The Internet of Things, also called IoT, is a distributed network of devices that collect sensor data locally and send it across the network via the internet to enable further data transformation and information extraction.

 

History

The term “Internet of Things” was first publicized by Kevin Ashton, co-founder of Auto-ID Center at MIT, in a presentation about RFID and sensor technology in 1999 at Procter & Gamble (P&G) . The term Internet of Things was eventually added to the Oxford Dictionary in August 2013 .

The very first machine to be considered an Internet-of-Things device was a Coca Cola vending machine at the Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science, designed by David Nichols, a graduate student in CMU. Multiple micro-switches were installed inside the vending machine to log if it was empty or when it was refilled with new Coke bottles. The data collected by the vending machine was then available via the IP address 128.2.209.43 to anyone inside the Carnegie Mellon University network.

 

Terms

Gateway – the combination of hardware and software that enables the connection of the underlying local, offline nodes to the global network via the internet. Gateways have unique identities in the global network, allow bidirectional communication and act as a bridge between offline devices such as sensors and online services like cloud-hosted IoT platforms. The most often used communication protocols used by gateways are REST and MQTT .

Node – offline devices that are connected to a gateway either via cable or via wireless technology such as Bluetooth, Zigbee or Z-Wave. Nodes are most often low performance, low cost, single-board computers capable of running simple programs or scripts.

Sensor – detectors that have the ability to collect various analog data from the physical environment, such as temperature, humidity and convert it into digital data.

IoT Platform – a cloud-hosted application that allows the remote management of connected devices, event logic, third-party services and users.

 

Capabilities

In recent years, four stages have been identified by Andy Mulholland, who is a Constellation Research VP and Analyst, that categorize the capabilities of IoT devices :

1. Connected: Devices can communicate bi-directionally and exchange raw data via the network, also called machine-to-machine (M2M) communication, but cannot process data to create information.

2. Intelligent: In addition to bi-directional communication, devices process data themselves to create valuable information.

3. Interactive: After processing raw data, devices can react to changes based on the information in a predefined manner.

4. Autonomous: Devices are able to process new information, adjust their knowledge accordingly and react to changes in a not predefined manner but based on machine learning.

 

Benefits

Optimization – The Internet of Things is driven by the urge to optimize a wide variety of processes globally. Currently, most processes in business are optimized to meet criteria that is actually measured only to a certain extent, but mostly presumed by humans and expected to be correct based on the small amount of data measured. IoT is seen as the opportunity by business leaders to measure every detail in any process and to be able to instantly and automatically react to changes in the environment. By not only combining advanced hardware technology with complex software, but combining technology as a whole with human resources to work hand-in-hand to optimize processes, the cost of production is expected to radically decrease while the quality and quantity of products is expected to rise.

Cost-effectiveness – Hardware is constantly becoming cheaper, more durable, smaller and lighter while performance is increasing rapidly. A widely used piece of hardware is the Raspberry Pi and costs only about 25 USD. The Raspberry Pi can receive and process data from more than 15 different sensors and over 40 different sensor types at the same time, making it a universal tool to measure any type of data .

Safety and efficiency -Internet of Things devices are best for automated tasks with pre-programmed logic. Tedious tasks can be fully automated to eliminate the need for human interaction. Additionally, letting devices carry out tasks, the status of processes can easily be monitored and adjusted at any time even remotely.  Quite regularly, in factory production, some tasks are not only tedious for humans to carry out but are also dangerous for the workers. As hardware became very affordable, firms will start to invest in IoT and will therefore also drastically increase the safety of their workers.

When a large machine is used in production, smaller parts of the entire machine may be individually monitored. In case one small part breaks in the large machine, if the workers do not react in time, the damage to the machine may increase over time. With IoT devices, even small changes may be monitored, such as temperature change of a machine and when a certain limit is reached, the system may shut down the entire machine to avoid damages. For example, in newspaper printing factories, if one small part of the machinery breaks, the whole factory has to stop its production, which may lead to a huge loss to the company.

Predictive maintenance – The buzzword ‘predictive maintenance’ has been the key element of marketing strategies of IoT firms for a long period of time and while the implementation of the idea is relatively complex, many companies have had great success with it. Predictive maintenance is based on the idea of measuring every small detail of the state of an equipment or of a material and monitoring changes in a very precise manner . As soon as the state of a material or the environment changes in an unexpected way, not only the people responsible for the equipment can be notified, but automated tasks may as well be carried out in real time to react to the changes and avoid service disruption.

Additionally, in case the usage of an equipment is monitored and a certain state is reached, for example when a machine is used for a certain amount of time, the responsible team may be notified to order a replacement or even the order can be automated. While the payment and shipping may take weeks until the new equipment arrives, when the old equipment must eventually be replaced, the new equipment has already arrived and can be installed right away. Therefore, the advantage of predictive maintenance is the ability to predict when the old equipment has to be replaced and preorder the new equipment before with the expectation that until the arrival of the new equipment the old equipment may still be used.

 

Use Cases

Agriculture – Many processes in agriculture and farming have already been automated, however there is always space for further improvements. For example, autonomous tractors also use many sensors that are connected to a central processing unit that controls the tractor and navigates its movement. Although the tractor is also connected to the internet, the processing of the data happens on the edge to enable maximum security of the tractor with real-time processing of data. In other scenarios such as pet feeding, irrigation or any type of monitoring the need for real-time processing is not as important although it is close to real-time, there is no or only minimal security factor that would require edge processing and can be therefore built as an internet of things solution.

Further uses cases in agriculture are:
– Pet feeding
– Irrigation Controller
– Energy Monitoring
– Equipment monitoring
– Food Sensors
– Lighting
– Surveillance
– Emergency Services

 

Building Management – with the rise of the Internet of Things, Building management has gained big traction during the last couple of years. The automation and monitoring of rooms and equipment in the building allow a centralized management of all the assets, the repair and maintenance of equipment and an increase in comfort for the people living or working in the buildings. Apart from the automation, the infotainment management is a relatively exciting functionality for technology enthusiasts.

Further uses cases in building management are:
– Smart light-bulbs
– Security
– Smoke alarm
– Infotainment
– Energy Monitoring
– Smart parking
– Insurance adjustment for buildings
– Emergency Alert
– Room occupancy
– Surveillance
– Waste management
– Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC)

 

Healthcare – The healthcare sector has been one of the first industries to start implementing the Internet of Things to monitor patient’s health while even allowing the movement inside the building.
– Patient Care
– Elderly monitoring
– Insurance adjustments
– Remote diagnostic
– Hospital hygiene
– Health monitoring wearables
– Emergency Alert

 

Energy (Oil, Gas, Mining) – Oil and gas drilling, coal mining or even the maintenance of nuclear powerhouses are extremely dangerous tasks and the remote maintenance and control of these processes with the Internet of Things is of great benefit to the workers and the companies as well. Many systems are already built, however they are usually not connected to the internet, mostly because no secure remote access was available. Even though many companies tend to wait until the Internet of Things has become a very mature and secure way to manage equipment in these areas, some processes that are less dangerous or critical are constantly being replaced with connected devices.
– Security
– Smoke alarm
– Traffic routing (for transportation)
– Supply chain
– Shipping
– Equipment monitoring
– Emergency alert
– Building maintenance
– Waste management

 

Transportation – Some of the most complex Internet of Things projects that are used as references are trains, train stations and other equipment along the railroad that have been eventually digitalised and connected to one centralized dashboard to enable simple management. Furthermore,autonomous cars also use very similar technology and in the near future the cars are predicted to communicate with each other and with the environment such as traffic lights and other devices.
– Infotainment
– Traffic routing
– Self-driving cars
– Insurance adjustments
– Predictive maintenance
– Smart parking
– Remote diagnostic
– Emergency alert

 

Manufacturing – legacy systems used in manufacturing are most often not interconnected yet and cannot be monitored or controlled remotely. The real time analytics of machine performance, the measurement of usage and predictive maintenance of machines is a great benefit to the manufacturing industry and will be perhaps one of the biggest and most complex area where the internet of things will be used.
– Security
– Smoke alarm
– Energy monitoring
– Package monitoring
– Shipping monitoring
– Equipment monitoring
– Emergency alert
– Maintenance
– Waste management

 

Infrastructure – Transportation systems, the infrastructure of roads, bridges and other roadside electronics such as the lightning are going to be connected to each other utilizing the power of the Internet of Things. As the autonomous cars gain traction on the market , another huge step forward for the automobile industry is to connect cars with their environment to exchange data and make transportation safer. Also, from the infrastructure perspective the quality of roads and other materials such as the structure of a bridge may be constantly evaluated with internet of things devices to be able to repair failing parts before it becomes dangerous.
– Smart lights
– Energy monitoring
– Traffic routing
– Smart parking
– Insurance adjustments
– Equipment monitoring
– Material consistency monitoring
– Emergency routing

 

Utilities – Considering electricity, water or gas that is provided by a public utility to the residents of cities, the measurement of quality and quantity of the usage is often very complex and currently requires a large workforce to manually check devices. This way of measurement is often very slow and unresponsive to events and the quality of the service is often neglected. By interconnecting these devices, the responsible companies may have access to all the information they need without possible data privacy issues, can analyze the consumption in different regions or even narrow it down to individual houses. An added benefit would be the large increase in quality of the service and responsiveness to changes.
– Energy monitoring
– Quantity monitoring
– Insurance adjustment
– Remote diagnostic
– Equipment monitoring
– Emergency alert
– Electrical distribution
– Maintenance
– Surveillance
– Utilities/ Smart grid
– Emergency services
– Waste management

 

Retail – The massive amount of products that are handled daily by retailers would be unthinkable without information systems. Most retailers already use complex systems to keep large amounts of data about which products are in stock and which were sold and also to which customer. Although in retail there are already many systems that are relatively well connected, there is always room for improvement with the internet of things.
– Security
– Smoke alarm
– Package routing
– Package monitoring
– Quality monitoring
– Traffic routing
– Smart parking
– Equipment monitoring
– Emergency alert
– Maintenance
– Waste management

 

Insurance – The insurance industry always requires exact information about nearly any possible event such as accidents, health or any factor that may affect the rates of the insurance. Also, in case of an accident, the insurance companies need to gather all the information about what has happened manually as no centralized system is available to deliver those kinds of information. Because the insurance systems would depend on other systems from other industries as well to gain all the information they need to evaluate for example an accident, the internet of things will require more time for the insurance industry than some other industries.
– Insurance adjustment
– Patient care
– Elderly monitoring
– Remote diagnostic
– Health wearables
– Security
– Emergency alert
– Surveillance

 

Hospitality – The hospitality industry is very large and is one of the most innovative industries of all. It is well known that businesses in the hospitality industry focus on providing the most comfort to the travelers and are actively looking for solutions that enable it. Many solutions from other industries can be applied in the hospitality industry as well such as the infotainment, building management, connected homes and even healthcare. The hospitality industry is relatively dependent on other industries but will definitely be one that pushes other industries as well to invest in the internet of things.
– Smoke alarm
– Infotainment
– Energy monitoring
– Smart parking
– Equipment monitoring
– Hygiene monitoring
– Security
– Lighting
– Emergency alert
– Occupancy
– Emergency services
– Waste management

Defense / Security – Security is a major concern is every industry and massive investments are made to make every process safer. Although it is often argued that the internet of things is not as secure yet as it should be,but that does not necessarily mean it cannot be used in some areas that are mostly for monitoring purposes. In the defense context, the military nearly everywhere has the most advanced systems that are not even made public for many years. It is therefore hard to state to which extent the military is using internet of things systems, but it certainly does to some extent.
– Smoke alarm
– Energy monitoring
– Equipment monitoring
– Insurance adjustment
– Remote diagnostic
– Emergency alert
– Structural integrity
– Maintenance
– Video surveillance

 

Logistics – In the same way as in retail, a massive number of products have to be transported, selected and categorized and also stored in to maximize the efficiency of logistics. As the market for individualized products emerges, even more variations of products have to be stored in a manner that every product is unique and can be identified easily to avoid the transportation of a product that is not the product the customer has ordered. Apart from the inconvenience and disappointment of the consumer, in case products are not categorized and sorted carefully and systematically, it may eventually lead to a huge loss for the company. The internet of things enables the easy overview and management of products and reduces the cost of error.

– Energy monitoring
– Traffic routing
– Package monitoring
– Smart parking
– Remote diagnostic
– Equipment monitoring
– Security
– Emergency alert
– Waste management

 

Connected Home – also known as home automation is often viewed as a way to comfort home owners by automating tedious tasks inside their house. From coffee machines that make coffee operated from a mobile application to the smart fridge which shows what type of foods are inside and until when they can be consumed, many devices are already connected to the internet. As producers tend to use different frameworks to connect their devices to the internet which are often developed by the companies themselves, they often expose consumers to privacy risks. In the near future it is expected to have a unified framework for such devices and then the internet of things will have a great effect on households and consumers.
– Smart lighting
– Home security
– Pet feeding
– Smart home appliance
– Irrigation controller
– Energy monitoring
– Insurance adjustment
– Elderly monitoring
– Remote diagnostic
– Food sensors
– Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC)
– Emergency alert
– Waste management

 

Overview

The internet of things is seen as one of the biggest factors that will affect the digital transformation and the world as we know it. It allows users to sense, measure, analyze any detail in the real world and transform it into data. That data can then be used to improve machine learning algorithms and enable real-time decision making. The ideal goal of the combination of these technologies is to optimize all kinds of processes, decrease costs, produce higher quality products, improve people’s lives and increase the safety and comfort of society.

Although the internet of things still has several drawbacks, these will be minimized or eliminated in the near future as large companies have already realized the benefits of this technology and are investing large sums to make the internet of things a reality. It is also interesting to see how different companies with different core products approach the internet of things. Some companies are focusing entirely on the communication, some on analytics, some on different industries and some companies use the internet of things as an extension to their core products. There is definitely no right or wrong approach and the flexibility of the internet of things and different areas of use is also reflected.

The idea that cross platform communication is necessary is certainly not new,but after having evaluated the current landscape of the internet of things it is necessary to point out that a huge gap in the implementation for these type of communication services exist and this overview serves as a presentation of the current landscape as well as an initial implementation to fill this gap. Overall, the platforms provided by the five companies SAP, Microsoft, Amazon, IBM and Google are relatively easy to use and are often well documented and the community is also large and active. The number of users of IoT platforms are expected to grow radically and the companies themselves are always working on making the implementations easier, more user friendly and secure.