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The Top 7 Things We Learned About IoT This Year

By David Ryan for America's Backbone Weekly

The Internet of Things (IoT), which refers to the increasing number of products and devices which are connected to the internet, has continued its growth and evolution in 2016. Here are some of the things we've learned about the initiative and learnings for adoption in the near future.

  1. The IoT phenomenon is growing at an incredible rate. According to research carried out by Business Insider, by 2020 there will be 34 billion devices connected to the internet, in contrast to the 10 billion connected devices in 2015. The same report indicates that businesses will be the key driver of the IoT sector with the following benefits in mind: lower operating costs, greater productivity and the potential to unlock new markets. Lower costs are achieved with things like smart lighting, which will only activate when people are present in an area, saving on energy expenses. Greater productivity is achieved when smart devices allow workers to automate tasks (like smart sprinklers on a farm which could detect moisture levels). New markets will be created by the products themselves.

  2. The list of IoT products and companies that are getting in on the action is expanding across industries. In January, Under Armour released a smart sneaker called the SpeedForm Gemini 2. This sneaker synchs via a smartphone app to record running metrics like distance, time and number of steps. Even toys are become IoT capable. This year, Mattel debuted the Hello Barbie Dreamhouse. That's right, there's now an IoT Barbie dollhouse that allows kids to control the lights and elevator with voice commands, and includes new features like the voice-activated Party Mode which turns on flashing lights and music and which turns the staircase into a slide. Suddenly, Barbie's house just got a lot more exciting.

  3. Smartphones are getting smarter. While new products like smart cars tend to get the most headlines, handheld phones are still a key component in the IoT wave. Today's phones have increasingly beautiful displays, faster processors than ever, and the power to run incredible cloud applications that power many IoT innovations, such as Philips Hue connected lighting solutions, which empower users with the ability to control household lighting from their phones.

  4. Smart watches are also becoming increasingly powerful. New products like Samsung's Gear 3 series enable users to leave their phones behind when they want to travel light. They include GPS tracking capability, the ability to take calls and send text messages and run apps like SmartThings, which can enable you to control compatible IoT devices from the watch interface (such as smart lights). As smartwatches become more popular and more powerful their IoT capabilities will expand. And smartwatches are becoming more popular. According to Gartner, Inc., over 30 million were sold in 2015, over 50 million will have been sold by the end of this year and over 66 million will be sold in 2017.

  5. Remote sensors are providing IoT devices with incredible capabilities, like the ability to monitor and control them from afar. In the healthcare sector, for instance, wearable devices are harnessing remote sensing technology to monitor patient vital signs and relay them to care providers who can view the data on computers, Smartphones or Tablets. The QardioCore ECG monitor, for example, straps around the chest and monitors heart rate data. In other sectors, remote sensors are giving traditional products new capabilities. Smart tractors and harvesters, for instance, let farmers monitor and control farming equipment with mobile devices.

  6. Smart cities are becoming more prominent, thanks to IoT devices like smart waste disposal containers. Big Belly, a company from Massachusetts, had developed a line of smart garbage bins. Running from $4000-$5000 each in price, they employ remote sensors that monitor waste levels and relay that data to headquarters so pickups can be scheduled as needed. More and more, traditional objects like traffic lights and park benches are becoming internet-capable, allowing city managers to manage cities more efficiently.

  7. Data security is increasingly becoming a concern. Along with the remarkable benefits that come with IoT capabilities, come increased security risks. Hackers have the potential to wreak havoc by breaking into IoT devices and systems. The potential dangers so far include financial loss and the spread of malware. The massive internet attack by unknown hackers against Dyn on October 21 of this year is a prominent example. Hackers hijacked a large number of IoT devices which sent a massive number of requests to Dyn, the company that manages internet infrastructure for sites like Twitter and Amazon, knocking those websites out of commission for hours. As IoT devices become more prevalent, so must security measures. New regulations may be needed to force manufactures into security compliance measures.

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David Ryan has many years of experience as a freelance writer and is active covering science and technology stories in the United States. He also enjoys writing short stories and traveling. 



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