Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sensor Mania! The Explosive Growth of the Wireless Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IOT) is the idea of everyday objects being interconnected network devices by having embedded sensors and communicating wirelessly with the Internet. An increasing trend is for real-world objects like buildings, roads, household appliances, and human bodies to become connected to each other and the Internet via sensors, tiny microprocessor chips that record and transmit data such as sound waves, temperature, movement, and other variables. Vernor Vinge has estimated that 5% of human-constructed objects have embedded microprocessors.

Some of the most familiar Internet-connected devices are computers such as laptops, servers, smartphones, and tablets (e.g.; iPads, etc.) but the IOT concept is much broader. One way of organizing the IOT is by market segment where there are three main categories: 
  1. Monitoring and controlling the performance of homes and buildings - Some of the basic IOT applications underway in the connected home and buildings include temperature monitoring, security, building automation, remote HVAC activation, off-peak electricity use for non-time critical activities, and smart power meters. The worldwide use of smart power meters is expected to grow from 130 million in 2011 to 1.5 billion in 2020
  2. Automotive and transportation applications -  Some of the many automotive and transportation IOT uses include the Internet-connected car (syncing productivity, information, and entertainment applications), traffic management, direction to open parking spots, and electric vehicle charging. It is estimated that 90% of new vehicles sold in 2020 will have on-board connectivity platforms, as compared with 10% today. In industrial transportation, train operators like Union Pacific use IOT infrared sensors, ultrasound, and microphones to monitor the temperature and quality of train wheels. 
  3. Health self-tracking and personal environment monitoring - One of the biggest IOT growth areas is measuring individual health metrics through self-tracking gadgets, clinical remote monitoring, wearable sensor patches, WiFi scales, and a myriad of other biosensing applications.

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