The Internet of Things is a buzzword that has been around for a couple of years. But what the heck does it mean and why should you care? Essentially, the Internet of Things, or IoT, refers to any device that can connect without wires: phones, tablets and watches are the first generation IoT. The next generation of IoT is already hitting the roads: next generation cars are coming loaded with sensors. Google just released the first self driving car and you have already seen cars that can park themselves and warn you as you reverse up. Future IoT will include sensors in your clothes, your homes, healthcare and a thousand other places. Quite literally, the Internet of Things will be made up of billions of devices. You think the Mobile Revolution was big? You ain’t seen nothing.
There are three main components to the Internet of Things:
The Internet of Things Hardware
What you will immediately recognize when you see an IoT solution is the hardware. Let’s take first generation IoT and look at the hardware: Phones and Watches.
Common elements in the devices include the following:
- Communication services – WiFi, BlueTooth Low Energy, NFC, GPS
- Touch Screens and battery support/power
- Low energy sensors
The focus of these first generation devices is to illustrate that you do not need a plugged in PC to get complex problems done. Smaller can be better. Next generation IoT will see the size of the hardware continue to shrink and energy will have to come from either better batteries of leverage latent electricity that surrounds us all the time. Yes, devices will be powered without batteries. Crazy, isn’t it? But think of this: why not use the static in a shirt to power the device monitoring your blood pressure sown into your shirt?
The Internet of Things Software
The second important element to the IoT is the software that powers it. Again, first generation software is found on your phone: Android, iOS and Windows. First generation software is loaded with APIs and SDKs that let you build incredible solutions. First generation software powers phones, tablets and your Smart TV (Apple TV is powered by iOS 8 and Amazon’s Fire TV runs a version of Android). Second generation devices will be different. Power is premium to second generation devices. Samsung’s choice to use Tizen to power their new Smart Watches reflects this. Microsoft has made a similar move with their newly released health band.
A difference you will likely see with second generation IoT is the disappearance of the screen. You don’t always need a screen. But you do need software to connect to the screen. This is why your phone may become the center of your digital life.
The Internet of Things Cloud
Tying everything together is the Cloud. Cloud solutions allow large, complex processes to be completed away from the device. Your phone can now store infinite data thanks to DropBox and other storage services. Cloud services can perform massively complex solutions – Adobe’s Cloud Apps demonstrate this through moving complex image processing off the phone and into Adobe’s own Creative Cloud services. In many ways, the Cloud is the key element to the success of the Internet of Things. Hardware can become simpler and smaller; software can become more niche and Cloud can do the heavy lifting.
The future for the Internet of Things
If you are looking to start a new business then the next step must be looking at IoT. The Smartphone and Tablet wars have been fought. The new Green Field is IoT. What will you build?