The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to be something. Nobody really knows what it will be or what might evolve. In numerical terms, it could be quite a big something. By 2020, some business analysts are predicting that there could be as many as 30 billion devices connected to the internet, each with its own unique ID. From a business perspective, semiconductor and electronic component companies are getting very excited because it could mean big business for those supplying the technology to make it all happen.

What is the concept behind the IoT?
In fairly simplistic terms, the IoT is a development of the Internet in which everyday objects will have embedded technology enabling network connectivity, allowing them to communicate (send and receive data) and do things (make associated decisions/actions).

Wikipedia goes into a little more detail suggesting the Internet of Things refers to the interconnection of uniquely identifiable embedded computing-like devices within the existing Internet infrastructure. Typically, the IoT is expected to offer advanced connectivity of devices, systems, and services that goes beyond machine-to-machine communications and covers a variety of protocols, domains, and applications. The interconnection of these embedded devices, is expected to usher in automation in nearly all fields, while also enabling advanced applications like a Smart Grid.

So it’s likely that the Internet of Things is going to be something and there are many who are pondering, thinking and rubbing their hands together in terms what it could become and the business opportunities it could create.

What about personal choice?
Will we really be happy for our milk cartons to alert the supermarkets when they’re empty; for our toothbrushes to communicate directly with our dentist; for personalised travel recommendations that include our commuting and eating preferences; and for smart clothing that urges us to exercise. These perhaps are extreme examples and as the IoT comes into being and evolves hopefully it will create a genuinely useful and helpful eco-system.

I believe we are an intelligent species and capable of making well judged decisions – if I run out of milk I am quite capable of popping down the road to the local shop to get a new carton or making a visit to the supermarket to replenish items used since my last visit. Some current thinking seems to suggest that the need to make valued decisions and judgements for ourselves will be lost. Undoubtedly life will be very different in 100 years time but at the moment I’m not quite ready to stop thinking, stop making regular daily decisions and hand over being smart to tiny integrated technology devices.

I think we owe it to ourselves to make the IoT a genuinely useful, technological advance not just another reason for less human interaction, less thinking and more sofa time.

Some thoughts on the IoT from David Manners, Senior Components Editor at Electronics Weekly –