We hear many stories of the coming Internet of Things but most people still have no idea what it means and what its implications are. Quite simple in concept, the Internet of Things has vast implications. For China, the Internet of Things may become an important component in its rise as a technology provider for the world because of its ability to scale as well as the potential for wireless devices embedded in everything we see and touch in our environment.
What is the Internet of Things?
As the name implies, the Internet of Things alludes to a world where devices, objects and things will communicate with each other and to some degree with us on all kinds of data being collected at all times by all things. Realistically, we are still far from a world that can collect all data on all things at all times but we can put sensors and communication modules that interact with us and each other.
We now know the internet as a way for people to communicate with other people. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are, at the heart, people presenting their lives, thoughts and pictures with other people. We even have devices like FitBit and iPhones sharing our calorie burn or our location. Imagine having that linked to our weight scales and blood pressure monitors, sharing critical information our nurses or family members. Our Internet is becoming an Internet of People.
In the future, devices like our car will send out fuel and emissions data to manufacturers or government agencies to verify whether or not we are in compliance of standards. Our refrigerators may monitor not just what foods are in stock and their expiration date, but also usage patterns and possible causes of illness or allergies. In the Internet of Things, machines will exchange data with other machines, or bots, without a human being ever needing to intervene. Of course, the final consumer of the data may be human but future advances may mean that even machines will check the data and make appropriate changes or adjustments as needed.
For the Internet of Things to become reality, we would need objects to have multiple sensors. Not just NFC or RFID chips, but also both active and even passive sensors, akin to those in your mobile smartphone. At this point, an iPhone collects a vast array of basic data such as acceleration, location and orientation. In addition, it also collects complex data such as sound and light which then can feed into a whole host of other equations. A smartphone also complies with the next important requirement: the ability to communicate and share its data with humans or software/machines. When devices from cars, appliances, homes, cameras, tools and even medical devices can have embedded devices to collect and deliver data, we have the Internet of Things taking shape.
For China, the Internet of Things will be a great advance in helping to better automate as well streamline current practices. Due to the large size and inefficient data collection channels, the Internet Things has a great potential to make significant changes in the infrastructure. As a major manufacturing base as well as major consumer of wireless technology and embedded devices, China may be able to make a transition to the Internet of Things early if the central planners determine that it may be a beneficial option.
China will adopt many of the concepts of the Internet of Things, first in the Supply Chain industry, as they continue to cut the cost of manufacturing and increase the efficiency of operations. Having just-in-time manufacturing with real time data on resources needed, as well as live order status, will be a boon to many factories and companies.
The next industry to benefit from IOT would potentially be in the Service Industry, where keeping customers and clients happy remain a priority. Similar to Supply Chain where timeliness and quality are important, IOT would help companies to provide better service as well as get immediate feedback on problems or needed adjustments.
For many of us, we are already seeing some elements of the Internet of Things already in our lives from Multi-Use Subway passes to Security IDs for our places of work. We are catching glimpses of Internet-enabled appliances or even smart homes that can adjust temperature and light based on your location. It is only a matter of time before this becomes a mainstream consumer technology. For China, the Internet of Things will be an important area of research and industry since many of its core industries and even planning functions can benefit with better and more timely data feeds.