What is Internet of Things (IoT)?
The Internet of things (IoT) is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines provided with unique identifiers (UIDs) and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.
The definition of the Internet of things has evolved due to the convergence of multiple technologies, real-time analytics, machine learning, commodity sensors, and embedded systems. Traditional fields of embedded systems, wireless sensor networks, control systems, automation (including home and building automation), and others all contribute to enabling the Internet of things. In the consumer market, IoT technology is most synonymous with products pertaining to the concept of the “smart home”, covering devices and appliances (such as lighting fixtures, thermostats, home security systems and cameras, and other home appliances) that support one or more common ecosystems, and can be controlled via devices associated with that ecosystem, such as smartphones and smart speakers.
History of IoT
The idea of adding sensors and intelligence to basic objects was discussed throughout the 1980s and 1990s (and there are arguably some much earlier ancestors), but apart from some early projects – including an internet-connected vending machine – progress was slow simply because the technology wasn’t ready. Chips were too big and bulky and there was no way for objects to communicate effectively.
Processors that were cheap and power-frugal enough to be all but disposable were needed before it finally became cost-effective to connect up billions of devices. The adoption of RFID tags – low-power chips that can communicate wirelessly – solved some of this issue, along with the increasing availability of broadband internet and cellular and wireless networking. The adoption of IPv6 – which, among other things, should provide enough IP addresses for every device the world is ever likely to need – was also a necessary step for the IoT to scale.
Kevin Ashton coined the phrase ‘Internet of Things’ in 1999, although it took at least another decade for the technology to catch up with the vision.
Adding RFID tags to expensive pieces of equipment to help track their location was one of the first IoT applications. But since then, the cost of adding sensors and an internet connection to objects has continued to fall, and experts predict that this basic functionality could one day cost as little as 10 cents, making it possible to connect nearly everything to the internet.
The IoT was initially most interesting to business and manufacturing, where its application is sometimes known as machine-to-machine (M2M), but the emphasis is now on filling our homes and offices with smart devices, transforming it into something that’s relevant to almost everyone. Early suggestions for internet-connected devices included ‘blogjects’ (objects that blog and record data about themselves to the internet), ubiquitous computing (or ‘ubicomp’), invisible computing, and pervasive computing. However, it was Internet of Things and IoT that stuck.
Ambient intelligence and autonomous control are not part of the original concept of the Internet of things. Ambient intelligence and autonomous control do not necessarily require Internet structures, either. However, there is a shift in research (by companies such as Intel) to integrate the concepts of the IoT and autonomous control, with initial outcomes towards this direction considering objects as the driving force for autonomous IoT. A promising approach in this context is deep reinforcement learning where most of IoT systems provide a dynamic and interactive environment. Training an agent (i.e., IoT device) to behave smartly in such an environment cannot be addressed by conventional machine learning algorithms such as supervised learning. By reinforcement learning approach, a learning agent can sense the environment’s state (e.g., sensing home temperature), perform actions (e.g., turn HVAC on or off) and learn through the maximizing accumulated rewards it receives in long term.
IoT intelligence can be offered at three levels: IoT devices, Edge/Fog nodes, and Cloud computing. The need for intelligent control and decision at each level depends on the time sensitiveness of the IoT application. For example, an autonomous vehicle’s camera needs to make real-time obstacle detection to avoid an accident. This fast decision making would not be possible through transferring data from the vehicle to cloud instances and return the predictions back to the vehicle. Instead, all the operation should be performed locally in the vehicle. Integrating advanced machine learning algorithms including deep learning into IoT devices is an active research area to make smart objects closer to reality. Moreover, it is possible to get the most value out of IoT deployments through analyzing IoT data, extracting hidden information, and predicting control decisions. A wide variety of machine learning techniques have been used in IoT domain ranging from traditional methods such as regression, support vector machine, and random forest to advanced ones such as convolutional neural networks, LSTM, and variational autoencoder.
In the future, the Internet of Things may be a non-deterministic and open network in which auto-organized or intelligent entities (web services, SOA components) and virtual objects (avatars) will be interoperable and able to act independently (pursuing their own objectives or shared ones) depending on the context, circumstances or environments. Autonomous behavior through the collection and reasoning of context information as well as the object’s ability to detect changes in the environment (faults affecting sensors) and introduce suitable mitigation measures constitutes a major research trend, clearly needed to provide credibility to the IoT technology. Modern IoT products and solutions in the marketplace use a variety of different technologies to support such context-aware automation, but more sophisticated forms of intelligence are requested to permit sensor units and intelligent cyber-physical systems to be deployed in real environments