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An Internet of Things

Published 2 years ago

In the early eras of computing, even the most simple of devices required rooms' worth of space, infrastructure, and operators. In the intervening decades, of course, the landscape has changed drastically. Today's smartphones -- with capabilities that are orders of magnitude more than their early predecessors -- fit neatly into a pocket, and the "brains" of these devices are tinier still. Pieces of silicon about the size of your fingernail are doing work that, even just a decade or so ago, would have required a full-scale desktop machine. And as computing technology has gotten smaller and cheaper, the devices around us have been able to leverage those advances in a lot of different ways.

The rise of the Internet has, in many ways, paralleled the advances we saw with computing devices. Connection speeds improved, connectivity expanded, and "the 'net" moved from a niche or luxury product to something that everybody relies on in their daily life. Of course, these progressions didn't happen independently -- it was the advances in technology that underpinned the Internet's growth, and it was the rise of the Internet that pushed for always-connected devices like smartphones, thus driving further miniaturization and performance improvements.

Today, then, we are seeing a growth of small, easily-accessible computing devices with access to the greatest telecommunications network humanity has ever seen. And we call it the "Internet of Things."

What Things?

In many ways, this movement began in the industrial areas, particularly with regards to things like critical infrastructure. The asset and logistics management fields were early adopters -- devices that allowed companies to accurately measure how products and people were moving through their systems, or how well (or poorly) their machinery was operating, opened up new avenues for improvement and competitive advantage.

Today, however, the small size of computing devices, coupled with pervasive (and particularly wireless) access to the Internet, is allowing for the Internet of Things (or "IoT") to spread into any and all of the areas where people live and work. The rise of smartphones has also introduced many more aspects of the IoT to end users. Today, you can walk into any home improvement store and find things like Wi-Fi enabled thermostats or door locks that you can control from your phone.

So What?

To some, all this technology can seem like a solution in search of a problem. And it's true that not everything needs an always-on Internet connection! However, there is a surprising amount of benefit that can come from going down this road.

Better Updates

One immediate benefit of having a "connected" device is that new code -- including more features, bug fixes, or even simple usability tweaks -- can easily be deployed to existing devices. Instead of requiring a manual process, everything can be handled quickly and transparently.

Automation

Even if the software itself isn't being updated, a connected device still allows for more automation. For example, your thermostat might turn on the AC when you leave work, so the house is nice and cool when you get home. Allowing for direct communication means that myriad actions can be kicked off, on any combination of triggers.

Centralization

Perhaps the biggest benefit is the ability to aggregate data and manage devices from a centralized location. Utility companies have spent a good amount of time and money in recent years installing "smart meters" -- replacing human meter-readers with an embedded device that measures and reports on customers' electricity, gas, or water usage for easy and accurate billing. By having access to such full and timely data, new insights can be gained and leveraged, resulting in real improvements to business processes.

We Can Help

There are a lot of questions that the IoT brings with it. How do we secure our devices? How do we integrate with existing infrastructure? How do we manage all the data these devices collect? I'll address more of these questions in future blog posts. In the meantime, Smart Software is ready and willing to help you and your business navigate this exciting new frontier.

AUTHOR Bryce Mayrose

Bryce Mayrose is a graduate of the University of South Dakota, and has worked for Smart Software Solutions since August 2006. During that time, he has participated in a range of projects utilizing a wide array of technologies. He particularly enjoys programming data-driven applications with C# and SQL Server -- but PHP and MySQL are a bit of a guilty pleasure, too. When not busy in front of a computer, he likes to spend quality time with his wife Ronda and their four sons, his Kindle, or a good video game.