The IoT Is As Easy A, B, C

Sensors Insights by Mat Dirjish

Judging by media speak found in press releases and product promotions, as well as voiced concerns by engineers and OEMs, one would think that tooling up for this "great new wave" dubbed the internet of things (IoT) is a complex venture, a daunting task at the very least. Yes, like any commercial event it will involve bulk goods and bulk consumerism, but complicated tooling, setups, and adoption? If so, then it means we don't know jack squat about networking. Let's go back in time, to the dark ages of 1998 for some examples that should clarify the premise that IoT is quite easy.

In the primitive era of which I speak, the big test-and-measurement companies were offering instruments, primarily digital storage oscilloscopes (DSOs) that could connect to network servers via the typical interfaces of the day (RS-232, RJ-45, etc.). Once connected and working with the proprietary software for the particular DSO, the oscilloscope could easily connect to, yes you guessed it, the internet. That being the case, a design team in Germany could access a DSO, and the data it was acquiring/and or storing, that was working in a lab in California. Also, multiple users could log in from any access point in the world and use the DSO.

In 1998 at Internet World held in the Javits Center in NYC, there was no shortage of demos on how every appliance in the home could be hooked into the world wide web. One example was a refrigerator that had a PC with keyboard and screen embedded in the top door (the one that closes on the freezer portion). This PC, as you've probably guessed, connected to the internet through it's, of all Paleolithic splendor, 57K modem!

Users of this refrigerator could do quite a bit via the internet. They could find recipes on the net, find and adjust the proper temperatures for various compartments in the unit without having to open a door, control the unit remotely, program it to order groceries for delivery when they returned from an extended absence, and, believe it or not, the unit could show them that the light was in fact off when they closed the door.

Also at the show were a plethora of webcams, thermostats, dimmers, garage-door openers, on/off controls, baby monitors, security systems, and more, all capable of connecting to the internet. At the time, this phenomenon was called networking. Now we call it the IoT. And we also have more acronyms for the various markets for networking, like the industrial internet of things (IIoT), commercial (CIoT), manufacturing (MIoT), and so forth. I'm sure when drones start delivering, we'll have the international delivery internet of things (IDIoT).


Here we are in 2016 worrying about the complexity of networking all our toys to the internet. But the formula is simple: device + sensor + interface = IoT. The only complexity is how much of what to make and how to make it. And there's one exceptionally perfect place to learn that: Sensors Expo 2016.

Change is inevitable, but the wheels of change grind slow. Learn how to speed them up in June. If you think I'm, wrong, meet me at the Expo and we can discuss it. ~MD

About the Author

Mat Dirjish is Executive Editor of Sensors magazine. He can be reached at [email protected].

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