The Internet Of Things
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The Internet of Things (IOT)

What is the Internet Of Things (and why does it matter)?

The Internet Of Things (IOT) at its core is about connecting devices over the internet, letting them talk to us, to applications on our phones or tablets, and each other. A trivial and often used example is the smart fridge. What if your fridge could tell you it was out of milk, texting you if its internal cameras saw there was none left, or that the carton was past its use-by date?

Imagine a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi speaker, but one with a voice-controlled personal assistant inside. Theses types of devices are available today, one of which is the Amazon Echo. The Echo is an example of a device which takes the first steps along the road to home auotomation.The Echo even gives your personal assistant a name,  Alexa. She will listen to commands, answer questions, play music or control smart home devices. She will interact with third-party apps, answer questions and even help you do your shopping.  More and more devices which will work with Echo are being introduced including smart-plugs, thermostats, cameras, doorbells and entry systems.

Take home heating and smart meters as an example of a simple IOT system. Using an app you can turn on heating remotely, or maybe set it to turn down the temperature if it’s a sunny day. This technology can work in conjunction with motion-sensing cameras so can adjust the temperature if there’s no-one home. Extending the same example, it could detect that your phone (so presumably you as well) have left the property and adjust the heating accordingly. In practical terms, you would have an app on your phone, tablet or laptop which lets you monitor and control the environmental parameters in the home by setting the conditions for turning the heating on and off at specific temperatures and/ or times or combinations of conditions that are monitored.

The IOT can also have a big impact on Healthcare. Many people use smartwatches or fitness bands to track their steps and heartbeat whilst on a run.
Smart pills and connected monitoring patches are already available, which give a taster of the life-saving potential of IOT. There are numerous other connected health ideas. Some examples are listed below:

  • A smart band that tracks how much patients with Parkinsons shake
  • Collecting more accurate data than with paper and pen. Apps which monitor daily activities of senior or ill people, to watch for dangerous anomalies
  • Smart lighting which comes on when someone passes a sensor, turning on when a person gets up in the night to go to the toilet. The light would be connected to the Internet so that instances of the light turning on (or not) can be monitored by an app, so alerting carers or relatives if there has been no movement in the home during a specific period.
  • People with heart disease can use a connected system to detect abnormal heart rhythms.

Although there are many potential benefits of IOT we do need to be aware of the amount of personal data which could be collected when IOT is deployed widely, especially in healthcare. Collecting large amounts of data in healthcare is known to have the potential to save lives, by preventing disease, monitoring it and by analysing it to create new treatments. However, this is also one of the most sensitive areas of our lives, so privacy and security are very important. Apps and devices need to have strong security and the collecton of data for analysis needs to remain anonymous.

Security is also critical, so our devices and home systems, routers etc will need to work with and protect our IOT systems from outside intervention.

Over coming weeks we will be adding articles on specific devices and technologies which are being introduced in this area.