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The Internet of Things (IoT)

What is the Internet of Things?

Everything you need to know about the IOT in 2022.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a general term that encompasses pretty much every device that is connected to the internet. It describes massive technological advancements that took place over the last decade. These were made possible by two things: cheap and super-small computer chips, and the rolling out of efficient wireless networks across private buildings and public spaces. 

The internet of things already plays a major role in most people's lives and is an integral part of the global economy. Any household appliance that can be controlled or accessed via an app on your phone is part of the internet of things e.g. your air conditioning unit, thermostat, security lights or cameras, etc. The car you drive, the airplane you fly in, the sensors that open doors and elevators are all part of the internet of things. 

The internet of things is constantly expanding, evolving, and - in theory at least - making our lives easier, safer, and more convenient. Municipalities and city authorities are investing in new arrays of sensors that cover entire districts and neighborhoods. The goal is to absorb data on every level, process it, and control the environment. Useful applications can include monitoring and predicting traffic flow and easing rush-hour congestion, implementing safe crowd control at a sporting event, or managing the grid and utilities more efficiently.

About Internet of Things

How big is the Internet of Things?

The internet of things is already huge, it’s continually growing, and is set to become all-encompassing. Nobody knows for sure, but there are an estimated 6 billion smart devices containing chips and sensors connected to the internet of things. That’s not one device for every human on the planet yet, but we’re heading in that direction at a fast rate. 

As we make a strategic switch to smart cars and smart homes, the number of devices connected to the IoT will grow exponentially. The Ministry of Communications plans for the greater part of Israel to eventually be covered by wireless internet. Whether you’re out hiking in the Golan, driving across the Negev, or simply adjusting the smart irrigation system in your garden, you will be connected to the internet of things.  

The internet of things will be a constant companion, from the cradle to the grave. It will be an intimate part of our lives, whether we like it or not. Unless you’re planning to lead a hermit’s existence in a remote location, and with no smart devices, there won’t be any opt-out from the IoT. It is already huge and will keep on growing as technology develops and new human activities become possible.  

What is the history of IoT?

Scientists and designers were aware of the possibility of smart devices that integrated with other devices or remote intelligence at least half a century ago. British tech pioneer Kevin Ashton is credited with coining the phrase Internet of Things in 1999. He was one of the first modern designers to clearly conceptualize the idea.

The lack of effective technology meant that these concepts were initially in the realm of science fiction. The big technological leaps came with the internet and the reduction in size (and cost) of computer chips. The other big enabler is the development of IPv6 which can theoretically assign a unique IP address to every smart device that will ever be created.

One problem that faced designers is that many of the electronic devices that could theoretically be connected to the internet of things had a comparatively short life span. Many devices that we currently connect to the IoT with computer chips and sensors are all but disposable. There was little point in adding expensive technology to an item that would either break or become obsolete within a year or two. 

The development of RFID tags (cheaper low-power chips that are easy to mass-produce) made it far more viable to connect low-value devices to the IoT. The availability of RFID technology coincided with innovations in broadband internet and wireless technology. Improvements in technology, production processes, and economies of scale mean that reliable chips are now produced at a cost of just a few cents.

Why is IoT so important in the 21st century?

The Internet of Things now defines - or soon will define - every electronic product we buy. It will be integral to the design process, manufacturing process, marketing, shipping, sale, maintenance, and ultimately the disposal or recycling of every electronic device or item that we will ever own. Companies that aren’t at the forefront of IoT technology will struggle to compete in the global markets. Products and devices that can’t connect to the internet of things flawlessly (and securely) won’t sell. 

There’s now a fundamental shift towards sustainability and environmental responsibility. Public preference for products and services with a low environmental impact and carbon neutrality is growing. There’s also a basic desire to run our homes, business premises, and vehicles efficiently and save money. The switch to green energy and sustainable practices isn’t cheap. The IoT can streamline utilities, optimize how we generate power and consume resources, and constantly identify opportunities to save money. 

It may seem like a paradox, but the emerging high-tech solutions and even artificial intelligence will enable us to get back to basics and live more harmonious and balanced lives in a way that dramatically reduces damage to the natural environment. The IoT is already emerging as a giant enabler that will allow data harvesting and AI analysis. It is one of the keys to machine learning and the new technological revolution. 

The next decade, and certainly the next twenty years, will see a technological transformation that will change every life on this planet. We are likely to see greater scientific advances than during any previous period in human history. Whoever leads the way with the internet of things will be in a strong position to shape the new technological revolution. 

How can IoT improve my life and work? 

One of the major future concerns will be quality of life. For the first time in human history, the majority of the human race has developed beyond a basic struggle for survival. Even developing nations have made big jumps forward during the last generation. Many in the West take the pursuit of happiness for granted. For all that we’ve overcome the primal challenges of surviving on planet Earth and controlling our environment, there are still major issues. One that affects all of us in healthcare. 

We are living longer, but still, frequently die of diseases that ought to be treatable or avoidable. People who do have health problems frequently endure restrictions and discomforts that better technology and medical knowledge could ease. The internet of things is already bringing major benefits to the sick and the elderly and is helping the healthy to optimize and maintain their health. 

The average US or Israeli hospital is already a tech hub, our healthcare is computerized and accessible online. The Kupat Holim is pushing hard to introduce personalized healthcare with an emphasis on identifying possible vulnerabilities and either avoiding health problems altogether or catching them at an early stage. Within a decade, we’re likely to have health monitoring and treatment devices in our smart homes, connected to the internet of things. 

When the internet of things is combined with cloud storage and artificial intelligence, medical research is transformed. We can realistically expect to see huge progress towards preventing and curing diseases like cancer, diabetes, HIV, Covid-19, and perhaps even perennial irritations like the common cold. 

How will the IoT affect my career?

The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns already transformed how we work. There's a fundamental shift towards remote working, flexibility, freelancing, career changes, and multi-roles. We all saw how technology like Zoom enabled meetings and work processes across continents. As this trend continues, the IoT will unleash new flexibility and creativity and increase the potential of pretty much every business. Research and development are already undergoing a transformation across all industries. 

The average employee and executive will have access to a multitude of data and information, frequently in real-time. AI will predict outcomes and analyze scenarios for managers. We will be able to do more with less - and do it better. Adaptability and versatility are set to become new workplace concepts and it may become a lot easier to retrain for new roles and make career changes at any age. Parental leave, sabbaticals, and study leave will be less disruptive as career patterns and employer mindsets change. 

Can the Internet of Things reduce the cost of living?

If you live in Israel, the disastrously high cost of living is a daily worry. The lack of disposable income after you’ve met the basic necessities of life is deeply frustrating. If you’re struggling just to meet the basic necessities, life can be seriously stressful. Most of us are always looking for ways to earn more and spend less (or at least get better value for money). 

Logic suggests that the internet of things will increase efficiency across the board, enable innovation, and reduce the cost of goods and services. In theory, this is absolutely correct. A smart home can use electricity, gas, and water more efficiently and reduce utility bills. The consumer durables and products that we buy can also be manufactured and distributed more cheaply and efficiently. 

If there is one sector of the economy where the internet of things can truly reduce waste and increase efficiency it’s agriculture and food production. From basics like speed and crop health, fertilizers, animal husbandry, all the way up to food processing, storage, and distribution, the IoT can unleash a new agricultural revolution. In theory, at least, our weekly grocery bills could be slashed - and the quality and nutritional value of our food increased. 

The problem is that the cost of living is directly influenced by government policies. The cost of living is cheaper in many OECD countries than in Israel precisely because of Israeli government policies. The internet of things only has the potential to decrease our cost of living and improve our quality of life. Ultimately it is the government (and the wider global economy) that determines the cost of the basics like groceries and household items. 

What are the Pros and Cons of IoT

Like all things, the Internet of Things comes with a list of pros and cons. We already covered many of the pros, but it’s worth summarizing them again. 

Pros of the IoT

  • Efficiency and cost cutting across the board
  • Innovations in medical care and life expectancy
  • Transformation of the workplace
  • Improved personal safety and security
  • Mass access to real time data, enabling R&D innovation

Cons of the IoT

  • Vulnerability to cyber attack
  • Universal dependence on fallible technology 
  • Potential for mass surveillance and totalitarian social control
  • Possible reduction of quality of life and stifling of personal initiative

 if ‘everything becomes too easy.

What are the privacy implications of the IoT?

The privacy implications of the IoT are immense and potentially terrifying. An authoritarian regime like China or Russia can potentially use an all-embracing IoT to implement a totalitarian society. George Orwell partly imagined this type of nightmare future in his classic dystopian novel 1984. We already have a younger social media generation with a very different concept of privacy from previous generations. As Mark Zuckerberg infamously remarked, “Privacy is dead.”

If we live in smart homes, drive (or are driven by) smart vehicles that are connected to the IoT, and live in cities and suburbs that film and track our every movement, our lives belong to anybody who can access the constantly harvested data. Our smartphones already work like tracking devices. The Israeli security services used our smartphone data to track our daily human interactions during the Covid pandemic and order individuals into compulsory quarantine. 

In a connected world, every purchase we make, web page we browse, the place we visit, every social interaction, perhaps every action we perform in our own homes is potentially trackable and recordable. The data is also potentially hackable. We’ve seen the popularity of VPNs, secure browsers, encrypted messaging services, and anonymous apps in response to existing technology. We’ll hopefully also see similar privacy tools to exert some personal control over how we act with the internet of things. 

TCS is committed to providing customers with the latest - and most secure - telecommunications services. Our high-speed broadband, fiber, and latest routers will help you to get the most out of all the benefits that the growing IoT is bringing, and we’ll always keep you up to date with tech news, useful tech hacks, and good advice about how to keep yourself and your family safe in a rapidly evolving high tech world. 

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