“Internet of Things” is a term that may appear advanced and mysterious, frequently mentioned in various videos and articles. It is considered the third wave in the field of information technology following computers and the internet. With the rapid development of network technology, IoT has quietly reshaped the landscape of the information world. Nations and technology companies have actively invested in this technology, exploring its potential. However, for ordinary users like us, it may still seem somewhat unfamiliar. In this article, TechSparks will introduce this technology to you from four aspects: the concept of IoT, its significance, application areas, and technological support.
Concept of the Internet of Things
The Internet of Things is a network system comprised of interconnected computing devices, machinery, digital machines, objects, animals, or humans. It uses advanced identification technology to convert the physical states of all objects into various parameters and facilitates information sharing through the internet, creating a network that interconnects everything. The core idea of IoT is to extend the concept of the internet to the interconnection of objects, moving beyond interactions solely between humans and expanding to interactions between objects.
Further Reading: How Does the Internet of Things (IoT) Work?
There are numerous examples of IoT in our daily lives, such as smart cities, smart transportation, and smart homes. We are most familiar with controlling lighting, playing music, and adjusting air conditioning through interconnection and voice commands. This seemingly magical operation is a product of modern times. According to Encyclopedia, the concept of IoT first appeared in Bill Gates’ work “The Road Ahead” in 1995. With the implementation of various related technologies, this concept has become a reality. Below are some important milestones in the development history of IoT:
1995: The concept of the Internet of Things was explored.
1999: The term “Internet of Things” was first introduced to describe communication and information exchange between objects through the internet.
2000: The commercial application of RFID technology became part of IoT, enabling objects to connect to the internet and transmit data.
2010: IoT’s commercial applications rapidly expanded to cover fields such as healthcare, automotive, public utilities, household appliances, and more.
Now: With the development of edge computing, 5G networks, and artificial intelligence, IoT continues to advance, and IoT devices have quietly entered various aspects of human life.
Why Develop IoT Technology
Modern systems consist of three core elements: perception (sensors), data transmission (networks), and decision-making (artificial intelligence).
- Perception: This is the process of gathering information from the real world, typically achieved through sensors. These sensors act as the electronic sensory organs of devices and can detect and measure various phenomena such as temperature, humidity, location, sound, images, and more.
- Data Transmission: This involves the transfer of information obtained from the perception part to a central system or the cloud. It encompasses communication networks and data transmission protocols, ultimately enabling remote access, analysis, and utilization of perception data.
- Decision-Making: This is the process where the central system or the cloud processes the received data and takes corresponding actions. It often involves the use of algorithms and artificial intelligence to analyze data and make decisions to fulfill user requests.
Today, we generally define the first two elements as the Internet of Things, and its importance lies in achieving more accurate and faster information delivery. Delays and errors encountered in household electronic usage may be perceived as network issues or voice command errors caused by interference, leading to minor inconveniences. However, in safety-critical applications, any error or delay can have irreversible consequences.
Take modern cars as an example; they are essentially complex network systems involving the perception of driving data, transmitting that data to the cloud, and then processing and making decisions. In this process, any failure or delay at any stage can directly impact the vehicle’s safety and performance.
Applications of the IoT
The IoT finds applications across various domains, spanning from Consumer IoT to Enterprise IoT and Industrial IoT, including sectors such as automotive, telecommunications, and energy.
Industrial IoT (IIoT)
IIoT facilitates automated communication and collaboration among devices, optimizing production processes, enhancing resource and energy efficiency, and enabling automated production and intelligent management. Production personnel can remotely access data from equipment and production lines, gaining real-time insights into the manufacturing process. Big data analytics and artificial intelligence help systems analyze copious production data, identifying potential improvement opportunities and issuing alerts before problems arise. Operators can monitor and control production processes from remote locations, enhancing the efficiency of production lines.
The consumer IoT allows users to remotely access smart devices across multiple platforms and devices. This innovative interconnection seamlessly links various home appliances and electronic products, enabling smart control and management. This allows users to simplify daily tasks and reduce their workload. For instance, users can remotely control the operation of a robotic vacuum cleaner, even when not at home, to maintain a clean living environment.
Furthermore, wearable devices equipped with sensors and smart software can collect and analyze users’ personal data. This data can be shared with other devices, providing users with more personalized services. For example, it can offer optimized travel routes, instructing users on the quickest way to reach a destination. Alternatively, it can monitor users’ physiological parameters in real-time and transmit critical information to emergency responders in emergency situations, improving response speed and efficiency.
In smart cities, IoT connects city facilities and resources, allowing for resource management that prevents waste and abuse, thereby increasing resource utilization and coverage. Big data analytics is also used to optimize the use of city facilities, such as traffic management, by providing information on various traffic conditions via networks, helping alleviate congestion issues.
In agriculture, IoT assists in achieving intelligent and precise management of agricultural production. Sensors collect data related to crop growth, such as temperature and humidity, which is then uploaded to the cloud for data organization and analysis. Ultimately, this data is used to automate operations such as irrigation and fertilization. Such applications are especially beneficial for large-scale farmlands, as they save on labor costs, time, and ensure the scientific application of pesticides and fertilizers.
What Tech Has Advanced IoT
Realizing the “Internet of Everything” is a complex process that requires the fusion, support, and development of multiple technologies. The following are the key technologies involved in the IoT:
- Sensor Technology: Sensors are the foundation of IoT, located at the forefront of control systems. They are responsible for automatic detection and control, perceiving the surrounding environment or specific substances and converting physical reality into digital data. This data is then transmitted to central systems or the cloud for analysis and decision-making. Sensor technology comprises sensor elements, signal processing circuits, interfaces, and software.
- RFID Technology: RFID is a non-contact automatic identification technology used for identifying and tracking objects. It is based on radio-frequency communication principles, using wireless signals to transmit data. This enables objects to communicate with reading devices via wireless communication, ultimately connecting objects to the IoT ecosystem. RFID systems typically consist of three main components: tags (or RFID labels), readers (or RFID readers), and backend databases or computer systems.
- Wireless Communication Technology: Fundamental to the Internet, this technology involves transmitting information via wireless signals. It allows devices and systems to communicate without the need for physical cables or wires. Common wireless communication technologies include Wi-Fi, cellular networks, Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN), Bluetooth, and other communication protocols.
- Cloud Computing: Cloud computing provides computing resources, including computation, storage, databases, and applications, over the internet. It allows users to access and use computing resources via the internet on-demand, without the need to own or maintain physical servers, storage devices, or other infrastructure.
- Big Data Analytics: Similar to cloud computing, big data analytics is the process of handling, analyzing, and extracting valuable insights from large datasets, including structured and unstructured data. It aims to identify patterns, trends, correlations, and insights from this data to help IoT devices make decisions, solve problems, or improve processes.
- Edge Computing: Often combined with cloud computing, edge computing forms a comprehensive computing model known as “edge and cloud.” IoT typically involves a large number of distributed sensors and devices that generate vast amounts of data requiring real-time processing and decision-making. Edge computing provides an ideal computing model that complements IoT. It involves processing data locally on devices or edge servers, reducing latency and enhancing data processing speed.
- Blockchain Technology: Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology that stores data in a series of linked blocks, creating an immutable distributed ledger. It is particularly useful for data transmission and identity verification within IoT.
- AI: AI systems simulate human intelligence processes, including learning, reasoning, problem-solving, and adaptation. In IoT, AI plays a crucial role in data analysis, decision support, automation, optimization, intelligent predictions, and more.
- IoT Operating Systems: These are specifically designed for IoT devices, offering features like real-time processing, low power consumption, and scalability. Common IoT operating systems include Contiki, TinyOS, mbed OS, FreeRTOS, and others.
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