IP Harbour is proud to introduce a series of articles focusing on the Internet of Things which aim to delve into the key technical, commercial and legal issues. This article introduces key concepts and discusses the use cases for Internet of Things and some of the technology behind it.

 The age of “Internet of Things” (IoT) is here. Whilst the concept of IoT seems somewhat technically troublesome for most of us, it is in fact all around us and is changing the way we live and work.

What is IoT

Simply put IoT describes devices that connect to the Internet, but this generally excludes devices that would traditionally connect to the internet e.g. computers, smartphones and tablets. It instead means cars, fridges, televisions, thermostats etc. – you get the picture – it could be anything. IoT also applies to components of larger machines, for example a jet engine of an aeroplane. The analyst firm Gartner predicts that by 2020 there could be over 26 billion IoT devices and many believe this number could be even higher.

Image Credit: Amazon.com

So what?

IoT has opened a virtually endless world of opportunities for devices to talk to each other. Let’s imagine five years from now, your phone alarm wakes you up, it tells your “smart” coffee machine to start brewing (it orders some more pods as you are running low) and after reviewing your calendar it works out your optimal commute based on weather and traffic data. Some of this may already sound familiar: Amazon, Google and Apple are pushing their IoT devices, keen to integrate into your home and lifestyle.

Once traditional devices have become intelligent and use embedded hardware, software and sensors to communicate, collect and exchange data with one another and the cloud. However, the use cases are far wider than just feeding your cat when your train is delayed on the way back from work, for example IoT could be used for:

  • Media (e.g. smart televisions)
  • Environmental monitoring (e.g. weather sensors, forest fire detection, air pollution)
  • Energy management (e.g. smart meters, smart grid, smart lighting)
  • Medical and healthcare (e.g. FitBit, medical trackers)
  • Building and home automation (e.g. Hive, Nest, Amazon Echo (pictured), smart appliances)
  • Transportation (e.g. driverless cars, traffic, smart parking)
  • Logistics (e.g. drones, shipment tracking)
  • Financial services (e.g. mobile payments)