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The Internet of Things - Towards a SMART Future

At the beginning of the millennium, the internet was the epitome of human innovation with the world at our fingertips. Anything beyond this was the stuff of sci-fi movies - a mere, distant dream to be marvelled at, restricted to the big screen. However, the future and its innovation know no bounds. This year that we will soon be bidding adieu to, brought with it a new stage in the evolution of the ‘Internet of People’ or, as we call it, simply, the Internet. Lo and behold, the Internet of things - the tech world’s new obsession. While the Internet of People connects, well, people, and allows them to communicate with each other; the latter expands the virtual world to everyday devices and appliances, thus making them SMART.

From the launch of the first smart device in 1966 to the advent of smart home devices like HomeKit, Google Home and Amazon Echo in 2014, we have already witnessed a glimpse of the future. This, however, was just the beginning. In 2021, the Internet of Things has gone beyond the confines of the Home and traversed new dimensions, as we find ourselves surrounded by smart devices in all domains of our life, be it agriculture or security. So much so, that by 2030, the number of active Internet of Things devices is predicted to surpass 25.4 billion.

Applications of IOT in 2021

The Internet of Medical Things

The Internet of Medical Things (IOMT) is a collection of healthcare devices that connect to healthcare IT systems through online networks. So, is it merely a bunch of medical devices that connect to the Internet? Not really. It communicates with other medical devices and provides them with data about the patient’s heartbeat, pulse, magnitude of physical activity and related information and interprets it within seconds to predict future ailments. This data is saved in the patient’s Electronic Health Record (EHR), which is soon to become a global standard. While apriori, it seems like something that only helps medical professionals save time; in times of emergency, it can be life-saving. For instance, in the unfortunate event of someone having a heart attack, their mHealth smart device can detect it and alert the doctors at the nearest hospital. Further, fall detection devices like the Lively Wearable prove to be lifesavers for the elderly.

However, the IOMT is not only restricted to physical health. Wearable devices like the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 boast of features like stress monitoring and sleep optimisation. In a pandemic, IOT would be even more useful with devices such as a wireless industrial temperature sensor launched this year, that prevents the spoilage of vaccines. With a plethora of applications, the global IOMT market is projected to grow from the current $30.79 billion to a whopping $187.60 billion in 2028.

The Future of Farming

Agricultural drones fitted with sensors and cameras allow remote monitoring of farms, saving precious time. With a shortage of labour, agricultural robots are gaining popularity among farmers in western countries. These robots combine image processing and robotic arms to pick fruits and vegetables and determine their quality. Remote sensing IOT devices can be used to monitor the crops for changes in humidity, shape and size. Moreover, using devices like Smart Elements and Pycno, farmers can keep track of climatic conditions and reduce wastage. Devices like the ALTA Wireless Soil Moisture Sensor measure soil water tension as well as temperature. Precision farming devices like irrigation control systems, GPS and yield monitors will improve choices regarding the weather, the crops grown and fertilisers used, resulting in better produce.

Transportation, Traffic and Transit

As cities expand, more and more people are lured in by the glitz and glamour of the big city. However, the allure does not last long as they are faced with the reality of slow-moving traffic that stands in stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of city life.

Seems like the Internet of Things could really save the day with many commercial companies like Inrix and Chariot leading the way. Developed nations like Finland, Hong Kong, Russia, the US and the UK are already using smart traffic management systems. Furthermore, IOT in transportation will make public transit more efficient. One of the major drawbacks of public transport is the lack of certainty as to when the vehicle will arrive at a particular stop. Internet of Things gadgets provide real-time vehicle tracking data through a GPS installed in the vehicle that will be sent through a central command centre to the user’s smart mobile device. Besides, smart sensors like the Zonar Coach detect ten perilous behaviours in drivers like distracted driving, droopy eyes, hard acceleration and lane drifting; preventing accidents. With a flurry of applications, the IOT in the transportation market is set to grow to $328 Billion by 2023.

Home Automation

With the emergence of IOT, even basic things like coffee machines and lights are undergoing a digital evolution and so is the home, as we know it. A smart home is a collection of smart home appliances that learn and remember the smallest of our preferences and while doing so, communicate with other devices. The Google Nest, for one, is a learning thermostat that detects when people are around and saves energy by learning your daily schedule. Home automation also makes for enhanced security with glass door sensors that alert the police if an intruder breaks in. Increasingly popular among tech-obsessed millennials, homes pre-installed with such gizmos sell for a much higher price.

Convenience or Complexity?

While some of the best devices for smart homes boast of enhanced security; IOT has a dark side - these same gadgets may share your personal data with third-party organizations. With 90% of consumers lacking trust in connected devices, one wonders whether users may be sacrificing their safety only for convenience. Therefore, IOT security devices are the need of the hour, without which a smart home would resemble a house without doors. Security devices like the F-Secure Sense connect to your Wi-Fi router and secure your home automation system, both from outside threats and devices from the same smart home. This is because hackers can use certain vulnerabilities of poorly protected smart home appliances to hack into your entire network.

The Way Ahead

For a technology as immense as IOT, the possibilities are endless. The future is exciting with IOT devices revolutionising the transportation, security, agriculture and healthcare sector. The voids created by the incompatibility of distinct devices will be filled by a network of connected devices. Medtech will prevent delays and human errors in treatment. The best home automation systems will revamp our living spaces.

However, there have been many cases of smart homes failing which will have to be resolved. For instance, many parents have complained of Alexa turning into their kids’ personal Santa and ordering a $170 dollhouse on Amazon. Moreover, as servers are the bedrock on which the smart home stands, a slight dysfunction can bring the whole home automation system down like a set of dominos, since most smart homes work on the If This, Then That (IFTTT) principle. Additionally, the expensive prices may restrict the IOT revolution to developed nations.

Security risks of smart homes, if not resolved, can make users regret their decision of hopping onto the SMART bandwagon. Similarly, critics point out ethical concerns as many companies, in the pursuit of profits, would throw confidentiality and morality right out of the window.

To Conclude

In 2021, the Internet of Things has evolved and expanded to various sectors. While in the past, people only thought of smart homes and voice assistants on hearing the words ‘Internet of Things’, 2021 has proven otherwise. Though certain smart home devices may pose security threats; with the correct precautions, the pros outnumber the cons. With a plethora of technological innovations that cater to our every need, the future seems to be shining bright.

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