The Internet of Things consists of all Internet enabled items and the web services that enable communication and interaction with these objects. It is a term that relates to the growing connectedness of the world around us, as new devices and types of technology enable items in the real world to be linked to the Internet. The Internet of Things is already a reality in some environments, but its use is set to increase rapidly in the near future as more items are connected to the internet.
The Internet of Things makes use of a number of different technologies, including RFID tags and QR Codes that can be attached to items, and the sensors and devices that can be used to read the information encoded in these tags. These devices include smartphones. Items and devices that are connected together in the Internet of Things may communicate through wireless Internet connection, or through direct scanning of tags by sensors.
Tagged objects can be identified and information shared automatically, or through the use of a manually operated device or scanner. Items can be connected in a network within a particular environment, such as a home or a public space, or they can be linked to the Internet so that the information can be accessed remotely. As well as taking advantage of tags added to items by manufacturers, it is also possible for people to add their own information to an item through a tag. This enables people to make personal and potentially very creative uses of the technology.
The Internet of Things works due to the new technologies that enable items to be easily and affordably tagged with information that can be read by sensors and internet enabled devices. An item such as a bottle of milk, a sample in a laboratory, or a patient in a hospital can be given a unique, identifiable tag, such as an RFID tag. This tag could hold information such as the expiry date of the milk, the identification number of the sample, or the medical needs of the patient.
In addition to the tagging of these types of items, the Internet of Things requires the use of sensors and devices that can read these tags and make use of the information they hold. These sensors may be able to read the information at a distance, but they could also require closer proximity to the tag in order to read it. For example, RFID tags on lab samples might be read by sensors stationed in every doorway. This would enable the path of the sample through the lab to be traced, so that its whereabouts and the chain of custody can be known. Tags on food items might be read by a sensor located in a fridge, so that it is possible to monitor what food is available and when it is necessary to buy more. Patient tags could be read by handheld devices, so a doctor could check the details of a patient before they begin treatment. This could help to avoid medical mistakes.
The information detected by sensors could be made available over the internet, rather than simply on the devices that are reading the tags. This could make it possible for shipping companies to provide live tracing information both within the company and to clients who are waiting for a delivery. Items could be detected by sensors at various stages or locations in the shipping process, and the current location of the item could then be made available to the customer on the company website.
Devices and sensors can communicate with one another online in order to share information or alter functions, so the Internet of Things can be used for machine to machine communication as well as to provide information to people.
The Internet of Things will produce an abundance of data that will be of use to businesses as well as to individuals. It could enable more targeted marketing, for example, as well as making it easier for consumers to find the products they like or to access more information.