What is IoT (Internet of Things) and why does it matter?

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1. Definition

Internet of Things (IoT), first coined in 1999 by Kevin Ashton, a project manager at Belkin’s cleantech division, refers to appliances enabled with sensors and assigned their own IP address that connect to the internet – thus creating a world where devices and machines can communicate with each other, interpret information and make intelligent decisions in real time as more and more devices connect to the internet.

2. Hype

The hype over IoT is reaching big data levels as sensor technologies such as near field communications (NFC) and radio frequency identification (RFID), wireless technologies and other M2M tools become cheaper and more available. Big data tools and the quality of chip are also better able to process the magnitude of information coming from connected devices, according to Vernon Turner, SVP for research at IDC.

Research from ARM and The Economist’s Intelligence Unit found that 96% of global businesses will be using IoT devices in three years, with 68% already making IoT investments. Another study by IDC suggests the market will grow to $8.9 trillion and 212 billion things globally by 2020.

3. Ideas

Retailers are looking at IoT to improve their supply chain, inventory and consumer experience, while other ideas have flourished around logistics and transport, with IoT facilitating remote monitoring of everything to from bins and vehicles in Smart Cities. For example, the city of Santander has 20,000 fixed and mobile sensors on buses, bins, lamp posts and buildings across the city, which measure pollution, noise, temperature and traffic flows. Westminster’s council in London, in collaboration with technology firm Smart Parking, also began installing 3,000 infra-red sensors in parking bays on 20 January, which are expected to cut down on congestion and carbon emissions.

There is also great promise in healthcare, where IoT is being applied to reduce costs and create possibilities to improve the quality of care, for example drug monitoring devices that could ensure patients are taking the correct doses of medication as well as measuring body reactions in real-time.

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