The future of sensors and the Internet of Things

According Gartner’s “Forecast: The Internet of Things, Worldwide, 2013”, the Internet of Things (IoT), will grow to 26 billion installed units in 2020 – an almost 30-fold increase from 0.9 billion in 2009.  Other forecasters talk about trillions of connected devices within 20-30 years.  In comparison PCs, tablets and smartphones are predicted to reach approximately 7.3 billion units in 2020.

IoT focus is on uniquely identifiable “things” that link to the internet to provide information on the “thing’s” identity, status, location, or any other relevant information, and done at costs below the value of the data provided.  While initially much of the focus was on identification alone using technologies like RFID, today the M2M market is seeing rapid growth in providing enhanced information from devices like remote sensors…

Factors influencing the growth in the IoT and use of sensors include improvements to the Internet infrastructure and the declining costs of devices and data. The switch over to Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) in mid 2012 was preparation for the increasing number of devices with unique IP addresses that will be transmitting and receiving data. By 2020, costs of the IoT components is expected to be at a point that connectivity will become a standard feature, complemented by low energy sensors and the various cloud-based services emerging that are designed to help manage sensors and the data they produce.   Of course this may have major repercussions for current service providers as we could see costs dramatically reduced if suppliers of services cannot find the critical value in what they deliver. As an example, think today of what it costs Facebook to manage a single user – and think of all the services that can be provided (whether you want them to or not) for those few cents per month.  That model of massive volumes and tiny costs per device will be an integral part of the IoT.

Alternative cellular networks have been established to specifically support the IoT offering low cost entry with cheap data rates and low cost hardware for high volume, low bandwidth data throughput.  As an example, Weightless SIG offers a complete IoT solution incorporating coverage, battery life, module cost and simplicity of operation that is claimed to far exceed that of GPRS, 3G, CDMA and LTE WAN alternatives.

Over the next 5-10 years the M2M focussed markets for the IoT will offer a huge variety of sensors for light, heat, touch/pressure, motion, acoustic and gas/chemical and far more beyond.  Applications areas include monitoring, automation, media and gaming, healthcare, and transportation, and all the M2M segments.

Examples of applications abound – various cities have distributed sensors to monitor traffic conditions to optimize traffic flow and public transport.  On a more individual level, sensors and the emergent IoT is evident in the widespread adoption of sensor technology to monitor an athlete’s sporting performance, both in competition and also when training.

In Australia, sensors are being used in innovative ways that show off the capability of the IoT. CSIRO biologists plant approximately a million plots of different types of grain every year to evaluate the best growth in a wide variety of conditions. With plots situated countrywide, the logistics of monitoring the environmental conditions and the rate of growth of the plants is solved using a wireless sensor network that captures and sends the data back to the Canberra laboratory.

The growth of the IoT correlates with an exponential growth in sensors. The increased availability of low-cost smart sensors will have a wide range of applications from monitoring human, animal and physical object location and status, health and fitness parameters, through to climate and environmental measurements.  Widespread gathering of data supporting complex analysis of patterns, trends and interactions in real time results in better informed problem assessments and decision making.

M2M Connectivity works with many customers building solutions that form part of the emerging IoT. These solutions for industrial automation and monitoring, enable data collection and transfer, remote configuration and download of applications, diagnostics, control, network connectivity and more. We supply and support many products and technologies that can be leveraged for transporting IoT information and sensor data over wireless networks. Whether it’s Cellular, Satellite, Short Range (Wifi, Zigbee, etc), then M2M Connectivity has a team of specialist engineers able to provide technical support for our customers from the developmental stages to the implementation of an application.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s