The internet of things (IoT) is one of the most important and impactful technological developments of the 21st century. Communication and data sharing can now be done more easily than ever, without the need for any human intervention, unlocking a whole new world of potential for improving systems, processes and devices.
Creating computer chips has gotten quicker and easier, which now means that all kinds of items and devices can be fitted with embedded systems that allow them to connect to other items around them or a larger digital network. Many of the machines and devices we interact with on a day to day basis are already connected to the internet of things, and as technology continues to advance it is likely that our lives will integrate more closely with this responsive network.
Historically, the idea of including sensors and intelligent systems in other items began to be discussed in the 1980s and 90s and the term ‘internet of things’ was coined in 1999. But it is only in the last decade that this kind of technology has started to be used widely and its true potential has been realised. Now it is estimated that there are over 20 billion IoT devices currently operating in the world; a number that is predicted to only keep increasing.
But what are IoT devices? What kind of uses does this technology have, and which industries are most in need of engineers who can design and develop new systems that integrate IoT software?
We’ve put together this post so that you have everything you need to know about IoT devices in one place.
What is IoT Technology?
IoT stands for ‘internet of things’ which is a network of digital devices around the world that are all connected to the internet and share the data they connect to ensure optimum performance. The internet of things allows for a wide variety of different functions to be carried out without any human intervention, facilitating more efficient processes, smarter technology and more seamless integration of the human and digital world.
IoT technology is any technology that is involved in the IoT network. IoT devices are an example of this technology, but other items such as servers, databases, machines and cloud-based systems also fall under the definition.
What is an IoT Device?
An internet of things device can be defined as any piece of hardware programmed for a certain application that can also transmit or receive data over the internet or any other digital network it is connected to. These can be sensors, appliances, actuators, or devices and may be embedded in a larger piece of equipment or machinery.
IoT devices sometimes add an element of smart technology or AI into a wider system or piece of equipment, helping them to become autonomous in how they function. An example of this is in industrial manufacturing, where machines can detect and respond to irregularities in a process without a human working having to spot an issue and manually turn off or redirect a machine.
Almost any physical item or device can be turned into an IoT device if it is hooked up to a microprocessor or chip that can connect to the internet or a digital network. Larger items or machines might have multiple devices inside them, such as lots of different sensors that are all transmitting data back to one central database.
In most cases, the name ‘IoT device’ is used to describe devices that are connected to the internet that may not have otherwise been assumed to do so, Our phones are IoT devices but are rarely referred to as such because it is obvious that they share data through a network, but things like smart appliances are classic examples of IoT devices as many people don’t realise that they connect to a wider digital network.
Types of IoT Devices
The application of internet of things devices is vast. Here are some of the most common examples where this kind of technology is used.
IoT is widely used in the industrial sector in a wide range of different approaches. Machinery and equipment are increasingly being fitted with devices that collect data, receive real-time instructions, use sensors and function autonomously because they are connected to a wider smart network.
Robots and systems controlled by AI are increasingly being brought into industrial and manufacturing workplaces, using smart, connected devices to perform tasks without any human input. IoT in manufacturing allows for minimal error in production or maintenance, more efficient production lines, a safer working environment and cheaper processes overall.
Smart Home Systems
Modern homes are increasingly using IoT devices to control everything from security to lighting. Having intelligent systems that all connect in a house allows for much more nuanced control of the environment, such as turning up heating in certain rooms, switching plugs on and off when you are out of the house, and detecting unusual movement inside or outside.
Smart devices in the home such as televisions can also be connected to the wider IoT system, creating a harmonious and efficient environment that is very easy to control.
You might not think of things like fridges and microwaves being smart tech, but these kinds of home appliances are increasingly being classed as IoT devices as they are fitted with more advanced technology. Whilst the data they share and the functions they perform may not be particularly complex, having home appliances connected to the internet of things means that the whole household can run more smoothly and intuitively, which improves the experience of everyone who lives there.
Other IoT device examples of home appliances are robot vacuum cleaners, smart mirrors, wireless appliances like coffee makers or toasters, and intuitive stovetops and hobs.
Security systems in homes or commercial buildings were one of the first examples of devices connected to a wider network in some way, but as IoT technology continues to grow more advanced, so do our methods of keeping our houses and other buildings safe. Now, sensors and cameras can be set up all over an area to detect and differentiate between different kinds of movement, sharing data and deciding whether a location’s security is at risk.
Whilst more complex security systems for more high-profile places will require expensive and constantly maintained systems of IoT devices, domestic security is a classic example of how IoT home devices can be incredibly beneficial when they are integrated into our daily lives.
IoT wearable devices are one of the most common examples of how this kind of technology has become commonplace in our day to day lives in the last couple of years. Smartwatches and exercise trackers use small microprocessors to share information with other devices like phones and connect to wider systems through the internet so that users can access their information and share it with others.
Whilst wearable IoT devices were initially quite basic, they are now intelligent enough that there are examples of smartwatches detecting irregularities in their user’s physical health and allowing for early identification of certain medical conditions. More specific wearable devices are also being developed in the medical industry to allow for remote monitoring of symptoms and early indication of any potential problems.
As previously mentioned, IoT medical devices have and continue to be developed to allow healthcare professionals to gather more data from their patients, allowing both the doctor and the person they are caring for a better idea of symptoms and overall health condition. Larger devices can also be used for similar purposes as part of medical equipment, gathering and sharing data in a much more efficient and accurate way than a human would be able to collect.
Other examples of IoT devices in the medical industry include robotic surgery devices that can reach smaller places and move more accurately than a human surgeon, sensors that can be ingested to gather data from inside the body, and even devices like inhalers that not only deliver relief but monitor the frequency of use and collate reports and predictions using this data.
The applications of IoT devices in the transport sector are wide, ranging from vehicle-specific devices to city-wide networks. Intelligent transport systems are becoming more widespread across certain countries as a way to improve road safety and the efficiency of public transport, and these all rely on the internet of things to gather and share data and then send instructions back out to a range of machines.
Examples of where IoT connected devices are used in transportation include telematics systems within cars and vans that give the driver instructions based on real-time traffic information, or traffic congestion systems that change the signs above roads depending on how much traffic there is to control the flow of vehicles and reduce jams. IoT software and sensors can also be used to measure the environmental impact that vehicles are having at certain times and then send instructions to reduce the build-up of cars or encourage more energy-efficient driving.
Benefits of IoT Devices
The benefits of different IoT devices are often tied to their function and industry, but there are several overall benefits of using this kind of technology.
The first of these benefits is that using internet of things devices saves a lot of money in almost all of its applications. Whether the device helps a machine or system function more efficiently and save money on running costs, or removes the need for manual labour and therefore reduces the number of staff who need to be paid, they shrink costs and save money in a wide range of situations.
Leading on from that last point, most IoT devices also make existing processes and systems run much more efficiently, which reduces the time needed to perform certain functions. This has a wide range of knock-on benefits, including making systems safer, improving productivity, increasing how much work can get done in a set period of time, and saving resources.
Finally, using IoT solutions means that you’re using the most cutting-edge and reliable technology, relying on a wide network and database of information to ensure optimum performance of systems at all times. When it comes to security, safety and medical devices, the more efficient and reliable the technology the better, which you’ll get from IoT software and equipment.
If you’re a company that produces any kind of IoT technology and are looking to hire engineers in this specific discipline, KO2 can help. Whether it’s devices and sensors, sending and processing data, or presenting data on an application, we’re an IoT and cloud recruitment agency with the knowledge and network of contacts within each technical specialism. Get in touch to find out more about the work we can do for you.