The IOT has become a hot topic for a number of reasons, but primarily because the power of computer technology is increasing exponentially with time (Moore's Law). For example, in the past ten years:
- The cost of sensors is 20 times less
- Cost of bandwidth is 40 times less
- Cost of processing is 60 times less
Moore's Law affects other areas of semiconductors, providing enhanced communications capability via wireless system-on-chip devices, ever-increasing capability of deployed micro-controllers, and lower-cost, high-capability sensors for a wide range of parameters.
What this means is that the cost of collecting, distributing and processing data has dropped dramatically, making certain applications in the IoT space affordable for the first time. The explosion of low-cost technology in this area linked to computing power and communications becomes the underpinning enabler to allow the Internet of Things to happen. We've really reached a watershed point where the technology solutions that we wish to apply for low-level control and sensing applications is becoming cost-effective.
Estimate vary wildly, but many expect there to be in the order of 1 trillion IoT devices in the field by about 2035. While most internet enabled devices to date have been mobile phones and other common consumer devices, this is expected to be dwarfed by the number of industrial objects that can be internet enabled. It is often quoted that 99% of potential "things" have not yet been connected.
The evolution of technology is leading to a revolution in the applications where that technology can be applied. In fact it would be difficult to find a scenario where the Internet of Things is not relevant and beneficial to what engineers are doing. Many old approaches to automation and control can be implemented far more cheaply than traditional SCADA approaches and many control applications that were previously impractical are now feasible.
It is expected that whole industries will be disrupted by IoT technologies. In the past, most products were sold by the manufacturer/distributor and that was the end of the relationship. However, connecting a product to the internet dramatically opens the opportunity to provide ongoing services. Key to the disruption is that completely new service-led business models can be adopted. For example you might provide the product free in return for a long-term service contract.
A more descriptive introduction to IoT and the factors influencing the industry can be found in our Introduction to IoT.
Edited by Tim Kannegieter