The Internet of Things has come a long way since the first Internet-connected appliance—a Coke vending machine at Carnegie Mellon University—was invented.
Since then, the convergence of new and rapidly evolving technologies, including real-time analytics and machine learning, have completely changed the IoT landscape. Throw in powerful new networking capabilities, embedded sensors, and new connectivity protocols like Zigbee and Bluetooth and you have the perfect storm for an industry ready to change the world.
But what are today’s top IoT technologies?
This can be a hard question to answer since “top” can be very subjective, so let’s define our terms:
1. The IoT technology has to be “game-changing”—as in, it must touch, in the some way, the day-to-day life of the average person.
2. It must have some kind of positive effect on the world; if we’re not creating things that make the world a better place in some way, why create them?
3. It must have wide-scale adoption—or relatively wide-scale, compared to the other IoT devices or technologies out there.
4. It must present, in some way, a buildable base from which future technologies can sprout. The best technologies are essentially self-sacrificing in the sense that their primary use ends up becoming the basis for future game-changing technologies.
With that in mind, let’s look at the top three IoT technologies today.
1. Smart lighting
Smart lighting is probably the most widely used IoT technology, and yet it’s also probably the most misunderstood.
The entire notion of “smart homes” and in fact the entire “smart” revolution started with the smart light bulb, and yet the word “smart” was not initially used to describe automation or remote control—it was describing EFFICIENCY. The light-emitting diode, the base technology for energy-efficient light bulbs, was invented in 1962 by American inventor Nick Holonyak and adapted into LED lighting by a group of other engineers later that same decade.
LED lights convert far less electricity to heat than regular, or incandescent, light bulbs. Today’s best LED lights are 90% efficient, meaning they convert 90% of their energy into light and only 10% into heat, whereas a regular incandescent bulb is just the opposite, converting only 10% of its electricity into light and the rest into heat.
The cost and energy savings produced by this delta are obvious, but smart lighting also became the foundation of the entire smart home industry specifically because of this reduction in heat, which allows for the placement of sensors inside lights. These sensors can be used to collect data and also communicate with other devices—the basis for the Internet of Things.
Smart lighting is also the foundation of smart buildings, which will, at some point in the near future, become the foundation for highly energy efficient smart cities, and potentially, a smart planet.
2. IoT operating systems
IoT operating systems allow smart, Internet-connected devices to perform the basic functions of a computer—that is, collect data and be controlled by a user via software and programs. Traditional operating systems such as Windows and iOS weren’t designed for IoT applications because they consume too much power, need faster processors, and do not support the chips that IoT developers use.
IoT operating systems
The best IoT operating systems are scalable and allow developers to create innovative smart solutions easily and affordably. They are also the foundation for a host of other IoT technologies, including smart homes, smart manufacturing facilities, and smart buildings.
3. Mesh networking
Bluetooth Mesh, Zigbee, and Wi-Fi are the connectivity protocols for the smart devices—the means by which they can communicate with each other.
But it’s mesh networking that is allowing these connectivity protocols to become so fast and effective.
What is mesh networking?
It’s the use of small radio transmitters, or “nodes”, that can automatically, and completely wirelessly, route communicate signals and data between devices in the safest and most efficient way in a process known as dynamic routing,
In a wireless mesh network, only one node is required to be physically wired to a network connection like a DSL Internet modem. That node then simply shares its connection with the nodes around it and those nodes then share their connections with the nodes closest to them. The more nodes, the wider and more powerful the connectivity network.
Mesh networks are self-configuring, self-healing, and easy to install, but most importantly they enable fast and efficient communication between smart devices, enhancing not only the functionality of IoT technology but also the energy-saving side of IoT technology
So there you have it—mesh networking, smart lighting, and IoT operating systems: the top three IoT technologies today. Tomorrow? Who knows. The IoT landscape is evolving so rapidly that one can never be sure what new game-changing tech is right around the corner. We can see the curve, though, and we know we are headed in the right direction, so let’s keep moving.
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