What is the internet of things (IoT)?

The internet of things, or IoT, refers to an enormous network of everyday items that can connect with each other and with other networks through wireless devices. The devices gather data from the item and its environment, and can transmit it to other connected items anywhere in the world.

Items as diverse as a kitchen toaster, a process plant’s raw mill, and a dri-fit sports shirt can all be part of the IoT. All it takes is a small computer chip and a wireless connection for them to communicate with each other.

IoT devices can be fitted anywhere, because there’s no need for wires, so they can even be installed in the smallest and largest pieces of equipment and in the most awkward locations. IoT devices play an important role in digital transformation because they provide much of the datasets needed to track and understand business conditions at any given time.

In a process plant, IoT is generally referred to as IIoT, or the Industrial Internet of Things, to distinguish it from home or business IoT networks.

Why does IoT matter?

IoT devices can communicate with each other and with a central management unit, enabling diverse use cases that benefit consumers, enterprises, and industries.

Some of the varied use cases for IoT include:

  • Home appliances that can book a technician for their own maintenance
    ● Retail warehouses that can order more stock
    ● Items of equipment that can heal their own faults
    ● Buildings that adjust ventilation, cooling, and heating systems automatically
    ● Delivery trucks that monitor the progress and condition of shipment items
    ● Agricultural fields that manage their own water, pesticide, and herbicide levels

How to implement IoT devices?

Your implementation of IoT is going to depend heavily on what you intend to achieve. Consumers looking to automate heating, cooling, and lighting systems on a home network will have different needs to a business looking to optimize its supply chain or a farmer wishing to increase their crop yields.

The first step is always to decide on your goals. Once you know what you’d like to achieve, you can estimate how many IoT sensors you’ll need, what size system will be necessary to support it, and whether you’ll need external expert assistance. Some of the decisions you might need to make include:

  • Where to place your IoT devices
    ● Where to store your IoT data
    ● What kind of software you’ll need to analyze and use IoT data

In a business setting, you’ll also need to remove silos between departments, so that different teams can access and share IoT-powered insights.

What are the benefits of IoT?

By gathering data and communicating independently with central systems, IoT helps businesses to refine their products and services and automate processes, improving customer experience for consumers and making many processes more efficient.