Life runs on the internet. Namely, on the Internet of Things (IoT).
IoT refers to a network of electronic devices equipped with processing power, sensors, and software designed to exchange data with each other. These devices can help keep our homes safe from water damage or help us keep tabs on a baby in the other room. They can power a self-driving car or manage the temperature at an office building.
In short, IoT devices help make our lives smarter and more connected.
IoT devices are becoming more popular in both homes and business settings as processing power and sensors become more cost-effective. In fact, the industry is exploding, with forecasts suggesting that by 2030, 50 billion IoT devices will be used worldwide.
But what exactly is the Internet of Things and how do IoT devices work? Let’s take a look.
What is the Internet of Things?
IoT devices primarily collect data, like tracking the number of steps we take each day or the temperature in our home. That data is in turn sent to data centers or the cloud over the internet, where it is processed and analyzed to make it useful for IoT users.
Some other cool technologies enhance IoT devices even more. For example, edge-computing allows IoT data to be processed pretty much in real-time, on the “edge” or as close as possible to where data is being created. This is particularly handy in cases where IoT devices are monitoring to see if a pipe has broken in your basement or a self-driving car must make instantaneous decisions.
Still others use artificial intelligence and machine learning to make sense of the data collected and also to create machines that make human-like decisions.
This entire process functions with little human control. In other words, we don’t need keyboards and computers to gather or process the data IoT devices gather for us.
Benefits of IoT.
IoT devices make the smart home possible. These connected devices can help you automate your heating, lighting, security systems, and media use. Not only do IoT devices make life more convenient and seamless, but they can also prevent high energy costs and help make our lifestyles more sustainable.
These devices may also make life more accessible for senior citizens or people with disabilities. For example, voice control can help people order groceries or game.
How IoT devices communicate.
There are several wireless protocols that connect IoT devices each other and to the internet. These protocols use radio waves to connect devices and push data back and forth between them. Some examples include:
- 5G ad 4G
- Low power wide area network (LPWAN)
Each connection has different power needs, range, and bandwidth, and certain connections work better in specific circumstances.
For example, because WiFi is so common and standardized, it can support certain IoT environments that need high bandwidth and low latency. In smart homes and office buildings, WiFi is usually the protocol used for IoT devices because it covers short-range areas well. WiFi may work alongside other protocols to power IoT devices, including cellular networks.
Some devices may not be able to directly connect to the internet, so they use a “gateway” to move data. In the case of your smartwatch or another wearable, that gateway is likely your smartphone.
IoT and WiFi bandwidth.
How much bandwidth does the Internet of Things really use? It depends on the function of the device. Smart home security systems or smart doorbells that stream video use up a lot of data.
The fact is that every device that connects to your internet takes up a little bit of bandwidth. For smart homes that rely on WiFi to connect their IoT devices, a high bandwidth internet connection is an absolute must.
Since IoT devices connect to the internet, you’ll want to take steps to secure them from cyberattacks. Many IoT devices have a default username and password that users never update. Since this information is usually easy to track down, hackers can break in and take control of your IoT device.
Many IoT devices also use video to gather data or, in the case of your robot vacuum cleaner, move around your house. Without taking steps to secure your device, a camera on your IoT device can become a window into your home for cybercriminals. Yikes.
To secure your IoT devices, always:
- Create a unique username and strong password for your IoT devices and WiFi gateway
- Encrypt your WiFi connection WPA2
- Run updates to patch software and hardware
- Use multifactor authentication whenever possible
- Create a guest network specifically for your IoT devices to protect your primary network
- Disable any functions you don’t need or use, like remote access
Taking steps to secure your IoT devices can also help protect your personal information and privacy as well.
The Internet of Things can automate our lives, control our energy use, and help us make sense of the data we generate on a regular basis. To keep these processes safe, it’s important to take steps to secure our IoT devices and protect our personal information.
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