If you haven’t already heard of Internet of Things, you soon will. There is considerable business and technological momentum behind Internet of Things, also known as IoT. Gartner has put IoT way up there in its hype cycle; practically every major technology company is in the process of developing an IoT product; a number of universities in the United States, Europe and Asia have launched big R&D programs in IoT; the European Union is funding the massive Internet of Things Initiative; and China has identified IoT as a technology of national priority.
The proponents of IoT imagine a world in which billions of objects of various sorts (cameras, pacemakers, RFID tags, sprinklers – you name it) are connected to the internet, communicating and cooperating with one another.
Why now? After all, this idea has been around for over a decade under different names – object internet and machine-to-machine (M2M) being two of the better known and has occasionally been the butt of jokes. So is this old wine in a new bottle? Or is this renewed interest based on some major new technological breakthrough?
As it turns out, it’s neither. Much as social networks came of age as more and more people got online, networks of communicating objects are proliferating as the world becomes filled with more and more sensors and other intelligent objects, supporting a broad range of applications. However, there isn’t any identifiable single technology called IoT that supports the wildly different scenarios lumped together under this term.
A look back
In the mid-1990s, the World Wide Web was a network of linked documents. Search engines enabled you to find the documents, and links enabled you to navigate across them. Could the internet also be populated by not just documents but objects that could discover one another, establish connections, communicate and cooperate?
RFID – radio frequency identification – was also becoming more common at this time, lending credibility to this idea. The scanner that detects the signal does not have to be in physical contact with the RFID tag, nor do the two have to be in each other’s line of sight. The technology got a shot in the arm when a major retailer, looking to build a considerably more efficient supply chain, announced that it would be requiring its major suppliers to tag their products with RFID.
Further, many experts opined that if each object had