IoT Possibilities

It seems to me….

If you think that the internet has changed your life, think again. The IoT is about to change it all over again!” ~ Brendan O’Brien[1].

The software world is continuously innovating and creating new areas of opportunity and challenge. A decade ago developers were busy with trends such as service-oriented architecture and product-line architecture which now are a commoditized part of a larger system-of-systems landscape and also have been extended to cloud computing with big data and mobile applications.

The Industrial Revolution in the 19th century moved industrialization from essentially building things as a craft to manufacturing. The Internet Revolution at the end of the 20th century was another such transformation of the world or, as Bill Gates said in 1999, “A fundamental new rule for business is that the Internet changes everything”. Every industry has been affected including banking, insurance, telecoms, airlines, and defense.

The Industrial Internet Consortium predicts the IoT (Internet of Things) will become the third technological revolution after the Industrial Revolution and the Internet Revolution. Its impact across all industries and businesses can scarcely be imagined. Much existing software (business, telecom, aerospace, defense, etc.) will need to be modified or redesigned and an extremely large amount of new software, solving new problems, will need to be developed[2].

The term “Internet of Things”, a name originally coined by Kevin Ashton in 1999, mainly refers to devices that would not usually be expected to have an Internet connection and able to communicate with the network independently of human action. Practically any physical object can be transformed into an IoT device if it can be connected to the Internet and controlled in that way.

The IoT eventually will reach all categories where humans are providing products or services, both today and in the future. Moreover, it will use all of the different types of systems in use today: communication, mobile, distributed, big data, cloud computing, etc., and will drive new technologies not yet even envisioned.

Adding Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, low-power chips able to communicate wirelessly, to help track item locations was one of the first IoT applications. Since then the cost of adding sensors and an Internet connection to objects has continued to fall making it possible to connect nearly everything to the Internet.

There are already more connected “things” than people in the world. It is estimated that around 8.4 billion IoT devices were in use in 2017, up 31 percent from 2016, and this will likely reach 20.4 billion by 2020[3]. Total spending on IoT endpoints and services will reach almost $2 trillion in 2017 with two-thirds of those devices found in China, North America, and Western Europe.

While initially considered as a technology primarily for commercial use, out of that 8.4 billion devices, more than half will be consumer products like smart TVs and smart speakers. The most-used enterprise IoT devices will be smart electric meters and commercial security cameras. Enterprise use of the IoT can be divided into two segments: industry-specific offerings like sensors in a generating plant or real-time location devices for healthcare; and IoT devices that can be used in all industries such as smart air conditioning or security systems.

For consumers, the smart home is probably where they are likely to encounter Internet-enabled things, and it’s one area where the big tech companies (in particular Amazon, Google, and Apple) are most competitive. While the most obvious of these products are smart speakers like Amazon’s Echo, there also are smart plugs, lightbulbs, cameras, thermostats, and other household items.

The most public items in the burgeoning IoT are cars, voice-activated assistants, appliances and other home systems, physician-prescribed or recommended health-monitoring devices, road sensors, public-safety and security devices, smart meters, and personal fitness and health trackers for people and animals – dogs, cats, horses, cows, and more. And then there are emerging IoT products that show how the urge to create connectivity extends to such prosaic items as toothbrushes, dental floss, hairbrushes, pillows, egg trays, wine bottle sleeves, baby monitors and changing tables, silverware, umbrellas, all manner of toys and sporting goods, and remote-controlled pet food dispensers, just to name a few. While many people claim they do not see the need for such connectivity and, furthermore do not want it, only time will tell.

There are many concerns about the protection of civil liberties in a world in which so much granular data is continuously collected and databased, especially considering that the “threat environment” created by this complex networking is high. These sensors in many cases are collecting very sensitive data but, at least so far, the IoT security track record has been extremely poor. Too many IoT devices give little thought to basics of security like encrypting data in transit and at rest.

Individual incentives for sharing personal data are great (better health, more convenience, saving money) while the long-term consequences for society are grave (loss of privacy, autonomy – even safety in one’s own home).

Researchers have shown how easy critical devices upon which we depend can be hacked: cars, voting machines, power plants…. Previous hardware generations and major software advances gave rise to fears but people found ways to use them effectively warranting measures to prevent serious misuse or negative consequences. This time will most likely not be any different.

The scope of applications and devices using the IoT includes all levels of complexity – from very simple software running on basic sensors and other simple devices to high-performance, highly reliable, highly governed, secure, resilient, scalable systems needed to process, analyze, and respond to the vast amounts of data they produce, and everything in between. Not only that, the rate of change and the need for innovation has never been greater.

That’s what I think, what about you?

[1] Brendan O’Brien is Chief Innovation Officer and a Co-founder at Aria Systems.

[2] Ivar Jacobson, Ian Spence, Pan-Wei Ng. Is There a Single Method for the Internet of Things?, ACMQueue,, 11 July 2017.

[3] Meulen, Rob van der. Gartner Says 8.4 Billion Connected “Things” Will Be in Use in 2017, Up 31 Percent From 2016, Gartner,, 7 February 2017.

About lewbornmann

Lewis J. Bornmann has his doctorate in Computer Science. He became a volunteer for the American Red Cross following his retirement from teaching Computer Science, Mathematics, and Information Systems, at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, CO. He previously was on the staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, Stanford University, and several other universities. Dr. Bornmann has provided emergency assistance in areas devastated by hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. He has responded to emergencies on local Disaster Action Teams (DAT), assisted with Services to Armed Forces (SAF), and taught Disaster Services classes and Health & Safety classes. He and his wife, Barb, are certified operators of the American Red Cross Emergency Communications Response Vehicle (ECRV), a self-contained unit capable of providing satellite-based communications and technology-related assistance at disaster sites. He served on the governing board of a large international professional organization (ACM), was chair of a committee overseeing several hundred worldwide volunteer chapters, helped organize large international conferences, served on numerous technical committees, and presented technical papers at numerous symposiums and conferences. He has numerous Who’s Who citations for his technical and professional contributions and many years of management experience with major corporations including General Electric, Boeing, and as an independent contractor. He was a principal contributor on numerous large technology-related development projects, including having written the Systems Concepts for NASA’s largest supercomputing system at the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. With over 40 years of experience in scientific and commercial computer systems management and development, he worked on a wide variety of computer-related systems from small single embedded microprocessor based applications to some of the largest distributed heterogeneous supercomputing systems ever planned.
This entry was posted in Bill Gates, China, Data, data, Europe, Europe, Industrial Internet Consortium, Industrial Revolution, Information, Internet, Internet of Things, Internet of Things, IoT, IoT, Kevin Ashton, North America, Radio-Frequency Identification, RFID, Security and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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