Internet of Things: the Good, the Bad and the Future
No one can deny that technology has taken a quantum leap in a few short years, and it continues to develop faster than most of us can keep up with. One of the most rapidly growing sectors of technology is the Internet of Things (IoT), where devices interact with other devices to keep people connected. IoT provides convenience and mobility to millions of users, but the many benefits of Internet of Things have to be weighed against its dark side.
Twenty years ago, none of us could have imagined how technology and the Internet would transform the way we work, communicate, entertain and socialize. It seems we time-traveled at warp speed to a new dimension where the entire world is at our fingertips. Technology has liberated us from cubicles, snail mail, shopping malls and time zones, ushering in a new era of unprecedented connectivity.
Internet of Things (IoT) technology works to smooth over the rough edges where obsolete work processes and counterproductive lifestyles meet modern, more productive and sustainable ways of working and living. IoT connects and integrates our software and devices, molding work processes and communication to fit the way we live in the 21st Century.
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IoT Basics: Internet of Things Tutorial
Internet of Things technology leverages the Internet to connect everyday electronic devices embedded with software and sensors to each other. IoT lets your smart devices communicate, send, receive and interpret data and information from connected devices anywhere in the world, in real time.
Whether you know it or not, you probably already use IoT technology. If you wear a fitness tracker or smart watch, integrate your car’s sound system and GPS with your phone, use ride share services like Uber or Lyft, or use your smart device to interact with your bank account, you are leveraging the Internet of Things.
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But the applications of IoT software go far beyond your personal use, with a multitude of applications for business, industry, government and finance.
Examples of IoT networks in everyday life include smart assistants like Alexa or Siri connected to your television, audio system, HVAC system and more. IoT networks are shaping our everyday lives by changing the way we do everyday things.
With Internet of Things technology, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts by integrating the most useful features of our electronic devices and coordinating them to serve our individual needs.
A Brief History of IoT
Back in the early 1980s, long before most of us ever heard of the World Wide Web, computer science nerds at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University launched the world’s first IoT project by connecting a soda machine to the ARPANET, an early iteration of today’s Internet, to collect data on its contents. Over time, students added a video camera to the soda machine, and a screen to display information on the weather and other topics of interest. While the system was primitive, it was an early foray into what would later become a technologically advanced approach to modern living.
Fast forward to 2020, where over 8 billion things are connected to the Internet for use on a global scale. That number is expected to skyrocket by more than triple by 2022. The potential for IoT technology is limited only by our capacity to imagine new applications for it.
Advantages of Internet of Things
The practical uses of IoT technology are growing at such a rapid pace that it would be impossible to list them all in a single article. Clearly, the phenomenal adoption and growth of IoT is evidence enough that the technology provides profound advantages.
Some Internet of Things benefits include:
- Connectivity: It wasn’t so long ago that we needed a variety of different devices and remote control pads to enjoy the advantages of technology. Remember when your mobile phone was just a phone, and you had separate devices for listening to music, taking pictures, accessing the Internet and enjoying your favorite movies and TV shows? No one could have predicted in the 1990s that we would have all the knowledge in the universe available at our fingertips in 2020. IoT gives us connectivity to people and devices all over the world.
- Efficiency: All that connectivity saves us time, money and energy. We can get things done in seconds that once took hours. IoT has made it possible for many of us to work from home, saving time on commuting and money on gas, not to mention the cost of parking, work attire, grooming, lunch and other work-related expenses. We can communicate with the office from anywhere, and no longer have to lug a briefcase full of files with us on business trips. In fact, even business trips are becoming passé as online meetings become the norm.
- Convenience: IoT makes everything easier in our business and personal lives. No more trips to the bank to make deposits and withdraw money. No more buying stamps and envelopes to pay your bills. No more forrays to the library or government agencies to access information, data, forms or documents. Music, book and video stores are largely relics of the past as we tap into streaming services and ebooks. We can even buy groceries, learn a language or earn an advanced degree without ever leaving home. If you want to learn more about convenient services in healthcare, read: Patient Portal Development Guide: Types, Features & Cost
- Health, fitness and wellness: Wearable technology is enjoying immense popularity, and it will only continue to grow as wearable devices become smarter. Monitor your heart rate and blood pressure, keep an eye on your body temperature, clock your performance and more from your watch or fitness tracker. Medically implanted devices (IMDs) are also tapping into IoT to regulate pacemakers, defibrillate heart arrhythmias, pump insulin and stimulate the brain. The recent global pandemic ushered in a huge surge in TeleHealth, eliminating the need to visit your doctor in person for a checkup or prescription, thanks to IoT. Read also: The Ever-Growing Internet of Things for Healthcare
- Environment: IoT holds great promise for protecting our planet and making life on earth more sustainable. Smart technology can help us monitor and control our usage of water, energy and natural resources. It can increase the efficiency of manufacturing, monitor air and water pollution and reduce waste. IoT technology is being used to stop deforestation from illegal logging and protect endangered species from poachers. It is even being used to track bee populations and monitor the conditions of beehives.
- Personalization: It’s no coincidence that when you go online to find a certain type of product or service, it very quickly comes looking for you. Every time you do a web search or visit a website, data is mined on your consumer behavior, and either sold or exploited by businesses to create a personalized web experience. The types, cost and quality of products and services you purchase online tell a story about your tastes and preferences, and even your income bracket. Your web searches for vacation destinations, medical services, dating sites and fitness memberships provides information to e-commerce that creates a consumer profile. The types of music or movies you access from streaming services influences the options you are shown first on your next visit. Like it or not, if you use the Internet as a consumer, you are being profiled and your shopping journey is being personalized.
Additional Pros and Cons of Internet of Things
Despite its many advantages, the benefits of IoT need to be weighed against its dark side.
Data mining: If the idea of consumer personalization makes your skin crawl a bit, it is because data mining is a gross invasion of privacy. Despite being a right that is guaranteed and protected by the US Constitution, personal privacy is becoming increasingly difficult to safeguard in a connected world. And as profitable as data mining may be for businesses, it offers very few advantages to the individual consumer.
Surveillance: Data mining’s dirty cousin, surveillance, goes beyond pilfering consumer data to invading your personal life. We know that smart devices can see, hear and read what we do, say and communicate. We simply have no idea how that information is being used, or by whom, and its potential for evil is enormous.
Cybercrime: As we become increasingly reliant on IoT technology for everyday living, we make ourselves more vulnerable to cybercriminals. Sophisticated hackers can violate the security of any and all smart devices, including your computer, tablet or smartphone, your medical devices, TV, webcam, home security system and more.
Employer oversight: With remote work becoming commonplace, IoT could potentially free humanity from being imprisoned in an office or cubicle five days a week, enabling us to travel, relocate or make our schedules more flexible. But don’t get too comfy working in your PJs. Orwellian new software is being used by some employers to keep workers shackled to their computers, monitoring every keystroke made and website visited. Such excessive overreach may soon make us nostalgic for the good old days at the office, when we could dawdle in the break room or sneak in some online shopping without our masters breathing down our necks. Read also: Medical Staff Management and Scheduling Software Development
IoT Applications for the Real World
Our lives at home and at work are full of electronic devices that make our lives easier, more efficient and more secure. You can now integrate your home’s security system with lighting, your HVAC system, a nanny cam, music, television and more.
Your workplace processes can be enhanced with data collection, intranet, virtual assistants, cybersecurity, supply chain tracking, remote conferencing and infinitely more. The applications of IoT technology at home and in business will continue to expand in the coming decade, playing off of one another as they evolve.
Following are some examples of popular real-world IoT applications that have become indispensable to our everyday lives:
- Rideshare services like Lyft and Uber connect GPS with driver’s smartphones and user’s devices to enable summoning, paying, locating and navigating rides to just about anywhere.
- Smart home systems can be programmed and monitored from your computer or smartphone from anywhere in the world. Turn lights off and on, adjust your home’s temperature, turn off appliances and more.
- Fitness and health tracking systems can provide feedback and data on heart rate, mileage, energy expenditure and more, all from a smartwatch or tracking device worn on your wrist.
- Personal home assistants can change your TV channel, find movies by genre, director or actor, make purchases, play music and more, in response to your vocal commands.
For business, IoT saves time and money by streamlining systems, tracking inventory, coordinating operations and connecting personnel. Examples include:
- IoT office technology frees up employees’ time with the use of voice-enabled AI applications and smart speakers, to delegate monotonous tasks to virtual assistants so humans can work on more complex processes.
- Remote collaboration enables employees to work remotely on projects, increasing productivity. Co-collaborators no long need to convene in the same room or office. In fact, they can be located anywhere on the globe and still work together in real-time.
- Intelligent lighting and thermostat control applications save businesses thousands of dollars each year in wasted energy costs.
- Data security technology protects multiple devices in your network from hackers, ensuring the privacy and security of important business data.
- Control, monitor and protect your supply chain in real-time with smart tags and sensors to track and control inventory. Locate a specific item anywhere along the supply chain, from the warehouse to its final destination.
- Coordinate business processes with IoT to streamline your operations, from finding vacant meeting rooms to detecting system failures and power outages.
- Patient monitoring is an important way IoT can help doctors and hospitals save the lives of critically ill patients by making it possible to track and monitor vital signs, communicate with caregivers and oversee medications.
With IoT still in its infancy, we can expect to see innumerable applications for device integration in the years to come, to improve our daily lives and make our businesses run more smoothly.
The Shadowy Side of IoT
Despite its many benefits and its enormous potential for future applications, IoT comes with its dark side. Pretty much everything connected to the Internet runs certain security risks, ranging from data breaches to invasion of privacy.
Some shortcomings of IoT systems are:
- Lack of security standards across various manufacturers and devices makes frequent updates imperative
- Rapid obsolescence of technology or inbuilt security in one device can affect the entire system
- The use of smart technology invites big data, deep learning and AI to detect behavioral patterns and harvest personal data in ways that constitute a breach of personal privacy
- Security always lags slightly behind innovation, and bad actors quickly learn to exploit software flaws to victimize users
When considering IoT systems for your home or business, it is important to consult professionals who are familiar with a broad range of products and devices, and know-how to mitigate their security and privacy risks.
Give Your Business the Benefits of IoT with Tateeda
The Internet of Things is growing at an exponential pace, and businesses need to keep in step if they want to stay relevant in today’s competitive environment. To see how your business can be more connected, efficient and productive, contact Tateeda and let us show you how IoT technology can impact your company’s growth, security and profitability, today and in the future.
Cutting Edge IoT Software from Tateeda
Whether you want to integrate your home systems or increase the efficiency of your business processes, Tateeda can customize an IoT solution to meet your requirements. We listen carefully to our clients’ needs, test and retest our software solutions, optimize and maintain medical software performance, security and privacy, and monitor our software for bugs and failures. To get the most out of IoT technology with the least amount of risk, contact Tateeda today.