Internet of Things (IoT)
It may sound paradoxical and as an unpleasant truth for us, but “laziness is an essential motor of progress.” But for his laziness man wouldn’t have invented many things over time that can make his life easier. Today we do not go to the TV to switch the channels but sit and do it with the remote control. Electric meat mincers save our own hands.
All this sounds comfortable. When we transfer it more global, it is no longer about convenience, but about efficiency, speed, cost savings, intelligent resource management, life quality and environmental protection. You may have heard of high-speed trains that independently provide information about their condition and maintenance recommendations; or tractors that “know” how to sow and where to sow? If not, it may seem like a picture from the future. However, these “intelligent machines” are already in use today and it is the result of using IoT technologies.
What exactly does Internet of Things (IoT) mean?
Internet of Things (IoT) is a network that unites technical objects. For example, in a household it will be refrigerator, coffee maker, microwave, also the car and the alarm system are interconnected and “communicates”. IoT is based on machine-to-machine technology (M2M). Machines exchange information with each other via mobile networks or transmit them one-sidedly. A person does not participate in this communication but gives the desired aims and results.
Do we need such a technology?
In the small examples like household the Internet of Things increases life and convenience quality. It is certainly comfortable if the car, in which you are sitting, tells the house that you will arrive in 30 minutes. The house switches on heating or air conditioning to maintain a comfortable temperature and commands the stove to prepare the dinner. One minute before arrival it turns on the lights and the TV.
The main goal of IoT technology is not the convenience. The main advantage is the control. You have full control of your home from everywhere.
Globally, the benefits are more diverse and clearer. For example, in cities IoT makes it possible to optimize costs for city traffic or energy supply. In New York, “smart” waste containers indicate when it’s time to send a garbage truck, avoiding unnecessary journeys, costs and waste gases. In street lighting the system collects data and regulates luminosity based on daylight and traffic. IoT is above all resource and cost-saving and therefore also per se environmentally friendly.
In which areas is IoT already used?
There are a variety of application fields:
- in the industry – the introduction of the technology optimizes maintenance and equipment repair. Special sensors provide up-to-date data on the condition of the equipment and indicate maintenance if necessary. Inventory accounting can also be optimized by IoT.
- in agriculture – IoT enables significant efficiency gains in agriculture. The control of pests can be done automatically on first capture by sensors, preventing crop failures and unnecessary pesticide use on schedule. “Intelligent” tractors analyze the soil through ploughing the ground and can use individually matched quantities of seed and fertilizer for individual plots.
- in the energy sector – meters that can themselves transmit the measurements and indicate the consumption of each electrical appliance save both the electricity supplier and the consumer time, money and prevent meter manipulation. Intelligent heaters, which switch on one hour before the inhabitants arrive, can save up to 50% of the heating costs on average. This reduces household spending and environmental impact.
- in healthcare, dedicated nanosensors and “smart” devices monitor patient status in real time. Such a system may, for example in case the blood sugar rises, administer the necessary medication immediately. These technologies often prevent heart attacks and strokes.
Other fields of promising IoT use include logistics, transportation, construction and professional sports.
What are the disadvantages and risks of IoT?
The first thing that endangers IoT is security. In the network there is no absolute security, the data traffic encryption can be cracked, and the data can be stolen or manipulated. Someone may be played tricks by his fridge that can order 100 liters of milk or the vacuum cleaner suddenly turns on at 2 o’clock at night. On the whole, an entire community can also be taken hostage if criminals gain access to the power grid or the traffic light system. The next problem is jobs loss. However, it is not specifically one of IoT but more generally of technological progress. Current estimates suggest that by 2050, up to 40% of existing jobs in Europe will disappear as a result of technological change. IoT is doing its part.
In addition, the costs of industrial use of IoT equipment must be considered. Besides R & D and implementation costs, the workers retraining and the new equipment should be paid.
Despite the listed disadvantages, the efficiency gains and the opportunities to protect resources and thus reduce costs and environmental impact will leave the economy and politics no choice but to implement IoT on a large scale. The technological race in this area is already under way.
Authors: Stephan Hoffmann, Viktoriya Harlan