What does the Internet of Things really mean?

During the 18th and 19th centuries, we experienced a major wave of innovation that has changed the face of Britain ever since. The industrial revolution brought us machines, factories, railways, electricity, air travel, and ultimately changes in living conditions.

Then the internet revolution came along and gave us computing power, data networks, unprecedented access to a wealth of information, and our lives have never been the same since.

Now we are experiencing another metamorphic change: the Internet of Things (IoT). It brings together intelligent machines, advanced analytics, and the creativity of developers.

The IoT (also known as the industrial internet) is a natural evolution from the internet revolution. In simple terms, it is machines, devices, or just ‘things’ equipped with sensors that allow the devices to observe, detect and analyse surroundings, generating prodigious amounts of data (Big Data, some might call it).

This will allow organisations to analyse the generated data using Business Intelligence (BI) tools in order to track compliance with business processes, and to make accurate and informed decisions that can guarantee continuous improvement.

When the IoT first emerged, some expected it to be limited to applications where machinery is involved. However, it didn’t take people very long to realise that this concept is actually the Internet of Everything! The following video is a great example of how some simple, yet critical, tasks can be monitored, recorded, and analysed using the Internet of Things:

On a larger scale, the IoT can help us build smart cities; cities that leverage technology to serve people. Bristol has taken the initiative to start a joint venture between the University of Bristol and Bristol City Council called Bristol is Open, which is transforming Bristol into an Open Programmable city.

‘With information about many aspects of city life, including energy, air quality and traffic flows. A city operating system will dynamically host this machine-to-machine communication, allowing the development of a wide range of applications.’ Bristol Is Open

And with the rapid development of cloud computing, storage, virtualisation and high speed communications, the boundaries of such smart networks become more and more like the boundaries of the universe itself – continuously expanding!

However, like the introduction of Health and Safety regulations as part of the industrial revolution, we will need robust cybersecurity practices that protect critical information, intellectual property, users’ privacy and safeguards critical infrastructure from cyberattacks.

This technological revolution is inspiring and transformational, yet we are still at the early beginning of this transformation and as much as it relies on technical development, I believe it will rely more on peoples’ creativity finding the right applications to develop the human civilisation.