'Internet of Things' (IoT), the technology connecting products with the internet, is booming. How come? And what will its future be? IoT specialist Marcel Kool look back and ahead.
A few years ago, there it was, like a bolt out of the blue, IoT. At least, that is how it felt. Of course, in reality it wasn’t quite like that. Marcel Kool: "An important reason that the technology became so well-known is the name 'Internet of Things'. It’s a term that appeals to a wide audience. Not because it’s unambiguous, because the opposite is true. But because it rouses curiosity and challenges you to build a picture. For example, everyone has his own ideas about what is meant by those things. Which perfectly fits into the largely unpainted canvas IoT has at its disposal."
Before the catchy name conquered the world, work on the underlying technology was already well under way. Marcel: "By me too, albeit under labels that were much less sexy at that time, like 'telemetrics' for example, followed by 'Machine-to-Machine communication', or M2M. Other terms, same essence: devices exchanging information without human intervention."
Telemetrics has existed since the beginning of this century. Pioneers from that time didn’t use the internet, but phone lines and radio waves to collect information. "About what? My very first experiences go back to the meter cupboard. In the Libertel days we worked on a system to measure water and energy usage fully automatically. At present, three million households in the Netherlands are equipped with such a tool."
Libertel became Vodafone, and that in turn became VodafoneZiggo. "During that transition we decided to let go of the term M2M and embrace IoT. This new term also came with a different focus. Where M2M was mainly focused on improved cost efficiency, with IoT we emphasize the realization of new business models."
From isolated lightbulbs to system
It worked and it started a flow of innovative, often spectacular applications. For small start-ups as well as big corporates. Marcel: "Philips is selling lighting more and more as a service instead of isolated lightbulbs. By fitting all lighting in a building or outdoor area into a smart structural design, you get a system which can be controlled remotely. It enables you to detect broken lightbulbs and replace old ones as a preventive measure. In an emergency, you switch on additional lights and in quiet times, you can dip the lights. The result: better quality and living conditions while power consumption is being reduced."
"Another example: every new car nowadays is connected with the internet. Useful for navigation, for watching videos in the backseat and for an emergency call when something happens. The number of e-bikes in the Netherlands is also booming. Nearly all of them are connected with the internet. Which means the user will always recover his bike and bicycle thieves therefore need a new business model. The same goes for bicycle repairers and shops. They can monitor when a bike needs maintenance and can also assess whether a customer has outgrown his bicycle. Time for a great offer. Based on that kind of data, companies are now adopting different ways to do business."
IoT of the future
"And", Marcel continues, "I can name dozens of other interesting IoT projects that offer new perspectives and can turn whole industries upside down. However fascinating though, these projects are now still a stand-alone thing. It will become really interesting if they are connected. Imagine that all road users become part of an overarching system, making the entire logistics of a city run smoothly. That is the dot on the horizon, which we call Smart Cities. It’ll take a while, but I’m convinced that Iot will make cities run like clockwork in the future. The benefits are gigantic, mark my words. Everything will become more efficient, cheaper, safer, more convenient and more sustainable."