Internet of Things (IoT) is the most discussed tech topic these days. Many technocrats predict that IoT, being a disruptive technology, is going to transform the way people will work and lead their lives.
Many people are under the impression that only computers and smartphones have the capability to interconnect and communicate. But the new technology has the potential to interconnect each and every object that we use in our daily lives.
The emergence of the internet brought about revolutionary changes in the way we communicate, acquire knowledge and transmit information. It is considered to be a treasure house of knowledge. There are more than one billion websites which feature an enormous amount of valuable information. Data, information, and knowledge – they are all well within our reach if we own a networked computer or at least a smartphone. Gone are the days when we visited libraries in search of information we needed. Now information and knowledge are just a click away. Google for it and it gets flashed across your screen. And, Internet of Things is another disruptive technology, which is expected to transform the way we work and the way we lead our lives, just like how internet did.
What is Internet of Things (IoT)?
There is an indication in the term itself. It is the internet of ‘things’. It goes beyond desktops, tablet PCs and smartphones. IoT connects many things. What are those things? Any object that we use in our daily lives, whether it is a wristwatch, refrigerator, microwave oven, toaster, light bulb, automobile, scrap bin or even a cardiac pacemaker or any other thing, if they have onboard sensors and microchips and Wi-Fi enabled, they can be interconnected. So IoT is a network of computerized, Wi-Fi enabled things which can communicate and exchange data by using a code and a platform. These interconnected things are actually smart objects, which use an amalgam of technologies to sense, connect, communicate and to release commands. The technologies Internet of Things uses are the internet, RFID (radio frequency identification) NFC (Near Field Communication), cloud computing and ZigBee.
IoT will have its applications in almost all fields and walks of life like transportation, health, education, waste management, agriculture, manufacturing, and retail. As part of the IoT, every electronic device which has the capability to get connected will be interconnected with other devices. The billions of interconnected objects and machines share, record, store and transmit data, process information and generate machine commands. The gadgets and devices that are part of the Internet of Things will, to a great extent, work autonomously and act on their own without necessitating any human intervention.
IoT will improve efficiency and productivity.
An IoT-enabled gadget or appliance will go beyond its traditional functions and does many things on its own. In other words, it turns into an intelligence object and starts executing many tasks on its own. Take the example of a smart refrigerator. A traditional refrigerator preserves perishable food products by freezing them or keeping them cool. But an IoT-enabled smart refrigerator does many things on its own. It keeps track of the food products that are preserved in it and detects when some food products stored in it reach their re-order level and sends an alert message to its owner. It even detects those products which are lying unused or expired and alerts the user to remove those products.
Cisco Systems estimates that by 2020 there will be 50bn things connected to the Internet. The ever decreasing costs of internet connectivity and microchips have brought them within the reach of even the lower middle-class people and paved way for the proliferation of IoT devices, which in turn will act as a launching pad for the full-fledged implementation of Internet of Things. The miniature computing devices, which run on low power, can be embedded in the objects of everyday use. The traditional objects of everyday use, when embedded with miniature computing devices coupled with onboard sensors, cameras, and Wi-Fi, will transform themselves into the feature rich, intelligent, autonomous objects which greatly increase the efficiency and productivity of every individual and organization when deployed.
However, the Internet of Things appears to be a double-edged sword. It has the potential to bring about an incredible transformation in our lives, but at the same time, it may prove a bane if it is not planned properly and if the required safety protocols are not put in place.
Internet of Things will fuel massive e-waste.
Internet of Things, being a disruptive technology, makes the old gadgets obsolete. People who take a plunge into the IoT will replace the traditional devices with the Wi-Fi enabled computerized devices to make themselves IoT compliant. This obsolescence will generate massive quantities of e-waste, which will prove to be very harmful to the environment and the health of the people.
Ensuring data security will be a challenge.
Once IoT gets implemented in a full-fledged manner, billions of devices get interconnected through IoT platforms and they start exchanging massive quantities of data. Any breach of security will have major repercussions on human rights and social fabric of the society. Implementation of the Internet of Things in some areas like health and defense will have to be foolproof. A breach of a server maintained by the department of defense may prove to be disastrous to the entire nation. If a hacker manages to hack into a Wi-Fi enabled cardiac pacemaker, it will prove to be fatal for the patient. Therefore, data security has to be the most crucial component of the IoT implementation.
Poor in the third world will miss the IoT bus.
As usual, the poor and the lower-middle class people in the third world will definitely miss the IoT bus. They neither possess the technical acumen nor can they afford to procure the IoT compliant devices in spite of the fact that the internet connectivity costs and the prices of the microchips have gone down to a great extent.
IoT has the potential to infringe upon your privacy.
The more devices you have which connect on an IoT platform the more danger they pose to your privacy. Each and every movement and action of the user of an IoT device could be tracked by analyzing the data it generates, though anonymously. However, if these devices are compromised, they pose a grave threat to privacy, which is considered to be one of the fundamental human rights. So devising the ways and means to protect the privacy of the users is of foremost importance in the implementation of the IoT. This task can’t be left exclusively to technicians. Even the sociologists and the civil society must have a say in how to safeguard the individual rights and privacy.
The challenge of recording data and utilizing it effectively
The billions of devices that connect on IoT platforms generate enormous quantities of data which has to be captured, stored and analyzed in real time. The data generated has great economic value, and if utilized properly, can provide us with invaluable insights. And these insights will be useful in policy formulation and implementation in various sectors. However, the sheer enormity of data that will be generated by billions of devices will pose a major challenge.
IoT may fuel consumerism and greed for gadgets.
As IoT is all about gadgets that interconnect, there will be a mad rush to procure those devices to experience the comfort and productivity they provide. The possession of the IoT devices shows a stark contrast between the haves and have-nots. The phenomenon may fuel excessive consumerism and greed, and amplify the economic inequalities, which may have a negative impact on the societal life.
Internet of Things will take the lives of humans to a whole new level. However, the humanity has to tread cautiously. This can’t be developed and deployed only by technocrats. The experts from all walks of life must be involved in this and there must be a lot of free and fair discussions and deliberations as a precursor to its implementation.