We have all been used to some objects in our daily lives being used in a totally isolated fashion. For instance, when we draw curtains over the window, we feel no need for connecting the curtains to something they can `talk' to. However, IoT has the potential to disruptively transform how we interact with objects in our day-to-day lives. That same curtain could look up to an NTP time server and use motors to cover/uncover the window by taking into consideration the time of the day as well as local weather conditions through embedded sensors. At the same time, technologies like NFC, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi which will be used in IoT will each bring with themselves their own set of security concerns. It would become possible, for instance, for someone to launch an attack by remotely deactivating all pacemakers in a given area using a combination of these wireless technologies.The very thought about potential damage to life and property is frightening.
IoT will also bring with itself many concerns about privacy. Because no physical object will be truely isolated, users may feel less comfortable about their privacy. A tool called Paraimpu has been launched at http://paraimpu.crs4.it, which is a social tool with the aim to allow people to connect, use, share and compose Things, Services and Devices to create personalized applications in the Web of Things. It has also made available an API for developers.
There is also Nimbits at http://www.nimbits.com which is a service for connecting people, sensors and devices on the cloud. It is a free, social and open source platform for the Internet of Things. With Nimbits, you can give your projects the processing power of Google, add the intelligence of the WolframAlpha computational knowledge engine, connect to Facebook, Twitter and the Google Plus social network, and connect to thousands of data feeds from hundreds of online Nimbits Server instances.
IoT brings with itself many opportunities in allied fields such as augmented reality, embedded computing, robotics, etc., each of which are areas which require specialized skills and thorough domain knowledge.
Turning Physical Objects into Virtual Minting Machines
The Internet of Things (IoT) opens up many opportunities for networking equipment and consumer electronics manufacturers. They will need to come out with consumer devices and plug-ins/attachments to conventional physical assets that will enable these hardware to connect to the Internet, as a result of the expansion of the Internet beyond conventional IT hardware. We are already witnessing inroads of IoT in the automotive sector, where manufacturers have taken to connecting cars with the Internet to achieve a variety of end-user objectives, not necessarily limited to navigational aids. Thus, the potential scale of opportunities to do business in IoT is high.
Taking informed decisions
Businesses, by making use of embedded sensors, will be able to capture and analyze information from a higher-than-ever number of sources that will help them make better-informed decisions. This does not leave out small and medium-sized businesses as well. Imagine that if you are an SME and you managed to fit every single SKU in your inventory with RFID tags (even passive RFID tags will do), then you will never run out of stock or unnecessarily pile up producing SKUs which are in low demand, since you would have a completely accurate idea of what is in demand in the market and what EXACTLY do you have ready for supply in your inventory. This will be very important for SMEs in the face of uncertain economic conditions in the next calendar year. Wristwatch displays, healthcare sensors, smart posters and home entertainment systems are examples of solutions already available that are seen to accelerate the move towards IoT. Advancements in image recognition technologies will, for instance, provide businesses with a security mechanism (in the form of face recognition) that is both pretty robust for most purposes as well as completely natural and convenient to the user. Image recognition can be built into most devices, which will help users identify objects of interest and even possibly go for a purchase, since now they have complete information of what they just saw. Project Glass by Google is an excellent example of what opportunities lie in store for businesses. Businesses will be able to make e-payments much more convenient and almost natural for the end-user by enabling NFC support in their hardware so that a tap is all it takes for the payment and the user does not need to face the hassles of pairing up his device or establishing a connection by explicitly specifying configuration details. Applications lie even in the pharmaceutical sector, where containers can make use of cellular technology to communicate. This will also bring with itself many challenges owing to the complex web of connections amongst devices, which shall become difficult to manage. The entire cost of communications might rise by a signifact percentage owing to everything being connected. Support desks will need to ramp up their monitoring of each of the connected devices to make sure everything is in order.
It has Made In-Roads, but We Aren't There Yet
The Internet of Things (IoT) is about identifying each physical object (whether living or non-living) uniquely in such a manner that it can be reached to over a network. Similar to how an SKU uniquely identifies a particular unit of a product which has been manufactured on a large scale and relates it with other similar products, IoT tries to achieve unique identification of all objects and connects them together.
Since many of the prerequisite technologies to IoT (such as RFID) have already seen mass deployments and have become cost-effective for SMEs too, existing developments in this area are enough to make sure that it will become a trend in 2013. Almost every product sold in retail stores is accompanied by some form of a bar code, which identifies it uniquely and lets it `talk' to a reader even though the bar code by itself is passive. When our smartphone is put back into the pocket, for instance, it detects the absence of ambient light and automatically switches off the display. Handsets having NFC support are entering the Indian market. The number of network connectivity options supported, such as NFC, Wi-Fi , GPS, etc. have become an important decision-making factor while choosing a handset. The Kinect console by Microsoft, which has seen tremendous uptake by gaming enthusiasts, is a good example of how human gestures are being recognised using image recognition in a way that dramatically changes how we interact with computers. MISOLIMA has been developing its Digital One Line Link or DOLLx8 Embedded Network system since 1991, where version 3.18 (as of 2011) is designed to address more than 28 trillion IoT objects. DOLLx8 for IoT is now due to be implemented into the world's first MISOLIMA eco-house system based on IoT as base technology where home, office, vehicle, alarm systems, sensors, controls and devices are all integrated into one single system.
5 Challenges for IoT to Take-Off in India
In India for IoT to become a reality, the first challenge would be connectivity. Basic infrastructure which we have in place is not yet upto the mark to be able to handle the requirements of IoT. User experience will be directly affected in the face of frequently dropping communication links.
Another infrastructure bottleneck is power. In the face of protests to nuclear power plants, do we have a viable solution to power each of our devices even without IoT in the future? Can we identify and put to use alternative sources of energy before it is too late? These are some of the most critical challenges to IoT in India.
The next challenge would be social acceptance. In a multi-cultural country like India, how ready is the Indian user (whether urban or rural) to be able to associate himself as having some sort of a virtual identity where each object which surrounds him/her is connected to everything else? How will it meet resistance by conservative groups? In fact, what percentage of Indian users feel that there is a need in their lives to bring about IoT although we definitely are heading towards it? This can be easily debated. IoT brings with itself a concept of virtual reality, and this is something an Indian user might not easily accept.
The next challenge would be regulation. How complex will it become to establish rules and laws for determining law and order when every single object can 'talk' with other objects? How will the law define privacy of any kind? Will jails holding criminals too be able to 'talk'?
Economic challenges also exist. IoT is something which not only requires huge capex but also huge opex. How many organizations are willing to bear costs in the face of uncertain economic conditions? We aren't there already. In such a scenario, how many organizations could be willing to bet on their money on IoT?