How 'Internet of Things' will change the world as we know it

Uday Dodla, Director, Product Marketing Qualcomm India
A few decades ago, the idea of a talking to an audio speaker to control home lights or the air conditioner would have seemed ludicrous. Today, smart household appliances, powered by the Internet of Things, are a reality that most of us are familiar with. People are starting to see the benefits of the growing number of connected devices and smart assistants in their homes. The fast pace of technology development over the past few years has brought us to a point where connected devices and machine-to-machine communication hold the key to a more advanced, sustainable and smart future. 

The term Internet of Things (IoT) was coined by British technology pioneer Kevin Ashton way back in 1999 to describe a network through which physical objects could be connected to the Internet through sensors. At that time, Ashton probably had little idea of just how big the IoT space would grow to be. Analysts estimate the installed base of IoT devices to be over 23 billion units by 2021, with others estimating that IoT applications could have a total economic impact of up to 11 trillion dollars a year by 2025. India is not too far behind in the IoT race. Deloitte predicted that by 2020, IoT units in India would grow 31 times to about 1.9 billion with a market value of about USD 9 billion.  IoT holds the key to significant business growth and new opportunities for the technology sector both in Indian as well as in global markets. 

There is no question that the IoT is having a profound impact on social economic and even environmental future of the world as we know it.  From smart cities to driverless cars and smart factories, and smart homes the Internet of Things will be everywhere. India with its rapidly increasing mobile telephony reach has the potential to really leverage IoT across domains to improve quality of life, increase productivity and automate the simple chores of our everyday lives. Though consumer adoption of IoT in the country may take some time, the Government of India is investing to accelerate and take advantage of the benefits of IoT in domains such as smart cities, water sustainability & quality, environment, health, waste management, agriculture, and manufacturing. IoT technology is being used to create smart lighting systems that are capable of sensing ambient light and switching themselves on or off accordingly or recognize when people or vehicles are nearby and turn on only when they approach. IoT sensors are helping city authorities monitor water usage and waste accurately, identifying pipeline leaks or faulty systems, and it is even helping in more efficient disposal of waste through smart dustbins and smart waste management systems. Smart dustbins can alert collection workers when the can is full, so they can better plan their routes, with no need to stop at bins that are empty, thereby saving considerable time and money. India is also trying out IoT based irrigation systems for more efficient water usage, for example, using hundreds of sensors to measure water content in the soil or monitoring the weather to adjust watering when rain, extreme heat or high winds are expected. 

As more and more devices are connected within the IoT ecosystem, there will be increasing amounts of data generated from each device and each sensor reading.  If analysed properly and in real time, this data can yield a wealth of usable insights that can help fix problems as they occur, understand cause and effect relationships better and significantly improve processes and efficiencies. The challenge lies in effectively analysing such vast quantities of unstructured data. As an answer, IoT devices are getting “smarter” with increased levels of computing power. This is the so-called “edge computing” that parses and reads the data and only sends back critical information. Imagine a security camera that knows the difference between an intruder and the family pet or children, and only sends and alert when someone it doesn’t recognize comes into view. Even with edge computing, growth within the IoT space must be closely integrated with advancements within the data analytics and storage space. The advent of artificial intelligence and machine learning, which can reduce data traffic by making decisions at the source or in the cloud,  bode well for synergistic growth and development. At the same time, data security will be of utmost importance. As IoT systems mature and expand, they must include best in class security features end-to-end to protect devices from attacks but also safeguard user privacy.

Early IoT technology and innovations in smarter connected devices have built the foundation on which more advanced applications are being built. With security and privacy protections, the IoT holds the potential to usher in sweeping changes in the way we work, play, entertain, farm and pretty much almost everything we do. India, with its strong network of software, engineering and manufacturing expertise is an excellent place to profit from the opportunities ahead, while also gaining from the productivity, cost savings and lifestyle improvement benefits.  Uday Dodla is director of product marketing at Qualcomm India. The views expressed are the author's own

Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal. They do not reflect the view/s of Business Standard.