The Internet of Things represents devices, buildings, vehicles and more with sensors, software and network connectivity built into them. These things are connected to the Internet and to each other transmitting data and information to the people who use them. According to Gartner, Inc., there were more connected devices than people in 2008 and in the next few years that number will rise past 20 billion.
Sensors, software and connectivity have changed vehicle technology with one of the most excited innovations being the self-driving car. Elon Musk’s Tesla S is an electric sedan equipped with cameras, radar and 360 degree sonar sensors. These let the vehicle automatically drive on open roads and in traffic. Connected software inside the car sends information back to engineers, which helps programmers make upgrades that make the cars safer and more efficient.
The hope for self-driving cars is to prevent accidents and traffic-related deaths, save time for commuters, relieve traffic jams and save money on fuel and lost productivity. Lower carbon emissions is also a benefit for the environment. Gartner estimates that 250 million connected cars will be on the world’s roads by the year 2020.
Connected devices are being used in manufacturing to cut costs and increased efficiency and productivity. In York, Pennsylvania at the Harley-Davidson plant, sensors linked to manufacturing execution systems are able to collect data and point to any methods that are inefficient and waste time while other sensors can tell when conditions such as air flow and moisture are best for painting and change them if necessary. These technologies may be expensive to adopt, but factories have seen results. Harley-Davidson has been able to make 25 percent more bikes with 30 percent fewer workers.
Wearable technology and fitness trackers have already proven to be a huge healthcare market, which is projected to grow to $25 billion by 2019. These smart devices can send reminders of when to take medication and have the ability to keep track of someone’s heart rate, sleeping patterns, diet and exercise habits. These advancements allow people to take an active role in their health management.
Communication is one of the main areas in which the Internet of things is having many positive effects. Mobile and wearable devices are able to talk to each other by sending data to other devices. Everyday communication and syncing personal information between devices has become easier, but perhaps the greatest advances are in health management where implanted devices allow doctors and nurses to monitor a patient’s chronic disease.
Saving energy is a goal of high importance as the population continues to increase and natural resources diminish. The concept of the Smart Grid refers to an electrical grid equipped with digital technology that allows for communication between the utility and the costumers through connected devices such as thermostats, gas meters and other appliances. This way power can be drawn at times when power is not in high demand and therefore cheaper.
AgricultureThe Internet of things is having an impact on the farming industry as well. John Deere machines have sensors that collect data on air and soil temperature, wind speed, humidity, solar radiation and rainfall while smart watering systems save water by detecting leaks and watering only the most needed places in the fields. Sensors are being used to detect pests capable of destroying crops, which reduces the frequency and use of pesticides.
One of the most common ways the Internet of things is changing our lives is in our homes. Thermostats, alarm systems, smoke detectors, refrigerator, lighting and entertainment systems and even the doorbell can be connected, controlled and monitored from a mobile device. These same technologies will soon find their way into office buildings, schools and retail stores.
Eliminating waste and pollutants is a benefit of the union of logistics and the Internet of things. Video sensor-embedded stoplights adjust their green and red lights according to the time of day and the positions of cars. This reduces congestion, smog and idling vehicles, which accounts for around 17 percent of fuel consumption in urban areas. Solar powered garbage cans called “Big Bellies” in Philadelphia save $1 million each year on fuel, maintenance and labor by sending messages requesting a pickup when they are full, thus greatly reducing the number of garbage collecting shifts.
While these connected technologies take a huge financial investment from companies and from consumers purchasing smart products, the benefits of the interconnectedness of devices are seemingly endless. The Internet of things continues to rapidly evolve and our everyday lives are along for the ride.
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