The endless possibilities of the Internet of Things
One can’t imagine a future where the Internet does not play a major role, especially with the Internet of Things (IoT). We’re seeing much of the foundation for a future of IoT being built today, and someday this will give rise to smart homes, businesses and cities that can change the way we live.
In a nutshell, the IoT is a network of devices connected by the internet that can communicate with each other.
Take, for instance, the smart doorbell, which is becoming popular in households. When a visitor approaches the door, the device is activated by the motion and uses its Wi-Fi connection to send an alert to the homeowner’s smartphone via an app. The homeowner can access the app even if they are not home as long as they have mobile data. The homeowner can use the app to turn on the camera and the intercom so they can see and speak to the visitor.
But there is much more to it. IoT devices use processors, sensors and communication hardware and software to collect, send and act on data they get from their environment. Not only do IoT devices communicate with other related devices, they also act on the information they get from one another. IoT also often makes use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to collect and process this data.
IoT is already being applied to many industries, including manufacturing, transportation, utilities and agriculture, among others. Many businesses rely on IoT to automate processes and reduce labor costs, as well as to collect data on their operations, from the performance of machines to supply chain and logistics operations.
The use-cases for IoT are endless, from smart buildings with sensors that monitor energy usage and adjust to agricultural settings where connected devices monitor for threats to livestock and crops to maximize profit.
The transition to an IoT world is happening slowly but surely. According to a report released by market research firm ReportLinker in September, the global IoT services market is expected to grow from $139.24 billion in 2020 to $162.39 billion in 2021 and reach $381.16 billion in 2025. The initial growth is attributed to companies resuming their operations and adapting to the impacts of Covid-19.
The potential of IoT is not lost on the private and government sectors. Google and Amazon have invested in virtual assistants and smart devices that interact with each other and the environment to automate households and home security.
The U.S. government is preparing for the growth of IoT. As more households and industries use IoT technology, high-speed and high-capacity networks will be needed, so the Federal Communications Commission is turning its attention to providing enough spectrum for IoT devices.
On Sept. 30, the FCC issued a notice of inquiry for spectrum requirements for the Internet of Things as directed by the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2021. The NDAA is requiring the FCC to seek comments on the current and future spectrum needs for IoT. Specifically, “any factors that will bear on the growth of the IoT, including any regulatory barriers that may hinder the provision of spectrum needed to support uses relating to IoT.”
The FCC acknowledges that IoT will expand because devices have higher data processing capabilities and are less expensive.
Jessica Rosenworcel, FCC’s acting chairwoman, said the commission expects to have more than 20 billion connected devices in the country.
The interest from the federal government is also due in part to the development of 5G and satellites that expand the availability of high-speed and high-capacity networks.
In addition, there are efforts to encourage more organizations to adopt IoT. In the U.S., government grants are available to communities that can integrate IoT technology into city planning initiatives for public transportation to mitigate challenges and improve safety and sustainability.
While IoT has so much positive potential, there are challenges to its adoption, including security and cost. But these challenges are minor hurdles to a future of efficiency and sustainability.
With any system that relies on the internet, privacy and security is an issue. As technology advances, so does security. Solutions are being developed constantly.
The Internet of Things Cyber Security Improvement Act of 2020 requires that IoT devices purchased with government money must meet minimum security requirements addressing the current supply chain risk to the federal government.
Challenges for corporate IoT ecosystems are that a single malfunctioning device may impact the whole network of devices; and, as more devices become connected, enterprises may someday have to handle massive amounts of data and develop ways to manage the number of devices.
Businesses will have to consider these challenges as they apply IoT to their operations.
On the consumer level, the cost of devices and internet services is a barrier for some households. However, technological advancements can drive down the costs and, as both products and services become more affordable, the adoption of smart homes will increase. The mobile phone industry is a case in point. The cellular phone was once a luxury, but now most people have a mobile phone.
Discussions about IoT have been going on for what seems like ages, but there is progress. As wireless technology, artificial intelligence and machine learning continue to advance, we sit on the precipice of an IoT era. When the time comes and the technology is available, we just have to be willing to take the leap.
Jay R. Shedd is executive vice president of Citadel Holdings, the parent company of PTI Pacific Inc. which does business as IT&E and IP&E, which operates Shell and Foodys, Fujita Property Guam Inc, PacificPoints, and Traveler. He has more than 30 years of experience in the telecommunications industry, business development, sales and marketing.