What Is Internet Of Things – Is It Good Or Bad?

What Is Internet Of Things? There is nothing new about it. You have been with it for past many years. The most common form of Internet as you can imagine is human to human interaction. That can be called Human to Human Internet (H2H). If you look at the many H2H interactions/internet, you’ll discover a scattered Internet that is comprised of things – or rather, machines. By scattered, I mean several decentralized establishments – each with own network(s). This is what we’ll cover here – Internet of things!

When talking about some 10 years ago, it was mostly interactions among humans – emails, chat-rooms and message boards. The main “things for Internet” were a computer and a modem. That was humans keying in (input) their “thoughts” for others to read and understand. Or we can say in computer terminology: humans used to input information or just raw data for other brains to process.  Basically, Internet was a part of computers until 2Ks.

What is Internet Of Things

What Is Internet of Things (IoT)

Unlike the 2000’s, it is “Things” interacting among themselves and with humans. A bird’s view gives you the SkyNet they introduced in Terminator movie. It is just machines, the things, operating on own without any frequent intervention of humans. That is, when you combine all the different, scattered networks to view them as one vast network spanning entire globe! Also known as Machine to Machine communication (M2M), it is a system facilitating communication more of from machine to machine and sometimes from machine to human.

When we talk about Internet of things, we talk about input by machines, processing of information by machines and consumption of data – too – by machines. The end results can go to humans – only when required else it is machines that take care of different actions based on the output of analysis (processing) – such as maintenance of cooling in a nuclear reactor. Or it could be as simple as triggering an alarm for humans or other machines to take action.

For example, a chip attached to an object, if moved, triggers an alarm that causes other machines to trigger some action that in turn activates other machines or alerts a human. This could be a case of GPS chip on a stationary object that if moved, sends signals to a central server that calculates the location of the stationary object and as a result, triggers shutdown of the compound whereby electro-mechanical doors close on own without humans having to rush and close them. You must have heard of such processes – the GPS anti-theft mechanism for static objects!

Take a look at some of the IoT Devices & Gadgets that you can buy now.

What are The “Things” in Internet of Things

In the Internet of things, anything with a chip capable of accessing input – text/graphic/audio and sending it to some other pre-determined machine/server with or without processing at its own end is a thing. To qualify as an active object in the Internet of Things or Machine to Machine interaction (M2M), the entity/thing should be able to:

  1. Capture Data – Can be an image, audio, video, physical/chemical data such as latitude/longitude/elevation, chemical data such as humidity or a mix of some or all types
  2. Transmit Data – in most of the cases, transmission is directed to a central server or sub-central server; can be wired or wireless over the Internet
  3. Should be Real Time – a little delay is acceptable but should not be much slow as to alter the end results significantly)
  4. Should be Low or Self-Powered – it is okay if the sensor/thing uses solar energy or external heat to maintain charge enough to keep working
  5. Should have an IP address – Everything on the Internet has an IP address.

These “things” cannot be an exemption. If they don’t have an IP address, they’re not on the Internet and hence, not part of the Internet. Take a farm for example. The owner attaches sensors to each of his cattle and other items of importance on his farm. He then uses a computer or phone to determine the location and well-being of the “things” (which, in this case are his cattle). This is the smallest example I could come up for Internet of Things. This should give you an idea of how the Internet of Things would look when taken up, on a greater scale such as an intercontinental service!

Is Internet Of Things Good Or Bad

The Internet of Things is not a particular entity. It is already all around us. It has been around us. The buzz these days is about Big Data and Internet of Things has been a main resource for that.  That is why, people are now interested in knowing about Internet of Things. As far as I am concerned, I could not see any negative example for Internet of things except for the surveillance issue. Everyone now owns a phone and that can be used to track you. Even if you disable GPS, your mobile phone SIM (the thing in Internet of things) keeps sending signals that can be used to trace your movements.

I also see a future that disables option of turning off GPS – given the way our governments are moving ahead with NSA PRISM etc. Other than this, things can be designed in a way to harm. For example, a tiny bomb is attached to your vehicle that is triggered when you reach a specific speed or employ brakes. Since they are tiny, you cannot notice it. This will sound weird. Though impossible at this stage, could be self-awareness of the machines so that they interconnect all the networks to give you one huge Skynet of Terminator (the movie). Again, that is fiction and we have plenty of books plus movies on the issue. As of now, a thing on your wrist watch can keep an eye on your pulse rate. If it drops or goes high, it can give you instructions – depending upon your age. Further, it can trigger alarm signals if you do not respond and send your location co-ordinates to pre-fed phone numbers so that you can get help. A server in a vehicle company knows whereabouts of all its vehicles and thus, can direct the nearest vacant vehicle from a place to go pick up someone in need of transport by directing an automated phone call to the vehicle. It can also analyze the movements of vehicles and speed to note down erratic drivers. Plenty of examples exists as the options. More than anything, the statisticians are happy as they can lay their hands on much more data with this. They get better data and hence, more accurate predictions!

The Internet of Things: My Conclusion

The Internet of things can be used for practically anything as it requires cheap hardware and can be easily implemented anywhere. Contrary to 90s and 2000 where Internet was more of luxury and part of computer systems, computers are now just “things” on the Internet! During a decade back you were just a consumer of the Internet, now you play the role of resource as well! Isn’t your data: your personal profile, your card details, your favorite topics and much more information available or stored somewhere on the many servers of the Internet?

You might want to also read this post on the Dangers of Internet of Things.

Image Source & Further Reading: IBM BIG DATA HUB.

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Arun Kumar is a Microsoft MVP alumnus, obsessed with technology, especially the Internet. He deals with the multimedia content needs of training and corporate houses. Follow him on Twitter @PowercutIN