IoT dimensions and domains
IoT technology offers unprecedented opportunities for connecting the physical and digital worlds. The sensors and processors that IoT is built on are getting smaller and cheaper to the extent that it is possible to gather huge amounts of high-resolution data across large and previously inaccessible geographical areas. Having an insight into the detailed workings of physical processes means that they can be monitored and optimised to a degree that was not previously possible. This is an attractive prospect for many fields of human activity. From an economic point of view, it means cost reductions and has given rise to the term Industry 4.0 to mean IoT-enabled manufacturing and logistical operations. It is not just about economics, though, since IoT technology can be deployed in the service of sustainable development, for example, monitoring and safeguarding the natural environment.
Although the formalisation of the IoT concept has produced some new technological developments in its own right, it is firmly based on technologies that were already in existence. The microprocessors embedded in smart things, the communications networks and protocols that carry the data and the algorithms used to analyse it were all developed for other reasons. In IoT, they come together in interesting new ways so that IoT is first and foremost a combination of many different fields including embedded systems, networking, cloud computing, machine learning and so on.
As IoT continues to develop at a phenomenal rate, reviews of its technical dimensions appear on a regular basis. The ways in which the technology is categorised changes from one review to another, and capturing all elements of the field is next to impossible because of the complexity. The example in Fig. 1 illustrates one way of dividing up the area. It is very high-level, though and much of the detail is omitted.
Domains of application
Any new area of technology needs to create its own terminology. This is primarily to capture the new concepts that it embodies in a way that is easy to understand. There is always a risk, though, that the technical terminology becomes obscured by the language used to sell products. In the 1990s, for example, the Web was relatively new and many companies were developing online versions of existing services. At the time, the most common way to signal this shift was to prefix the existing terms with e-. Thus we had e-Commerce, e-Government, e-Learning and replacements for physical items such as e-Paper. The new prefix used to describe IoT products and services is smart. It is intended to convey the idea that the object or service has some built-in intelligence. The potential application of IoT technology has produced a deluge of new terminology by prefixing existing terms with smart exemplified by the ones chosen as pilot projects by the Alliance for Internet of Things Innovation AIOTI:
|Smart living environment for aging well||Using IoT to enable ambient intelligence for home support for elderly people|
|Smart farming and food security||Systems for enabling precision agriculture, reducing food production costs and mitigating impacts on the environment|
|Smart cities||With an increasingly urbanised world, the need for optimised services in cities is becoming urgent|
|Smart mobility||The development of autonomous vehicles requires unprecedented interaction between technology and the physical environment|
|Smart manufacturing||Systems to further instrument and automate industrial processes using industrial robotics, for example|
|Smart energy||Systems to provide fine-grained control over the generation, distribution and use of energy|
|Smart buildings and infrastructure||The monitoring and control of interior environment to improve occupants' quality of life and reduce waste|