What is IoT & how does it work? Internet of Things Explained

An increasingly interesting and growing topic of conversation, at workplaces and outside of it, is the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT or Internet of Things is a system of interrelated mechanical and digital machines, computing devices, people, animals or other objects that are assigned UIDs or Unique Identifiers and the ability to transfer data and information over a network without the need of any human-to-computer or human-to-human interaction.

In 2018, the Australian IoT market stood at $7.9 billion and by 2024, it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 21% and become a market worth more than $25 billion [1] The technology simply makes our lives easier and helps us work smarter. But how does IoT work, what are its examples and why do we need such technology? Here’s everything you need to know about the Internet of Things.

The Internet of Things in simple words

In the most simplest terms, IoT is basically the concept of connecting any object or device with an on and off switch to the Internet. Any device that has an on and off button and the ability to be connected to Wi-Fi is an IoT device. It is a massive network of connected things and humans. The relationships in IoT will be between human-things, human-human and things-things.

How does Iot work?

The ecosystem of the Internet of Things comprises internet-enabled smart devices that employ embedded systems like sensors, communications hardware and processors, to gather, send and act on the data acquired from the environments. The data collected by the IoT devices is then shared by connecting to other edge devices or an IoT gateway where the data is either analyzed locally or sent to the cloud to be analyzed.

These devices are also capable of communicating with other related devices and acting on the data exchanged with one another. These devices go about their job without the need of any human intervention, however people who own the devices can interact with the devices for setting it up, giving instructions or to access the data.

Examples of the IoT

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A “thing” on the internet of things can be a car with in-built sensors to alert the driver about the low pressures in tires, a patient with a heart monitor implant or a farm animal with a biochip transponder. Similarly, intelligent sensors, UIDs and transponders can be accommodated in machines such as coffee machines, headphones, cellphones, home appliances like lamps and washing machines, wearable devices and absolutely anything you can think of to turn them into IoT devices. The same applies to machines and its components such as drills of oil rigs or the engine of a private plane.

What industries use the Internet of Things?

In general, IoT sensors and devices are most abundantly used in transportation, manufacturing and utility organizations. Over the years, the technology has also found its place in infrastructure, agriculture and home automation industries which led some companies towards digital transformation. It also touches other industries such as healthcare, retail and finance.

It isn’t just the industries that are adopting this technology. IoT has also been well-accepted and cherished in households. In fact, according to a report by Telsyte, the Australian IoT@Home market grew by 57% in 2018 to $1.1 billion and is predicted to reach $5.3 billion by the year 2023 [2].

What are the advantages & disadvantages of the Internet of Things

Let’s talk about the sunny side first. The Internet of Things give its users:

  • the power of accessing data and information from anywhere at any time of the day and on any device
  • the ability of transferring data packets over internet or wi-fi saving money and time
  • enhanced interactions between the connected electronic devices
  • reduced human intervention and automating tasks in order to enhance the service quality in businesses

On the flip side, following are the challenges faced or disadvantages of the Internet of Things

  • there are no international standards for IoT compatibility, it might be difficult for devices from different companies or manufacturers to communicate with each other
  • as more devices are connected, more information is shared between the devices. Consequently, the impact of a hacker stealing confidential data increases
  • if an IoT ecosystem is established in a large scale organization, they might have to handle a massive number of IoT devices. Managing the large datasets from all devices might be a challenge
  • if the system is compromised, there is a high possibility of every connected device becoming corrupt.

Recently, the Australian government has unveiled its code of practice for everyday IoT devices ,such as doorbells and smart speakers, TVs and cameras, to protect users from cyber risks.

Australia’s voluntary IoT cybersecurity code of practice

A total of 13 principles were contained in the code of practice released by the federal government recommending the minimum industry standards for IoT devices. Out of the 13 principles in the draft code (based on the United Kingdom’s IoT code) released by the Department of Home Affairs and Australian Cyber Security Centre, the device makers, app developers and service providers have been asked to prioritise the top 3 principles.

The following are the 13 principles of the IoT Code of Practice released by the Australian Government

  1. No weak or duplicated default passwords: ensure Internet of Things device passwords are not week or a factory default that are common to multiple devices
  2. Implement a vulnerability disclosure policy: make sure there’s a public point of contract for security researchers to report any issues faced and any vulnerabilities reported are quickly acted on
  3. Keep software securely updated: make sure the timely updates, which are distributed via secure IT infrastructure, that don’t change user-configured security, preferences or privacy
  4. Securely store credentials: Any credentials of the users should be stored within the devices and on services securely. Hard coded credentials, such as usernames and passwords, shouldn’t be embedded in device hardware or software as they can be discovered through reverse engineering.
  5. Ensure that the personal data is protected: Personal data must be collected only if necessary for the device operation and the default privacy settings on the device should be set to privacy protective
  6. Minimize exposed attack surfaces: IoT services and devices should operate on the “principle of least privilege”, which means that unused functionalities should be disabled and hardware should not expose access unnecessarily
  7. Ensure communication security: All remote access should be logged with date and time stamps and source of access at the bare minimum.
  8. Ensure software integrity: Software and firmware on the IoT devices have to be verified utilizing the secure book mechanism and if unauthorized change is detected, the device had to alert the administrator or consumer about the issue
  9. Make systems resilient to outage: As far as possible, the devices should operate and locally function in the case of loss of network without compromising safety and security
  10. Monitor system telemetry data: If the IoT services or devices collect telemetry data, such as measurement and usage data, it has to be monitored for security anomalies
  11. Make it easy for users to delete personal data: Services and devices should be configured in a way that personal data can be easily removed at the consumer’s will, in case of transfer of ownership and/or when the consumer wishes to dispose of the device. Clear instructions for the same have to be provided
  12. Make installation and maintenance of the devices easy: The installation and maintenance of the devices should employ minimal steps. Consumers need to be provided with straightforward and clear steps on how to securely set up the devices
  13. Validate input data: Data received through APIs, user interfaces and network interfaces has to be validated. The data input must be authorised and conform to the expectations

The code released represents the Australian government’s first step towards improving the security of IoT devices and its consumers in the country and arrived after 10 months of consultation. However, the standards unveiled will be voluntary for manufacturers, despite nations like the UK now moving to mandate similar security code for consumers of IoT devices.

The advent of 5G with IoT

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Over the years, telecom giants across the globe have successfully managed to evolve communication technologies from 1G to 4G and it is only a matter of time we shift to the Fifth-generation wireless technology (5G). According to research, the 5G services industry is expected to continue to grow and reach $128.1 billion at a CAGR of 26.7% through 2023 [3].

The First Generation mobile network, or 1G, was all about voice and calling. Then came along 2G which gave us texting in addition to voice. 3G provided us with texting, voice and data and now, the present technology we use, 4G was about everything 3G gave us but faster. The Fifth-generation wireless technology (5G) is supposed to be even faster, so fast that users will be able to download a full-length movie of high definition (HD) quality within a matter of seconds.

A recent study found that, despite the pandemic, the global 5G services market is predicted to grow from $49.7 billion in 2019 to $68.6 billion in 2020 [4].Due to the declaration of lockdown and corresponding restrictions in countries all over the world, people are spending more hours, work and leisure, on the internet which has subsequently increased the demand for better-quality services and high-speed data.

As we move close to adopting 5G, the number of the Internet of Things (IoT) devices also continue to rise. Just a little bit of research into 5G and IoT and you will know how 5G is the foundation for realizing the complete potential of the Internet of Things. While there are other factors contributing to the rise in adoption of IoT devices, one of the integral factors is the development of 5G networks and services.

Till now, LTE is the most-used network that supports speeds of up to 100 MBPS and is the reality of many economies. It is even possible to modify the LTE bandwidths to ultimately reach download speeds of up to 4000 megabits per second. However, in the future, LTE will not be enough to meet the expectations and standards of the upcoming technologies. It was designed and optimized for use on smartphones and 5G will be the mobile standard for all connected “Things”.

5G and the Internet of Things

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5G and IoT reach completely new dimensions in technology. With 5G, the data throughput might reach up to 20 gbps and allow significantly shorter response times. As compared to a cell phone with 1G network connectivity, 5G is 8 million times better. When compared to the present LTE networks, 5G will be 10 times faster and this increased speed will allow IoT devices to interact and share data faster than ever.

5G will also allow real-time data transmission meaning that 100 billion mobile devices across the globe will be accessible at the same time. It will have a connection density of approx. 1 million devices per square kilometer. The connection quality will be more stable up to a speed of 500 kmph which will bring tons of benefits, especially for people travelling via railways.

5G-configured IoT services and devices will not just bring about technological growth but are also expected to create  million jobs in the world by 2035 and enable $12.3 trillion of global economic output [5].

The expected job growth will potentially come from the digitization of agriculture, manufacturing, transportation and other physical industries. Construction sites, oil derricks, freighter fleets and the mining industry will benefit significantly from ultra-fast data transmission. 5G has surely the potential to drive evolution in smart machinery and smart manufacturing. It could enable IoT to run virtually real-time traffic analyses, improve public safety and possibly enable remote surgery.

Smart homes appliances and devices, consumers will benefit from the increase in speed help to considerably reduce lag and improve the overall experience and speed in which connected devices send and receive notifications and data.

However, 5G isn’t merely about fast speed downloads, it is also about the perfect combination of low latency and omnipresent coverage. The 5G network will also operate fairly more reliably and create more stable connections which is crucial for connected IoT devices like security cameras, locks and other monitoring systems that are dependent on real-time updates.

It is only possible because of 5G and IoT for making so many ideas, methods and measures possible for the world that perhaps no one would have though of before. It is only because of 5G connectivity that countless new and innovative businesses are entering the market to revolutionize our digital world. We yet have to see if and when the IoT and 5G technology will reach market maturity. Though, one thing is for sure, the technology works like a charm and the world is ready for another giant leap into the digital future.

[1] Research and markets (2019) “Australia Internet of Things (IoT) Market By Platform, By Component, By Application, Competition, Forecast & Opportunities, 2024” [Online] Available from: https://www.researchandmarkets.com/reports/4761459/australia-internet-of-things-iot-market-by [Accessed September 2020]

[2] Telsyte (2019) “AUSTRALIAN IOT@HOME MARKET CRACKS $1BN, PAVING THE WAY FOR IOT-COMMERCE SERVICES” [Online] Available from: https://www.telsyte.com.au/announcements/2019/5/14/australian-iothome-market-cracks-1bn-paving-the-way-for-iot-commerce-services [Accessed September 2020]

[3] [4] The Business Research Company (2020) “5G Services Global Market Report 2020-30: Covid 19 Implications And Growth” [Online] Available from: https://www.thebusinessresearchcompany.com/report/5g-services-global-market-report-2020-30-covid-19-implications-and-growth [Accessed September 2020]

[5] Verizon (2017) “How the Fourth Industrial Revolution will change the economy” [Online] Available from: https://www.verizon.com/about/news/how-fourth-industrial-revolution-will-change-economy [Accessed September 2020]

Referenced by ItMunch

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