HOT OFFER! Save $20 per month for 5 months on selected nbn internet plans!...Use promo code SAVE20 at checkout!
Internet of Things: What is IoT?
Internet & Mobile Security Blog | MATE | 30 November 2023
The Internet of Things, otherwise known simply as IoT, is shaping the way we live, work, and play. But what is it exactly, and how does it affect our daily lives? Beyond that—how will it affect our lives in the future?
In this guide, we’ll dive deep into the world of IoT to help you get a full understanding of IoT, how it works, why it exists, and how it affects you on an individual level, as well as communities at large.
What is IoT?
The Internet of Things (IoT) encompasses a network that connects everyday objects, devices, and technologies—that is, ‘things.’ These ‘things’ are designed to share data with other devices over the internet, aiming to enhance user actions and decisions by providing information and enabling automation.
How does IoT work?
While IoT seems like a complex idea, it’s really about connecting devices via the internet to let them talk to us, applications, and each other. So, what is the benefit here for us in our daily lives?
We mentioned IoT enabling us to communicate with smart devices directly or to pre-program them when certain parameters are met. But behind this incredible functionality lies an innovative combination of hardware, software and data analysis that makes it all possible.
Your smart devices will collect data via sensors. This data could be anything from indoor temperature readings to the number of steps you’ve taken in a day. These smart devices will then send this data over a network (usually the internet) to a system that interprets it. Based on rules you set or using advanced analytics and machine learning, this system can then make decisions and send commands back to the device.
The evolution of IoT
The Internet of Things might seem like a modern marvel, but its roots trace back further than you might think.
The concept of interconnected devices isn’t new. In fact, the idea has been floating around since the early days of the internet. The term “Internet of Things” was coined in 1999 by Kevin Ashton, a British technology pioneer. He envisioned a world where everyday objects could be connected to the internet, collecting and sharing data without human intervention.
In the early 2000s, as technology advanced and the internet became more accessible, the first IoT devices started to emerge. These were basic, like RFID (radio frequency identification) tags used in supply chain management. But they laid the groundwork for future IoT technologies.
Fast forward to the 2010s, and IoT began to take off in a big way. With the rise of smartphones and high-speed internet, devices started to become smarter. We saw the introduction of smart devices such as smart thermostats, wearable fitness trackers, and even connected coffee makers. These connected devices collected data, analysed it, and then made decisions based on that data—all in real time.
Key components of IoT
So, what makes up an IoT system? Let’s break it down:
- Sensors and devices: These are the physical objects, embedded with sensors, that collect data from the environment. This could be anything from a wearable fitness tracker to a temperature sensor in a manufacturing plant.
- Connectivity: Once the device collects the data, it’s sent to the cloud. This could be done using a variety of methods including cellular, satellite, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or by connecting directly to the internet via ethernet.
- Data processing: Once the data gets to the cloud, it is processed by software. This could be simple, like checking if the temperature is within an acceptable range; or complex, like using advanced machine learning models to detect anomalies in machinery.
User interface: Once the data is processed, it’s often sent to an application that a human can interact with. This could be a notification on your phone that your plants need watering or a dashboard on a computer showing factory production levels.
Real-world applications of IoT
The Internet of Things isn’t just a buzzword. It’s making a real impact in our daily lives. Here are just a few ways:
- Smart homes: Smart speakers like Amazon’s Echo or Google Home can control a wide range of household devices, making your home more comfortable and energy-efficient. It’s the next step in maximum convenience and efficiency.
- Healthcare: Wearable devices like fitness trackers and smartwatches can monitor vital signs, activity levels, and more. This data can be shared with medical professionals, leading to more personalised care.
- Agriculture: Farmers are using IoT to make more informed decisions. Sensors can monitor soil moisture levels, weather conditions, and crop growth. This data can be used to optimise irrigation, predict the best times to plant and harvest, and detect diseases before they spread.
Transportation: From smart traffic lights that can adjust to real-time traffic conditions to cars that can detect and avoid obstacles, IoT is making transportation safer and more efficient.
Examples of IoT technology in the home
The Internet of Things has many real-world applications that many of us would use on a daily basis. For example, let’s say you’re on your way home from work on a particularly cold day in the middle of winter. So, using your phone, you connect with your air conditioner and tell it to turn on and heat the house up before you arrive. To create a really welcoming environment, you also instruct your lights to turn on so the house isn’t completely dark. And because you can’t remember what you need to get at the supermarket on your way home, you check in with your fridge to see what items are on this week’s grocery list. All of these things need some sort of link to the internet, usually through your Wi-Fi, to allow you to connect to them from afar.
Let’s take another approach to consumer IoT devices. If you have a smart home set up with internet-connected devices (smart devices), you could automatically program your air conditioner to turn on to 23°C when it detects an indoor drop in temperature below 18°C and there is a human presence detected in the house. This means you don’t even need to directly communicate with your air conditioner because your settings have been pre-programmed.
This is IoT systems in action. By investing in smart Wi-Fi-enabled devices, you’re able to communicate with these devices and give them instructions via the internet.
Thinking beyond your own personal needs, this could also include managing the moisture level in a field of wheat or the amount of cars using a particular road at a certain time.
IoT applications beyond the home
At first, you might be thinking, “Why is this such a big deal? Why do I need to be able to talk to my fridge?” However, IoT applications stretch beyond smart homes and connected appliances. It is currently being used to transform different industries across Australia and the world, from healthcare to agriculture.
For example, if the moisture level in a field drops below a certain point, the system might decide to turn on the irrigation.
The most exciting thing about IoT is that we’re only just scratching the surface of what’s possible. Whether it’s used for convenience or efficiency, there are endless possibilities
The IoT today and modern smart devices
Today, the Internet of Things has expanded into almost every industry. In agriculture, farmers use IoT devices to monitor soil moisture levels and predict when they need to water their crops. In healthcare, doctors can track patients’ vital signs in real time, leading to better and more personalised care. And in our homes, smart devices help us control our lights, temperature, and even security systems with just a tap on our smartphones.
But it’s not just about convenience. The data collected by these devices provides valuable insights that can lead to better decision-making, improved efficiency, and even new business opportunities. Companies can use this data to understand their customers better, optimise their operations, and create new revenue streams.
The future of IoT
As we look to the future, the potential of IoT is limitless. With advancements in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and 5G technology (not to mention its future iterations, 6G and beyond), the next generation of IoT devices will be even smarter, more connected, and more integrated into our daily lives. We’re moving towards a world where everything is connected, and the Internet of Things is at the heart of it all.
In the grand scheme of things, IoT is still in its infancy. But its rapid evolution over the past few years is a testament to its amazing potential. As technology continues to advance, and as more devices become connected, the impact of IoT on our lives and the businesses we rely on will only grow.
Benefits and challenges of IoT
IoT is reshaping our world in ways we could have only dreamed about a few decades ago. But like any technological advancement, it comes with benefits and challenges.
Four benefits of IoT
- Efficiency and productivity: IoT devices can automate and control tasks that were previously done manually, leading to significant time and cost savings. For instance, smart thermostats can adjust the temperature based on your preferences, helping you save energy and reduce bills.
- Data collection: With the ability to collect data in real time, businesses can make more informed decisions. This data-driven approach can lead to better outcomes and predictive analysis.
- Improved quality of life: For individuals, IoT can lead to enhanced safety, comfort, and convenience. Think of smart homes that can detect when you’re about to arrive and adjust the lighting and temperature accordingly.
- Job opportunities: The proliferation of IoT devices can lead to new business models and services, creating new job opportunities and boosting economic growth.
Four challenges of IoT
- Security concerns: With billions of devices connected to the internet, there’s an increased risk of cyberattacks. Devices can be hacked to gain unauthorised access or even be turned into bots for larger attacks.
- Privacy issues: The IoT era brings concerns about how the data collected by these devices is used and who has access to it.
- Interoperability: This refers to the ability of computer systems and software to exchange data and use information. With multiple manufacturers producing IoT devices, there’s a lack of standardisation. This can lead to devices not being able to communicate with each other effectively.
- Complexity: IoT device management can be labour-intensive. Managing and maintaining a vast network of IoT devices can be complex and require significant resources—even if it’s just inside your own home.
Addressing IoT security concerns
While the Internet of Things promises a more connected and efficient world, it also brings significant security challenges. As we connect more devices to the internet, this increases the risk of attacks by cybercriminals.
Many IoT devices lack robust security features, making them easy targets. Manufacturers need to prioritise security in their design process.
With devices collecting vast amounts of data, there’s a risk of this data falling into the wrong hands. This can lead to privacy concerns and potential misuse.
Unsecured devices can be harnessed by hackers to launch coordinated attacks on larger targets. This was seen in the Mirai botnet attack, where thousands of IoT devices were used to bring down major websites.
By being proactive and prioritising security, we can harness the benefits of the internet of Things while minimising potential risks.
- Regular updates: Ensure that all devices are regularly updated with the latest security patches. These new patches usually include protection against the latest known malware and types of cyberattacks,
- Strong passwords: Always change default passwords and use strong, unique passwords for each device.
- Network segmentation: Keep IoT devices on a separate network from critical business systems.
Education: One of the best ways to protect yourself and your devices is to stay informed and to know how to identify red flags and security breaches. On a business level, it’s important to ensure that everyone in the organisation understands the risks and best practices associated with IoT.
Transforming Industries with IoT
The power of IoT isn’t just limited to making our homes smarter or our personal lives more convenient. It’s revolutionising entire industries, leading to innovations that were once the stuff of science fiction.
Farmers are using IoT devices to monitor soil moisture levels, weather conditions, and even the health of their livestock.
By monitoring soil moisture levels, crops receive optimal hydration and can also promote the sustainable use of water. Meanwhile, advanced weather prediction devices can provide timely alerts about the climate, allowing farmers to take preventative measures. For example, if sensor data predicted an unexpected frost, it could give a vineyard manager enough time to harvest grapes before they were damaged by unseasonable weather conditions.
On the livestock side of things, farmers can equip their animals with IoT wearables that can track their well-being. If an animal is sick, it can be attended to as soon as possible. This could boost the chances of a healthy recovery for the animal and prevent the spread of disease.
On top of all this, drones equipped with IoT devices can survey huge areas of farmland. This surveillance can provide insights into areas that need attention, whether that’s pest control or soil nutrition. This tech-driven approach not only boosts production but also promotes sustainable farming, conserving vital resources and mitigating soil degradation.
This IoT data management can lead to more efficient farming practices, higher yields, more efficient water and land use, and healthier animals.
Smart traffic management systems, equipped with cameras and sensors, can adjust traffic lights based on real time road conditions, ensuring smoother traffic flow.
Then there are smart cars. While we haven’t quite reached the level of driverless cars just yet, connected vehicles with onboard IoT devices can communicate with each other, sharing data about speed, lane changes, or sudden braking, significantly reducing the risk of on-road collisions.
Public transport benefits too, with IoT providing real-time updates on bus or train schedules, ensuring commuters are always informed. With a more holistic view of the network, this also empowers transport controllers to adapt more effectively when there are delays or repairs needed.
Wearable devices, like smartwatches and fitness bands, have been around now for a few years. But their capabilities continue to evolve and grow, providing even more useful insights into our health and well-being. With the data provided by our wearable devices, we can stay on top of our health, making it easier to meet and exceed fitness goals and take care of ourselves properly.
Certain health devices can also provide up-to-date information to medical professionals, which can be hugely beneficial for patients. For patients with chronic conditions, IoT-enabled implants can deliver real-time data to doctors, ensuring timely interventions. Hospitals are also adopting IoT for asset tracking, ensuring medical equipment is always available and operational, and enhancing patient care. This not only improves patient outcomes but can also reduce the strain on healthcare systems.
The advantages IoT has on the retail industry benefit not just the retailers themselves but customers, too. By harnessing the power of IoT, retailers can enhance the shopping experience for customers.
Smart shelves fitted with weight sensors can instantly notify when stock levels are low. IoT devices can track customer movement within stores, providing insights into popular sections and products. By analysing this data, retailers can tailor promotions or rearrange store layouts to provide a much better customer experience. Plus, with IoT, checkout processes can be streamlined. Smart carts can automatically tally purchases, reducing checkout times and enhancing the customer experience.
The future of IoT and internet-connected devices
The Internet of Things has now become an integral part of our daily lives. From smart homes to connected cars, IoT is reshaping our lives.
One of the most exciting things about IoT isn’t just about the different ways it can make our lives more convenient. It’s about all the incredible possibilities that are yet to be implemented or even discovered. Here are just some of the ways the IoT could transform our lives in the next few years and beyond.
Cities around the world are embracing IoT to become ‘smart’. By embedding sensors and devices throughout urban infrastructure, IoT provides live data that city planners and administrators can leverage. This means more efficient public transport, dynamic traffic management, intelligent waste management and energy-efficient buildings. For everyday Aussies, this could translate to reduced commute times, cleaner air, and a higher quality of life.
By interconnecting various city services, IoT not only streamlines urban management but also encourages sustainable and resilient urban environments for the future.
IoT sensors can detect leaks in real time, both in homes and in public infrastructure, leading to significant water savings. This would be especially beneficial in drought-prone areas of Australia, or in towns and cities experiencing water restrictions.
When it comes to optimising energy consumption and distribution, smart grids can help to reduce waste and improve efficiency. IoT sensors can collect data on electricity consumption in real time, allowing for adjustments to electricity distribution based on demand. These sensors could also be used to detect and repair outages, speeding up repair times.
On the subject of renewable energy, IoT-enabled solar panels could adjust throughout the day based on the sun’s position and cloud cover, maximising their ability to absorb solar energy. Sensors in wind turbines could also be used to monitor wind patterns and adjust turbine blades to optimise energy generation.
IoT sensors deployed throughout bushland, oceans, and cities can provide up-to-date data on carbon emissions, deforestation rates, and pollution levels. This data can empower governments, businesses, and communities to make informed decisions and implement sustainable practices.
On top of this, the capabilities of IoT to manage and optimise renewable energy resources could also make a big impact when it comes to fighting climate change. By integrating IoT with renewable energy sources, we can become better at capturing and distributing clean energy.
MATE: Powering your connected world
In a world that’s rapidly moving towards hyper-connectivity, you need a telco partner that understands your needs. These days, a stable and fast internet connection is a necessity.
At MATE, we’re all about keeping our customers connected and providing products and services that you need. So whether you just want a reliable connection for streaming movies and playing your favourite games, or you need to control and manage your connected smart home, we have a range of nbn home internet plans to suit your needs.
MATE’s nbn home internet plans to power your smart home
At MATE, you’ll find a range of great nbn home internet plans that have been designed to suit different lifestyles and budgets. We have something for just about everyone.
- Crikey nbn 25/10: A great plan for family households of 2-4 users.
- Ripper nbn 50/20: The best plan for a medium-sized household of 4-6 users.
- No Worries nbn 100/20: For those who work remotely, this plan allows you to upload and download large files as well as stream in 4K. Great for 6 or more users.
- You Beaut nbn 100/40: Upload, download and stream to your heart’s content with fast internet speeds.
- Fair Dinkum nbn 250/25: The best of the best. Offering the fastest speeds for uploading and downloading, this plan is great for streaming, playing online games and easily managing your smart home.
If you’re on the lookout for a new mobile plan, then make sure you check out our 4G and 5G mobile plans. And don’t forget—if you bundle a MATE nbn plan with one of our mobile plans, you’ll automatically get $10 off your monthly bill. It’s as simple as that.
With the great connectivity and reliable service that MATE can offer you, you’re ready for everything the IoT future has to offer.