internetofthings-300pxI don’t know about you, but it seems like I can’t go a single day without seeing a reference to the incoming Internet of Things (IoT). If you believe the headlines, IoT is the ‘next era’ and ‘inevitable’ and ‘going to change your life!’ But what is it? And how will it really impact us?

Part of the reason there are so many IoT articles out there is that many people simply don’t understand what the term means and all it encompasses. Defining the Internet of Things is difficult- it’s a theoretical and hypothetical future based on real technologies that exist now. For our purposes, let’s define IoT as a network of physical objects that can connect to the internet and each other, adding greater value for the consumer by constantly exchanging data and achieving “ambient intelligence.”

In an IoT world, everything that CAN be connected, WILL be connected. So let’s look at a hypothetical example. Let’s say you make a trip to your doctor for an annual physical, where it’s recommended that you increase your exercise regimen to work on heart health. You then head to your local athletic store, where you purchase a pair of smart sneakers with an implant in the heel to track your location, pace and run duration. Your sneakers then sync up to your smart watch, which also tracks your sleep patterns, heart rate and water intake. Both objects then send updates to an application on your tablet, which tracks your overall exercise plan and health improvements. This app communicates to a social network of runners across the globe, who then can comment on your progress and offer encouragement or advice. Before you even return from your morning run, you have already unwittingly communicated with someone from across the country. This is the world of the Internet of Things.

This is just one of many, many ways IoT can change your daily life. But with all the new and exciting technologies that arrive come many more challenges. First and foremost is security. With so many dynamic channels exchanging your information, how will you guard it at all times? There’s also the concern over the massive amounts of data that will inevitably need to be stored. Where will it go? How will it be analyzed? Will it remain private or be sold to third party data collectors? And finally, most importantly for CSPs, there needs to be enough bandwidth to support the network of communicating devices. How will rural providers guarantee their customers the same efficiency achieved in urban settings?

The Internet of Things is only beginning. In future blogs, we’ll take a look at how we’re already engaged in IoT behavior and the sustainability of such a model.