The Internet of Things is all around us, get to know It.

November 29, 2018

Dear Editor:

The Internet of Things, IoT as is it more commonly known, is a thriving technology.  It is well-developed, and already has a huge impact on our daily lives.

In the near future, IoT will become as common as cell phones and will be more powerful and versatile.  So what is the Internet of Things or IoT?  To begin it is complex, yet incredibly subtle in its existence.   We are all aware of how cell phones have allowed humans to communicate with any other human anywhere, anytime, through a variety of methods: phone calls, text messages, emails, FaceTime or Skype.  IoT will allow any one thing to communicate with any other thing or things, without the need for humans as the go between.  One thing will tell another thing what to do, for how long, and at what intensity.

Farming equipment is a good example of IoT at work.   The speed, route, rate of seed dispersal of a tractor and its planter are no longer controlled by the farmer driving the equipment.  Sensors above, below, and all around the tractor monitor the soil conditions, terrain of the land, and other factors to determine the optimal speed, direction, and amount of seeds to be sown, within fractions of a second without the farmer being aware of any of these processes.

The sensors collect the information and send it to an on-board computer or more likely it uses Wi-Fi to send the information up into the cloud where the information can be processed and a course of action will be determined.  Information is then sent back to the tractor via Wi-Fi or is done within the on-board computer; the motors and engines are instructed on how to move or when to move.  All of this happens instantaneously.  This has allowed farmers to increase production and minimize waste, therefore increasing overall efficiency.

Think of IoT like the human brain and nervous system.  We, humans, have five senses: touch, taste, sight, smell, and hearing, that collect information.  Our peripheral nerves then send this information to our brain.  The brain processes the information and makes decisions based on the information and past experiences.  The decision is then sent through our motor nerves to our muscles that will then perform an action.

For example, when a batter hits a ball, the fielder knows where to run and how fast he or she must run in order to catch the ball using this complex but subtle process.  The fielder hears the ball hit the bat and sees the ball leave the bat. This information is immediately sent to the brain.  A trained brain can predict when and where the ball is going to land, so it informs all of the needed muscles as to what they need to do so he or she can get there before the ball lands.  In addition, the brain tells the muscles within the hand to position and squeeze the glove at exactly the right time to catch the ball.

This is what IoT will do; only digitally at greater speeds, with higher accuracy, and with a wider variety of sensors and actions.  To use IoT terminology, a sensor will collect and send data to a processor (a super computer in the cloud mostly likely) via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.  Written programs will process this information and make decisions from the codes and protocols.  An action will then be sent to an actuator to perform the needed task.

Again this is already all around us.  You may be familiar with how social media personalizes the advertisement to your specific account.  You and I do not receive the same advertisements.  Self-driving cars are soon to be on the road.  There are numerous other apps that are keeping track of your behavior and preferences.  IoT is still in its infancy; engineers are currently busy working out the problems of size, energy requirements, and how to transmit the data.

But imagine the possibilities…
…to be continued

Andrew J. Frisch
Science and Math Teacher
Farwell High School

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