Protons. Neutrons. Electrons. Protons and neutrons make up the nucleus and electrons form an electron “cloud” around the nucleus. Many of us are familiar and aware of these perceived facts as they were an integral part of our basic science education during our secondary schooling period. We were able to imagine and believe that all things were made up of these small particles called atoms and that they, despite their miniscule size, constitute all the things that we deem physical. Then, the String Theory came along and challenged that these particles are not, in fact, dot-like particles. The theory suggests that all these particles are actually even smaller “strings” that vibrate and create various forms that seem to us like particles. This theory gained traction in an attempt to connect space, time, and all the universal forces as an unified framework. In our world, we can easily think of instances where connections are present especially in the digital domain. Many of us struggle to even try to comprehend the abstract and complex theories of modern physics, but we should be able to agree that the idea of interconnectedness pervades even to easier or hopefully more friendly fields: IOT or the internet of things.

IOT (Internet of Things), as the name implies, is a network of interconnected objects. For a more formal definition, Webopedia defines IOT as “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.” Basically, with internet connection, many objects that seemed to lack the smart capability are able to become more intelligent, more efficient, and more effective. With IOT, the digital world and the physical world can be connected and merged, leading to more applications in the settings of businesses, cities, and homes. How is this possible and why does it matter?

IOT revolves around a crucial component: data. With incurred data through connectivity, objects are able to assess situations and produce results. Many enterprises or IOT applications lead up to the core cloud platform that enables storage and process of data. The importance of data analytics come to play here. The data stored must make some sort of sense to be utilized and allow more implications. When the data makes sense, the objects or machines can address specific needs to the users in an efficient and orderly fashion. Essentially, the cloud platform allows for the sensing, identification, and understanding without the need of human engagement.

Every year, the number of connected devices increases. According to Gartner, the world’s leading research and advisory company, about 20.4 billion units will be connected by 2020. The figure below also depicts the expected number of devices that were connected recently from 2016.

The sheer volume of connected devices indicate the wide usage of IOT. Apart from just computers, laptops, and phones, more diverse gadgets have been included in the IOT network such as security systems, thermostats, cars, lights, household appliances, vending machines, and even alarm clocks. The ever growing network of gadgets provide indications on how IOT is integrated in various fields today.

In Business

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One of the first applications of IOT was the usage of RFID tags on expensive or important items/equipment for transporting and locating purposes. IOT is leveraged by various industries to heighten efficiency in production and logistical processes that allows speedy service delivered and increased revenue. With the implementation of sensors, enterprises also receive feedback and instill a responsive system on their services, customer activities, and products. Furthermore, according to Tom Coughlin, an IEEE (Institute of Electric and Electronics Engineers) fellow and the president of Coughlin Associates, “the biggest single enterprise IoT use case will probably be in environmental control and energy management of facilities, since this could have very large savings and could be applied to all industrial and office facilities.” Enterprises can incorporate hardware and sensors in smart office settings to control and enable lighting and energy control based on the presence of individuals rather than just motion-detection. Kayne McGladrey, an IEEE fellow and director of Integral Partners, concludes “IoT technologies that have a rapid return on investment (ROI) are the most likely to take off first, and that means reducing costs through automation.”

In Cities

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IOT technology can revamp the city. With the spread of various sensors such as motion and light sensors, researchers and planners can accrue more data and gain more real-time information to propel construction, traffic management, and emergency/social services. Because cities already collect vast amounts of data through security cameras and environmental sensors, connecting these up with different systems and adding intelligence have been the major focus of integrating IOT cloud platforms. Utility industries will prioritize the investment on smart grids for electric, gas, and water. Moreover, IDC, International Data Corporation, projects that spending on cross-industry functions like connected vehicles and smart buildings in the cities will reach $92 billion this year. If IOT technology were to fully establish, scenarios as such by Jen Clark, contributor of IBM Internet of Things Blog, seem to be possible in the near future. Have a read:

“Having been woken by your smart alarm, you’re now driving to work. On comes the engine light. You’d rather not head straight to the garage, but what if it’s something urgent? In a connected car, the sensor that triggered the check engine light would communicate with others in the car. A component called the diagnostic bus collects data from these sensors and passes it to a gateway in the car, which sends the most relevant information to the manufacturer’s platform. The manufacturer can use data from the car to offer you an appointment to get the part fixed, send you directions to the nearest dealer, and make sure the correct replacement part is ordered so it’s ready for you when you show up.”

In Homes

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IOT technology can make our homes even more convenient, safe, and modern. Smart speakers that include cloud and AI technology such as Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home can provide fast and personal assistance by streaming a playlist, checking the weather, and making appointments. The patterns of behavior in terms of frequency and recurrency help allow this devices to provide even more personally tailored and accurate assistance.In addition, home security systems allow virtual control over both spaces inside and outside of homes making it easier to monitor activities.  Smart thermostats can control temperature and even pre-heat before arrival while smart light-bulbs can make it seem like the home is occupied even when it is not. The list is practically endless: smart fridges and smart microwaves can prepare and defrost ingredients, smart interphones can notify various family members for any changes, and smart alarm clocks can alter wake-up times depending on the day’s traffic and weather.

The String Theory attempts to connect space, time, and the universal forces in an unified framework to explain the world and its existence. IOT, also leverages the core concept of connecting things to a vast network to enhance our world by merging the digital and physical. As the String Theory still remains a theory, the full potential of IOT is yet to be discovered.