What is Internet of Things (IoT) really?

Obviously the most over hyped word of the moment: IoT. The Gartner Hype Cycle 2014 shows it pretty clearly

 

gartner_2014-2

but the more I am dealing with IoT the more I realize that this word is really a garbage bag for about everything closely related to some object that can connect to something else, somehow.. It’s so vague that everything kind of falls into this category these days.. Old 15 or 20 year old companies are now IoT companies without having changed a bit what they were¬†actually doing. I can understand it. If there is a wave, one should try to ride it.

But let’s look at it a little closer and try to give it an accurate definition. IoT: Internet of Things. That is standing as a reflection of an Internet of People I assume. So the internet today is mostly people connecting to servers or other people via a large network of interconnected networks that is accessible to all. It relies on a set of standards (the most famous being TCP/IP, HTTP, etc) to enable open communications between people and servers.

If we translate that to “Things”, we should define the Internet of Things as a large network of interconnected networks where Things communicate with other Things. There should really be no people involved. So why is Wearables in the Internet of Things? why is a connected Oil rigs in the Internet of Things? Why is your connected car in the Internet of Things? I am really starting to think that they are not. They are just a new wave of connected and potentially smart devices but still connect to a person at some point.

Your FitBit will connect to you phone, which will send data to a server so you can review, track, compete with other people. That’s not an internet of thing, that’s a thing connected to the internet.

In an internet of things, things are the actors. A device connects to another device of server which sends something back automatically, and the device may take action based on that response. If the interaction starts to become more complex, to the point where an entire life cycle can happen between devices, then we are in the internet of things.

What could that look like. Imagine your self-driving car..

Self-driving car

It detects some high level of vibration in one of the wheel. It connects to a server that can identify the cause and likelihood of failure thanks to all the other cars that had the same issue, and roughly in the same condition of use (some predictive models would apply). The verdict is clear: that wheel will have an issue in the next 2 to 4 weeks. The server let’s your car know. The car checks your schedule and maps it to potential repair slots in a garage near your work. It books an appointment during your work hours. That day, it takes you to work, then leave to go the appointment (on it’s own!! it’s a self-driving car!). It gets the repair, and comes back to pick you up at the end of your day. Potentially the repair was made by a robot in the garage. No humans involved, maybe except for the validation of payments ūüėČ

There we¬†are talking about an internet of things. The car could talk to the garage, thanks to standard protocols, it could analyze issue based on other data point from other things, it could read your agenda and self drive thanks to sensors and plenty of other information given by other Things it didn’t know about that were connected and intelligently inform the car’s decisions.

I think we will truly achieve the Internet of Things, when things can autonomously interact between each other to the benefit of people. In the meantime, it’s a lot hypes, but don’t get me wrong, it has¬†tons¬†of¬†value and that’s why I’m so passionate about it.

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2 thoughts on “What is Internet of Things (IoT) really?

  1. The Internet of Things hype brought back some (old) memories of some research I did when graduating in 1991. That research was about home automation. Some wild stories were told back then about connecting all kinds of devices using a network (ISDN, Ethernet, proprietary, IR).

    One of the most advanced systems, back then, was Homebus, a Japanese home automation network that used all kinds of ways to connect appliances at home to each other and to a computer.

    I tried googling hbs and found a little history: http://www.fit.ac.jp/~hamabe/intro/HBS.html

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