What is IoT?

Concepts and Definitions

General Information

IoT, in general, is taking the ability to see what’s happening remotely through sensors using modern internet technologies. The big thing that makes IoT IoT is that – in the past – this kind of thing would have been called telemetry or machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. The difference is that those solutions (which have been around for a really long time) is that IoT leverages technology that was originally developed for smartphones. And the reason that is important is that the sheer volume of the smartphone market is what effectively paid for the miniaturization and cost reduction of these technologies. Twenty years ago, if you had wanted to put some sensors on a remote piece of oil well equipment, you could absolutely do it but it would have cost you tens of thousands of dollars. Because the sensors were expensive, the computers were expensive, the connectivity was expensive, everything was expensive. But the fact that they are producing billions of cell phones every year, and the fact that we now have the miniaturization – I mean, think about it. Your phone has a GPS in it, right? Remember how big a GPS used to be? It was its own separate thing! It’s all done on a tiny little chip now. And all the other sensors in your cell phone and even the whole wireless component of it – all of this stuff we use is all from cell phones.

That market is so large that it drove the prices down and the size of it and the power requirements of it down. So, what IoT is doing is taking advantage of all of that and it’s saying, “Hey, no longer do we have to go out and spend $3,000 on a sensor that can communicate wirelessly and tell us what the humidity is in this place. We can now do that for $30.” So that is the big deal. From a “what makes IoT different from telemetry or machine-to-machine communications that have been around for decades” perspective. 

From the standpoint of “why does all this matter,” having remote visibility to things in real-time lets you make better decisions. It really is as simple as that. If you are a manufacturer of HVAC equipment, knowing that the pressure of the coolant in that system is 20% low, and knowing that today is going to give you the ability to make better decisions and provide better service to your customers, make the equipment last longer, etc. as compared to not knowing that information for six months until you go out and inspect that piece of equipment on its scheduled maintenance call. That’s really the bottom line: from a business standpoint, it gives you remote visibility to actionable data in real-time to enable you to make better business decisions. And because of this cell phone-driven path to low power, tiny, low-cost sensors and cheap wireless communication, suddenly this technology is in reach of almost any company as opposed to only the EXXONs of the world.

These are the salient points – the gospel, if you will – of IoT.

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