It only takes three letters to describe the Internet of Things, but this multifaceted platform controls and connects us with more of the real world than we've ever been before.
The IoT relies on machine learning, Bluetooth, mobile connectivity, hardware, software, and more. It sounds confusing, but what unites all of these elements is a communication link between devices, enabling a user more control. IoT enabled devices range from home utilities like thermostats, wireless routers, security cameras, and even ovens, to personal devices, speakers, and coffee machines. Amazon's Button is a prime example of IoT functionality--press a button and your pet food, laundry detergent, or NERF refills are on their way to your home.
The future is connected. But not to worry, most of your old fashioned analog furniture isn't going out of style, it's just getting a little security upgrade. IoT enabled devices allow you to manage them remotely, turning them on or off without being home, and in some cases, the equipment even handles that part itself. Homes outfitted with lights that awake when you approach, along with added safety, make the most of the IoT's ability to lend peace of mind.
Businesses, especially manufacturers, can make use of the IoT with individual IDs matched to products or other physical goods. Real-time tracking and data reporting on location, condition, and usage can lead to a constantly improving, more efficient operation, happier customers, and a bigger bottom line. Some companies have even successfully translated this supply chain management insight into better products overall.
The IoT isn't so much a platform as it is a network of different platforms communicating together. IOT Analytics offers some thorough insight on the different types of IoT "platforms." Along with the traditional IoT Application Enablement Platform, which combines open source data visualization, analytics and reporting with device management and connectivity, four other platforms are grouped under the IoT label.
- Connectivity / M2M platforms - devices connected through telecommunication networks (e.g., SIM-cards) that aren't set up to handle large database parsing commands. (An example of a connectivity platform is Sierra Wireless’ AirVantage or Vodafone's machine-to-machine network)
- IaaS backends - Infrastructure-as-a-service backends service those who need more hosting and processing advantage. IBM Bluemix is a leader in this area of IoT platforms.
- Proprietary platforms - Devices specialized for remote use that rely on a proprietary software backend, like Google Nest, are also considered part of the IoT although the scope of accessibility is limited.
- Consumer/Enterprise software extensions - Microsoft Windows 10 is the latest desktop platform to incorporate IoT functionality. While Google's Fuschia has been promised to run on and bring the IoT to anything.
You'll need to buy the hardware at some point, but for the most part, IoT devices are very easy to use. The most popular devices operate with a companion app and can easily accommodate new devices and an expanding network. and while most of the excitement surrounding the IoT has spotlighted consumer products, expect to see some innovation on the business end of IoT very soon.
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