology that still needs time to unfold. But with experts estimating that the IoT will consist of almost 50 billion objects by 2020, it is certainly fast evolving. Enjoy switching off those lightbulbs while you can folks, it’ll soon be a story to tell the kids about!

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Beth Wadlow

My name is Beth and I am the Junior Marketing Executive at Ebuyer! I started here at the beginning of 2017 after having studied English Lit and Journalism at University and working in retail for a million moons. I enjoy eating yummy food, reading mystery books, going to the gym and walking my cockapoo. I have somehow acquired the nickname ‘kiwi’ in the office and I am a part-time vegetarian (hotdogs only).

2 comments

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  1. JohnE 16 February, 2017 at 09:49

    I wouldn’t worry about job losses. It probably took a team of people larger than the driver workforce to produce the driverless trains and a substantial team to support the system afterwards.

  2. mtaylor 18 May, 2017 at 10:42

    IoT is currently in hype mode with everyone lured onto the bandwagon by the size of the market being quoted.
    It has the potential of generating a lot of data and I have yet to come across a coherent answer to how that data is going to be analysed.
    If you go back to the 1920’s you will see there were multiple hundreds of car manufacturers, because everyone wanted to get onto that new thing (i am deliberating trying to avoid the pun).
    Today through legislation and safety concerns there are less than a dozen completely independent car making companies as it is now very expensive to design a new car.
    The same will happen with IoT, perhaps security will be the aspect which will force rationalisation and we will then see the same global conglomerates dominate.
    My personal fear is how IoT could be used to undermine our internet infrastructure especially when the new cellular based IoT devices become available.

    Finally to end on a totally different note, there is nice place in Soho behind Leceister Square that sell vege hotdogs !!!

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