The Internet of Things: Forget the smart fridge – data will be king

The past and current news-buzz about the Internet of Things (IoT) is full of grandiose statements and predictions about fantastical new connected devices, but just what is it, and what will it ultimately be used for?

IoT or M2M?

Two terms that frequently cause confusion. But to give you a basic understanding, the IoT needs M2M and vice versa. Machine-to-machine (M2M) is something that existed before the Internet of Things, although it’s not really the interchangeable term as implied by some. M2M is generally associated with an isolated system of the same items, e.g., a network of sensors across a location, whereas the IoT is looking to marry these disparate entities into a larger interconnected ecosystem, and thus enable new applications and exchange.

A simple example of this would be to look at a healthcare environment: The IoT would bring together M2M systems from a hospital, doctor’s surgery, and home-based equipment to provide a much better overall picture of a patient’s health than simply looking at an individual snapshot from one system.

Building bridges through analytics and gathered data

So, it’s clear the IoT isn’t simply about your fridge-freezer ordering a pint of milk when you’re running low; its real potential lies away from the latest gadgets highlighted in the press and more about the insight that they will unlock – data.

With all these new devices and objects having their own IP address, the exponential increase in reported data is where the IoT will generate most value. At present, a lot of gathered data is discarded or left unused – if smart bins can report when they need emptying, then this data can also be used for further predictions and analysis:

  • Streets or areas with the most footfall
  • Peak/busy times
  • Retail/shopping habits
  • Extrapolating these three basic metrics alone could provide invaluable information for planning authorities and councils, saving time and money along the way.

With daily life becoming increasingly tied to the flow of data, the IoT will have a key part to play, whether we’re innately aware of it or not.


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