The Internet Of Things Explained
Here at GirlCrew HQ we love to be in the know, and learn more about the changing landscapes around us. We live in a fascinating age where jobs and ideas are emerging that would have been unfathomable even a decade ago. Coined back in 1999 by Kevin Ashton, the Internet of Things refers to the network of physical devices – cars, appliances, etc – that have been enhanced by software to enable them to share information and data with each other. This may all sound a little space age, but it’s the reality we are living in today. With the rapid development of tech these developments are accelerating, so we sat down with Heather McLean, of VT Networks, to find out the inside scoop.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a buzzword that has been getting a lot of mileage over the last few years. There are some fascinating possibilities in this emerging market, but for some reason when the topic is written about, many have seized on the example of the smart fridge. As VT Networks CEO Mark Bannon said at the IoT Summit in Dublin, the only people who will be able to afford smart fridges are the people who don’t cook their own food. It’s one of those applications that most people can’t see themselves investing in, and probably won’t be the one to revolutionize the way we live. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, IoT simply refers to objects that are connected to the internet. Increasingly, those “things” are sensors and simple devices, which will make up the majority of the more than 20 billion items that are expected to be connected by 2020, as estimated by the technology research firm Gartner. However, everything from your FitBit to a smart thermostat that you can adjust remotely fits into this category.While this kind of technology has been around for years, it has begun to snowball as more companies work out the kinks to provide products for people and businesses. In the public realm, this has meant the emergence of wearables like sleep monitors and smart watches, connected home solutions like security systems and smoke detectors that send alerts to your mobile, and the prospect of smarter, more autonomous vehicles. There are even small tags you can put on keys, purses and more to help you track them down when they get lost. As the market and technology mature, it’s likely that we will see homes that are more connected to the virtual world, and that soon you will be able to control most functions in your home through your mobile or another central interface.
In sport, smart devices can track the performance and health of an athlete, both human and animal, while connected tennis rackets were used at Wimbledon to track a variety of metrics, including swing velocity. Croke Park in Dublin is also investigating how sensors and other IoT technology can help them better manage everything from guest experience to the quality of the pitch. IoT technologies require a range of different ways to connect, depending on their function. In the home, WiFi and Bluetooth are often great solutions, as many of these devices don’t require a large range and most homes now have an internet connection. Cellular connections, like the 3G on your mobile phone, are used for devices that need to regularly send large amounts of data, such as a smart car or medical monitor. More simple devices, like GPS trackers or environmental sensors, often operate on low-power, wide-area networks (LPWAN). LPWANs are optimized for small amounts of data, providing connectivity for simple devices at lower cost than traditional cellular networks, which have a much larger data capacity that isn’t required. Out of the public eye, IoT is being implemented in business, industry, agriculture and more. Many of these solutions aren’t very sexy, and can range from tracking fleets of trucks to monitoring the temperature inside of peat stacks, which can spontaneously ignite from the inside out. This is most often where you will find LPWAN-enabled devices — in scenarios where simple devices need to connect wherever they are, whether that’s on a farm in Kerry or a shipping container in Dublin Port. Ireland currently has a low-power, wide-area network — operated by VT Networks — that is dedicated to IoT and covers 97% of the country.
Building the IoT ecosystem in Ireland
Devices that connect through Bluetooth or WiFi have been entering the market for a while now, but LPWAN devices needed an established network before arriving in Ireland. With the VT network for simple devices now rolled out across the country, we are working to build the IoT ecosystem by bringing existing solutions from other countries to this market. But beyond that, we also aim to foster home-grown solutions. To accomplish that, we have a startup program and also run regular technical workshops. We welcome anyone who is interested in developing a low-bandwidth IoT solution to get in touch with us to see whether the startup program is a good fit. The Makers’ Tour — our technical workshop — is also an opportunity for developers and other technical types to get their hands on free developer kits and learn about creating IoT solutions. These full-day events are free, and also feature talks from our hardware partners.
Heather McLean is the Marketing Director of VT Networks, the first nationwide dedicated Internet of Things network in Ireland. If you would like to find out more about either program, or register for a future Makers’ Tour (date to be determined!), then email firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to seeing all the great ideas that will emerge as the IoT market grows in Ireland.