The Internet of Things is set to be one of the big trends for the year ahead. It refers to a technology that is able to connect any type of device to a network, to communicate and to carry out actions. No doubt we will find ourselves using it this year without even realizing it, as one of its key features is its invisibility for most of us.
Every now and again a new technological trend appears. There is always some innovation on the lips of the experts in the material, which results in the end of a cycle of influence of some service or technology. We have been through this with televisions, the telephone and this year what we are going to hear about most is the Internet of Things.
Behind this name lies a wide range of possibilities opened up by one of the most important changes we have experienced in recent years: connectivity. We have designed a host of devices capable of communicating with one another, but now we are embarking on a greater and more ambitious mission: endowing all the objects in our surroundings with this capacity, which until now have been silent.
What is the Internet of Things?
The Internet of Things refers to a trend that seeks to connect up devices of different types based on the communication structures used today. If the famous network of networks is based on computers connected up to each other, this concept pursues the same concept but with objects of all different types.
As with Internet, each device has an address that identifies it on the network; an address which serves to make it unique. Its sensors not only make it possible to communicate but also to send instructions to carry out simple actions which, taken together, can be capable of providing value and automating numerous processes.
Explained in this way it may seem slightly abstract, but if we bring it down to earth we find a situation in which devices that until now were not endowed with connectivity being able to transmit information to others and using the data transferred for different purposes.
Take, for example, a motorway full of cars. Each one of them has a set of sensors that enables them to communicate with other nearby cars in real time: to share their position, warn us when they are conducting a maneuver or, with respect to those further ahead, simply alert us to an accident. Something that was previously done analogically can now be done in a connected manner.
In the home setting, this will mean a definitive changeover to smart houses: controlling the thermostat from your cell phone, remote vigilance of our homes or establishing patterns to automate energy consumption and thus reduce the electricity bill. Little processes which, when taken together, reveal the potential and real value of the Internet of Things.
Its use is not only restricted to consumption: it will also play an important role in business. Take, for example, the retail outlets in a shopping mall. Each one of them is equipped with a sensor capable of identifying who is passing by the shop. If they recognize you as a previous customer, they can send you customized offers and promotions.
Neither should we overlook the analytical value and the big data that can be offered by an Internet of Things: a motorway full of connected cars can serve local administration offices to re-route traffic in the event of traffic jams or businesses to know their customers better when they enter the shop.
The possibilities are endless and the cost of implementation so small that modifying current objects to connect up to each other will only need something as simple as fitting a radio frequency or Near Field Communication (NFC) chip to enable basic connectivity. That is, of course, not to forget other protocols such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
Why is it the big trend to follow this year?
After several years of development, 2015 will finally see this technology grow and reach the top. For analysts like IDC it will be one of the biggest growth sectors: from now to 2020 we will connect a billion new devices, thus generating billions of dollars in business.
However, the analysts are not the only ones saying this: big technology companies are heavily committing to it. Indeed, this year Samsung, LG, Sony and Microsoft have all mentioned it by name and pointed to the steps they are taking in this direction.
As the year in which the Internet of Things is going to burst onto the scene, 2015 will also see small businesses having a major input, given that they will be the ones to bring new ideas for connecting objects for our benefit. We have already seem some examples of simple smart home technology, but some companies like Xerox already have extremely interesting infrastructures in place.
The capacity to interconnect all types of devices means that it is a very flexible business. There will be no owner technologies. Everything will be based on shared standards, thus network creation will be that much easier and multi-purpose, affording equal opportunities to all those who wish to join together.
Accordingly, this will lead to the creation of new businesses. Already known companies creating new equipment focusing on the Internet of Things and small companies sprouting up to create more specific needs. The Internet of Things is the next great trend. The next few months will see loads of new applications.