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IoT: The invisible thread that connects us all

It was not too long ago when I first heard of the term Internet of Things (IoT in short). I didn’t bother asking what it actually was, as I didn’t think it concerned me. And boy, was I wrong!

 

We might not have noticed, but IoT has been sneaking into our lives for quite a while. Back in 1981, the students of Carnegie Mellon University connected sensors to a coke vending machine. With the help of the machine’s internet address, they could know how many coke bottles were in the fridge and even what temperature the bottles were! This is the true essence of IoT, having access to real-time information with the help of objects around us.

 

IoT connects all our everyday devices around us to the internet and creates a network among all of them. Google’s Alexa or any home assistant that has access to the objects in our house is a part of the IoT revolution. Let me break it down a bit. Imagine your fridge is connected to your Fitbit as well as your phone. Your FitBit has your health recorded, you have fitness plan programmed in your phone and they will together check what you have in your fridge, groceries you need to buy and what you need to throw out, or maybe even order them from an online store. Leave it to technology to make every day easier!

 

I was extremely surprised when I found a research done by Cisco says that more devices than people have been connected to the internet in the last decade. By 2020, the number of connected devices is expected to be 50 billion, almost thrice the expected world population, and that’s crazy!

 

So what does the future hold for us regarding IoT? For one, the smarter cities are being designed around using IoT to make urban life: for fast, convenient transportation systems, safe street lighting and energy-efficient buildings. Already automated street lighting, remote-controlled irrigation for parks and fountains, “on-demand” waste pickups, digital bus routes, smart parking meters are implemented in many cities. These IoT-enabled urban services have dramatically reduced traffic jams and pollution, as well as water, light and energy usage. With the help of IoT, now we can monitor climate, traffic and city conditions, pollution level efficiently.

 

This sounds extremely promising for a country like Bangladesh and a densely populated city like Dhaka. Through efficient controlling of traffic and waste management, a lot of our social problems can be eradicated.  

 

In my opinion, IoT can revolutionize the agriculture sector of Bangladesh. From reducing consumption of water and fertilizers, cutting waste and improving the quality or yield, monitoring temperature changes and humidity levels, to eliminating waste- everything is possible with a network that is connected to tools in the field. Even cutting food waste, cutting crop losses and an increase in productivity can be ensured with a combination of advanced cameras, sensors, weather stations and artificial intelligence.

 

Not just in different sectors, IoT makes our individual lives easier to manage by integrating everything. By connecting all the appliances in our home, we make a network which communicates with each other, automating all the activities of our everyday life. Though a lot of us would prefer doing things manually, think of all the time you’ll save when you won’t have to remember paying your bills, your phone containing your mobile wallet will pay it for you. Your car would alert you when it needs an oil change, or even contact your mechanic with access to your contacts!

 

With all the positives about IoT, security is still a big concern. The sensors that are connected to the devices are collecting some extremely sensitive data, what we say and do in our everyday lives, tracking and keeping tabs on each of our activities. Too many IoT devices are not considering basic security, like encrypting data. Flaws in software are common and hackers are targeting IoT devices like routers and webcams for their easy-to-compromise security. Though this does not feel like such a huge concern at the moment, it can have a monumental effect. Imagine if someone hacks into the sensors controlling the temperature in a power station, leading to a catastrophe or even taking control of a driverless car ending in disaster.

 

Despite all negatives, IoT has the potential to reach every aspect of our lives to make it better. With the rise in the number of connected devices, our lives will be filled with smart products — assuming we are willing to accept the security and privacy trade-offs (hoping that the companies would start encrypting our data!). Some people will welcome the new era of smart things with open arms, while others will yearn for the days when a chair was simply a chair, and nothing more.

 


Also published on Medium.

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