Internet of Things

What is it?

Essentially, this refers to the ability of machines to communicate with one another without the need for human intervention. It refers to the ever-growing network of physical objects that feature an IP address for internet connectivity, and the communication that occurs between these objects and other Internet-enabled devices and systems. The possibilities for this technology are seemingly endless, currently anything from an energy smart meter to 3D printers can be seen harnessing the technology. In the not too distant future we could see all sorts of developments in everyday living, for example, we may soon be waving goodbye to supermarket checkouts, with each item in your basket registering its sale as you leave the shop, with payments deducted from your bank account at the same time, mind blowing stuff indeed!

How does it work?

There are three elements which make up IoT, the first of course is the technology which underpins the system, allowing devices to connect to the internet and communicate with each other effectively. This includes such things as Wi-Fi, low-energy Bluetooth, NFC (near-filed communication) and RFID, terms which you will probably be familiar with.

Then there are the objects themselves, anything from a light bulb to a door lock. In manufacturing this technology allows hands-on visibility and the ability to control production for remote locations, subcontracted plants or suppliers’ factories.

The third element in IoT is cloud services, which allows data to be stored, collected and analysed, allowing for greater production capability and improving performance strategies, as a greater amount of data is analysed.

Benefits

The development of IoT is creating exciting benefits in numerous industries. In terms of the benefits for the manufacturing industry, the benefits are just as far reaching. From product conception to the delivery stage, businesses can, and are, increasingly utilising this technology. IoT looks set to revolutionise the industry. According to Siegfried Dais, deputy chairman of the board of management at Robert Bosch GmbH, IoT means it is likely that the world of manufacturing will become more and more networked until everything is interlinked, with logistics being at the forefront of this change.

Risks

As with much of the new technology being development, the change is so rapid that the full risks have not yet been fully realised. The biggest concern with the technology is perhaps unsurprisingly, security. As quickly as a new application has been devised there will likely be someone aiming to compromise the security for their own gain. Data from HP Security Research shows that as many as 70% of smart devices are vulnerable to security concerns. Security experts are concerned that not enough is being done to build security and privacy into IoT at this crucial early stage. To validate these claims a number of security experts have hacked a range of devices, everything from baby monitors to smart fridges. More worryingly in 2007 the security in a chain of Midwestern hospitals was hacked by a security expert to test its vulnerability, with the expert managing to take centro of everything from surgical robots to defibrillators. With this in mind, security issues need to be more greatly scrutinised.

History

The concept of IoT is not as new as you as you might think, and has been discussed for decades, with the first device to feature the technology being a toaster linked to the internet, which appeared way back in 1989. The term IoT was coined a decade later by Entrepreneur Kevin Ashton who identified the emerging need to distinguish between information collated by humans from information collected and disseminated by computers without the need for human intervention. With the explosion of smart technology, IoT is now rapidly coming into its own. It is expected that within the next five years there is likely to be as many as 50 million connected devices around the world.

Example of a Business Using This

Around 25% of manufacturing companies are already using IoT technology and devices to increase production and reduce costs through Machine-to-Machine communication, and this figure is anticipated to grow to over 80% by 2025. Indeed, many manufacturing businesses already operate predictive maintenance, and have taken steps to enhance the connectivity of their business critical systems inside the plant.

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