The Internet of Things is currently a hot topic and there are many articles available on the subject and how it affects our daily lives. In this article, we’ll have a look at some of the important projects and people that have in the past 20 years helped move it from a mere concept on paper to something that is already revolutionizing commerce and industry, and will continue to do so at an increasing pace.

The beginning of the Internet of Things

The term “Internet of Things” (IoT) was first used by Kevin Ashton, a MIT Auto-ID (Automatic Identification) Center co-founder in 1999.
Ashton’s envisaged creating a system using RFID as a networking technology by using a RFID tags to connect devices to the internet. His ultimate aim was to enable computers to gather data without human intervention and convert it to useful information, thereby allowing computers to observe, identify and understand the world.

Although the original vision has changed somewhat in that RFID tags were eventually found not to be suitable to the task, the core of the idea has remained intact and today there are many devices that have internet connectivity built into them.

The evolution of IoT wasn’t limited to one company or even a specific technology, but numerous, often disparate projects, ultimately ushered in a new era of computational technology. Examples include the ubiquitous GPS, health and fitness monitoring devices, smart cars and smart homes.

How does the Internet of Things impact consumers’ lives?

Devices powered by IoT have built-in sensors to accumulate insight and information, and this can be viewed, accessed, analyzed and controlled from an app on a smartphone.

In a scenario combining a smart home and a smart car, a user can switch on lights, the sound system and heating at home remotely before they arrive back from work, and check with their refrigerator which stocks are running low. On the way to the shops, the GPS helps them to plan the quickest possible route, taking into account real-time traffic patterns.

Through unique individual keys, the car will automatically adjust the seat and mirrors for the specific user, bring up their favourite playlist on the music system, or even continue playing the song where they last left off.

IoT: Keeping track of devices

The use of the IoT in the commercial sector to facilitate routine life tasks was however only the start of things. For the IoT to really take off, two things had to happen – an identification standard had to be developed that would cater for the millions of devices that would eventually be connected, and communication protocols had to be established by which all devices could talk to each other and share information.

In 1999, Bill Joy presented his “Six Webs” framework at the World Economic Forum. One of the concepts within the framework was Device to Device (D2D) communication. This was followed in 2001 by David Brock, co-director at the Auto-ID Center, MIT, proposing a new object identification scheme. He proposed that the Universal Product Code (UPC or ‘bar code’) should be replaced by the Electronic Product Code (EPC) to track objects throughout the product life cycle using the internet.

In 2003, a network aimed at connecting the millions of tags already available was launched at the McCormick Place conference center. Numerous delegates from across the retail, technology and academia sectors attended the launch of the electronic product code (EPC) network.

Prevent machine failure

The rise of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

When the industry started using the commercial technology provided by IoT even further and used it on a much bigger scale, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) was born.

IIoT revolutionize manufacturing

IIoT, just like IoT, interconnects devices linked to a single network via the Internet but does it on a much bigger scale. While IoT devices rely on mobile devices to connect to smart cars, smart homes, and other devices, IIoT connects devices for management systems, machines, smart factories, and more to streamline business operations.

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Industrial machines are fitted with sensors and employees all across the delivery and supply chains are equipped with the tools to monitor and respond to the output from these sensors.

This has resulted in IIoT starting to pave the way for a complete transformation of routine business processes, including production, maintenance, delivery, orders etc. Instead of a mere refrigerator monitoring its contents intelligently and telling the consumer what to order or ordering itself, warehouse sensors enable companies to monitor all their stock so that spares and supplies are ordered when required. This prevents understocking and overstocking of critical items.

IIoT sensors for detection of anomalies

Sensors placed within all delivery chain phases make it possible to track shipments from when they leave the factory floor to the moment they arrive at the customer. Sensors in a production line allow for early detection of anomalies. This averts potential breakdowns by using predictive maintenance to fix problems before they happen. Companies can, therefore, avoid costly breaks in production and downtime.
All these applications maximize quality, minimize expenses, and improve efficiency.

Prevent machine failure

Responses in real-time via Crowd Services

Consumer and company expectations have shifted dramatically as a result of IoT and IIoT. Easy access to services, products and information on mobile devices has led to increasing demand for real-time responses and systems. In IIoT, sensors provide real-time insights and information about machines and warehouses. This has led to a greater need for immediate services. Connecting machines, sensors and other devices to the Internet does after all not serve a purpose if systems reacting to these notifications and updates are not put in place.

Many companies don’t, however, have sufficient resources or expertise to deliver responses in real-time. This shortage has resulted in Crowd Services, a new innovation, being developed. Companies now pool all their resources, including partners, employees, freelance specialists, subcontractors, and experts to create a pool of service providers that is able to respond to the demand for real-time services. This crowd uses mobile devices and field service management software to stay informed of customer history, product information, service requests, etc.
IIoT enables data from numerous sources to be amalgamated. Sources include customer input, sensor output, service provider knowledge and availability and more. Not only does this help in providing real-time responses, but it also provides effective and accurate real-time fixes. We have now arrived at the precipice of the next industrial revolution – Industry 4.0.

IoT is reinventing the industrial world

The evolution of IoT has happened gradually over time, with numerous parallel projects being undertaken. Modern IoT is a convergence of several technologies, including data analytics, wireless communication and cloud computing.

IoT and IIoT have evolved in less than twenty years and numerous new innovations were devised as possibilities or solutions to new challenges. Although the potential of this technology is obvious, we can only imagine how it will continue changing and redefining the way we live and work over the next decades.

It is therefore crucial for both SMEs and industry leaders that want to to become legitimate players to be aware of how IIoT is reinventing the industry. This is especially true for big data as more connected devices lead to a constant buildup of complex data. Companies will soon have little choice but to rely on AI systems to analyze and process it.

Read more about the partnership between Exapro and Neuron Soundware to enhance their offering of IIoT device to monitor the sound of machines to detect an anomaly.

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