What is the Internet of Things?

What is the Internet of Things?

The IoT is already in your hands

You’ve probably heard about the IoT (Internet of Things), and if you haven’t then you’ve probably made use of the IoT without even knowing it. The Internet of Things has been defined in so many different ways, but it’s simply just different devices communicating with each other with the aid of the Internet.

The IoT deals with interconnected devices. Think about your Amazon Echo, Apple’s Siri Hub, and so on. These devices can control other devices when you tell them to. You can also control a number of devices today by simply opening an app on your smartphone and speaking to it or tapping on the screen.

What I just described is referred to as a smart home. Those devices and phone apps can control your thermostat, your lights, even lock your doors, and more. They’re smart, and their smartness is made possible by their internet access – hence, the IoT.

But the IoT goes far beyond the home – governments all over the world are investing big dollars into smart cities, and Australia won’t be left behind.

IoT connections around the world

IoT connections around the world.  img source

The IoT in Australia

According to Telstyle, 40 percent of Australian homes use at least one IoT device. Also, the average Australian home has 14 devices connected to the internet, and that number is expected to double this year. This means Australia is very much connected, making for an environment that’s ripe for the IoT.

In the larger picture, Australia is also invested in smart cities. Smart cities use the IoT in different ways. I’ll give you some examples:

  • Imagine driverless cars receiving traffic information from traffic lights or even from other connected cars ahead, in order to find the best route and/or reduce congestion;
  • Or cars communicating with parking meters to determine the nearest parking spot;
  • Or garbage cans communicating their load levels with a central computer so that the trash is only picked up when needed, not on a predetermined schedule.

These examples demonstrate the IoT in smart cities, and the goal is to improve efficiency and quality of life – in other words, to make things easier and more effective.

So what’s Australia doing to prepare for smart city roll outs? Here’s a couple of moves so far:

  • The Smart Cities and Suburbs Program has been implemented to develop the infrastructure needed for Smart Cities in Australia;
  • Melbourne, Adelaide, New Castle, and Sunshine Coast, are already participating in energy saving, IoT movements;
  • The first annual Smart Cities Awards was held in 2018, recognizing the Australian city with the best leadership and practice for the smart city movement.

The importance of wireless networks for the IoT

Because IoT devices communicate with each other from afar, wired networks aren’t really feasible – they have to be connected to wireless internet networks. These devices then transfer data with the aid of such networks, and the availability of the Cloud helps eliminate the need for onboard storage, and also streamlines the data transfers.

Wireless networks and the cloud mean you can communicate with smart city infrastructure with your device, be it a smartphone, smartwatch, driverless car (whenever they become mainstream) and so on. In essence, the IoT without a wireless network just isn’t functional.

Final words – IoT devices you may already own can explain the IoT on a larger scale

I stated earlier that you probably already own some IoT devices, even though you may not be aware of what the IoT actually is. I mentioned some examples – Amazon’s Echo and Apples Siri Hub. But there are more examples that you’re even more likely to own: kids tracking watches and other tracking devices.

While you may not realize it, that smartwatch you use to track your child (assuming you do) is exactly what the IoT is. The same goes for any other tracking device, such as for pets, luggage, your vehicle, and so on. They become IoT devices when they rely on the internet to communicate with your smartphone, which likely contains an app that allows you determine their location.

The communication aspect between the device and your smartphone – the data transfer – is the crux of the IoT’s purpose. And as you begin to see the potentials of the technology, the range of applications begins to grow – from your smart home to smart cities, and industries like healthcare, mining, farming, and beyond.

Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.