15 April 2018

Before the Internet of Things explodes. A non-technical introduction

Internet of Things

The great beginning of the Internet of Things.  My interpretation.

Do you remember Paul Levinson’s book about the cell phone? The book describes profound changes made by the cell phone in our lives. I’ll remind you that the book was published in 2004. In reading it, I have noticed a few insights which are especially relevant today.

The first one is a description of how the phone separated us physically from a computer as well as from the walls of our homes. Access to the Internet, or speaking more in Levinson’s language – cyberspace, did not force us to be tied to a chair any longer. That way, we as people became “The Mobile Heart”.

The second motive concerns evolution as a medium. So, the phone matured and became less and less one dimensional and began to take over the functions of a computer or laptop. By developing the technological capabilities of the cell phone, we’ve created a phone-centric world.

So if the cell phone has developed into a computer with Internet access, then perhaps the IoT will be its next evolution? This question remains open and either way, I see some coincidences here. We do not lose physical contact with what is physically out of our reach. For that reason, the IoT reminds me so much of “mobile hearts”, a next step towards going beyond of the walls of an apartment, office, or other locations. Already today, Internet-connected controlling systems operate, to a large extent, with the use of mobile devices.

What is the Internet of Things

The IoT may be defined, speaking in simple words and not precise technical terms, as the world of objects sensing and reacting to the environment and their conditions. Things processing information and transferring the collected data between devices, and subsequently reaching us. However, in the IoT, people partially also become objects with their own parameters and properties. We’re not only passive parties, but the IoT draws us into the roles of both judge and player.

Generally believed that the term Internet of Things was popularized at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where RFID infrastructure was designed, the IoT was used for the first time by Kevin Ashton in a 2002 article in a Forbes magazine titled “The Internet of Things”. However, it has to be remembered that already in 1999 a book by Neil Gershenfeld from MIT Media Lab was published, titled “When Things Starts to Think”, where the author predicted that the next development of technology will lead to a situation where things will become a part of the Internet. It is also believed (which is not that obvious) that the first smart device was a Coca-Cola machine at the Carnegie Mellon University, installed there at the end of the 1980s.

The Internet of Things or the Internet of Everything

In examining written works on this subject, I came across at least three most often used terms: the traditional Internet of Things, then the Intelligence of Things, and finally the Internet of Everything. By the way, Google Trends reports that the two latter terms are like a drop in an ocean when it comes to searches concerning things connected to the Internet.

However, this does not mean that they are trivial because they may signal some trends and directions producers concerning the development of smart things. The significance of the IoT subject was shown by this year’s (2018) CES conference which took place in Las Vegas, where presentations by the most important producers in the world demonstrated a shift in narration from the products to their mutual connections and integrations. And that is an important trend. For example, Samsung’s representatives used the term Intelligence of Things.

They distinguish three components of this solution: seamless connectivity, single cloud, and smart devices which work with us via application interfaces. Whereas the term Internet of Everything could define an ecosystem which consists of things, data, people, and processes, the term was first proposed by specialists from Cisco Systems. Therefore, it is a system of combining everything with everything via an intelligent Supernetwork.

About big chances and large risks

The IoT brings a few significant changes. On one hand, there are undertakings focusing on the individual client. On the other, both the B2B and B2C businesses have high hopes for the IoT, as does the State with its network of public institutions. Creating smart spaces (cities, buildings) and microspaces (systems related to monitoring health condition) provides four ways to harness the advantages of the IoT: automation, monitoring, optimization, and control.

Of course there is a data analysis problem which the creators and producers of solutions concerning the IoT will have to face: interpreting data should exceed the econometric models while researching data relations from the point of view of the client would also have to take on a visual form. Such forms of data analysis would assist in discovering models important from the point of view of decisive processes, for example, in the industry.

New chances naturally result in new risks. It has become a cliche to talk about tightening security in terms of the Internet of Things. There is still much to do in this field. So, for instance, Samsung, which would like to be one of the leaders of the IoT market, works on determining safety standards with negotiations carried out via the Open Connectivity Foundation, currently the largest institution certifying things connected to the Internet.

However, it is hard not to wonder about how the state will regulate this. On one hand we may be witnessing a race to safety standards by the large firms (Google, Apple, Samsung, Fuji), and on the other hand, government regulations would allow some way to legislate the IoT safety standards, with an aim of protecting the privacy of consumers.

Equally, teddy bears connected to the Internet are at risk of being hacked as are 220 pound industrial robots with safety researchers from Trend Micro and Italy’s Politecnico Milano developing ways to hack both of these machines.

In addition, there is also the problem of who dispatches knowledge, for example, in what manner are the producers using and monetizing the gathered data, as well as safeguarding sensitive consumer information and preventing leaks from their companies. And many indications point out that some consumers share this information very willingly with the producers by purchasing, for example, vibrators connected to the Internet.

Take off the rose-colored glasses

Not to remain uncritical as to the IoT or IoE, I will quote the late writer Michael Crichton, the popular American author of the scenario for the 1973 film Westworld, which forty years later, we had the chance to revisit in a new series version proposed by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy for HBO.

Crichton stated:

The ways that technology interests me are the ways that it traps you. Westworld is a personification of that situation; it’s about a person pursued by a machine. In a human situation you can always call up your friend the next day and say you didn’t mean it. But you can’t call up technology, you often can’t change your mind. Once you set out on a given course, you can’t reverse.

But back to the point… QA and IoT

According to forecasts, in 2020 the IoT will be a market worth USD 1.5 billion. From a business point of view, this mean a large cake from which many companies will want take a slice, with the role of a software tester becoming more significant in this developing trade.

As a Co-Founder of Apphawks, this makes me happy to engage in smart and valuable projects. Also there are many indications that in terms of testing, the Test-As-A-User approach – meaning testing from the point of view of a client’s product value, will be very significant. The IoT market may also strengthen the reversal from the mobile-first to the mobile-only concept, a paradigm first proposed in 2010 by the CEO of Google at that time, Eric Schmidt.


If you want to share your opinion on my article, I invite you to connect via LinkedIn.

Internet of Things
IoT testing

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