Internet of Things: the fourth industrial revolution?


The Internet of Things (IoT) could be the “fourth industrial revolution”, according to some experts, with up to 30 billion connected ‘things’ in use by 2020.

What we are looking at is a growing network of interconnectedness between intelligent electronic devices. This could mean all the ‘things’ in our kitchen working together, with sensors, alerts and apps to let you know, for example, that there isn’t enough milk in the fridge, before connecting with an online shopping app so you can top up your supplies. However, the potential goes far beyond the kitchen, to whole communities, cities, and even countries, interconnected and sharing information like massive self-monitoring nervous systems.

The ultimate goal is to make our lives easier and safer, and the opportunities IoT could present are hugely exciting. The technology will be applicable across all sectors, enabling us to, for example, improve our energy usage, healthcare, and the way we do business.

Jeremy Green, principal analyst at machine-to-machine communications analysis company Machina Research, described the potential scale of IoT’s future impact: “The language people are using, they’re talking about this as the fourth industrial revolution, with the first being steam, the second being electricity, the third being about information, and this the fourth: connected things.”

Plamen Nedeltchev Ph.D, from leading technology company Cisco, believes IoT could see us “inching towards utopia”.

He said: “People will be the beneficiaries of this new IoT economy, which will create opportunities unknown today and transform every facet of society. People will be able to reduce waste, protect our environment, boost farm production, get early warnings of structural weaknesses in bridges and dams, and enable remotely controlled lights, sprinkler systems, washing machines, sensors, actuators, and gadgets.”

Machina Research’s Green said that since much of the world’s carbon footprint comes from cooling and heating buildings, making them intelligent is the obvious way in which IoT could be a force for good.

Self-driving cars will also be a major advance, according to Green. They will produce fewer accidents and make roads more efficient as they can drive closer to each other and communicate amongst themselves. Since your car isn’t doing anything most of the time, IoT would also allow other people to make use of the vehicle when you aren’t.

The message is clear with all these examples: IoT should be a force for good since, as Green put it, “it’s about reuse of resources and more efficient use of resources”.

“It’s a finite planet, we’re not making any more planets, and if we can use what we’ve got more efficiently, then we don’t have to waste so much of it,” he added.

To view the full feature on IoT, pick up our second issue, available on Wednesday 1 July.


Photo Credit: travel oriented from Flickr