The Brave New World of IoT
Internet of Things (IoT) is a term that describes a realm of devices interconnected through a variety of communication technologies (Fig. 2) and ultimately to the Internet or to the Cloud. IoT is alive and part of the connected life experience. For example, interconnected devices are used to improve energy efficiencies in commercial buildings and homes. Health care is another area were huge improvements are expected. Urban life is also expected to benefit from IoT by data collection of environment parameters.
The basic building blocks that form the technology backbone of the IoT are:
- Sensors and actuators
- Embedded Processors
- Connectivity to the Internet and to the Cloud
Smart objects use sensors and actuators to interact with their physical environments. Sensors are used to measure the state of the environment and actuators are employed to change or affect the environment. Essentially, sensors take a mechanical, optical, magnetic or thermal signal and convert this into voltage and current data. This data can then be processed. Actuators follow this same process, but in reverse. Voltage and current induce a mechanical, optical, magnetic or thermal change in the physical environment.
Embedded processing is what gives smart objects their intelligence. This function is usually provided by a microcontroller. These run the software of the smart object and are responsible for connecting its sensors and actuators with a radio transceiver. Basically, a microcontroller is a small low power computer on a chip minus the monitor, keyboard and mouse. In many applications, the sensors may be built in on the same die as the microcontroller, e.g., Tire Pressure Monitoring Devices (TPMS).
Even though large networks of interconnected devices operate today in industrial environments, direct connection of smart devices to the Internet and to the Cloud is in its infancy. Standard activities are in motion and will be driven by the dynamics of the IoT marketplace and its value chain constituents and stakeholders.
As this field continues to develop, many challenges and opportunities for innovation exist, and therefore for building intellectual property portfolios as well as licensing existing intellectual property portfolios related to the backbone technologies of the IoT.
One of the great promises of the IoT is as a technology that will make our lives much easier. To wit, the LECHAL footwear which creates a hands-free navigation system through your feet, guiding the wearer towards their destination through simple vibrations in their shoes or insoles.
Eventually, IoT may lead to a anything-as-service (XaaS) world where connected things serve as our personal concierges, able to anticipate our preferences and trigger a chain of experiences without prompting. A world where technology helps you to set and achieve goals, take charge of your life and habits, and optimize your decisions and choices.
“O brave new world that has such people in it.”
― Aldous Huxley, Brave New World