Mobile World Congress: Why Internet of Things is here to stay
This weekend the world's biggest phone show, Mobile World Congress, will take place in Barcelona, with manufacturers set to unveil a raft of new phone handsets and new technology.
As you'd expect MWC is usually about the hot new phones coming to the market, with all the major players present such as Google, Samsung, HTC, Huawei and even BlackBerry.
But there is widespread acknowledgement at industry events such as this that phones are now only one of the many "connected" devices which people use in daily life.
Most of us have tablets and as price points start to reduce an increasing number of consumers are investing in fitness trackers, smartwatches, and a host of smart appliances that are used in either the home or workplace. The Internet of Things (IoT) is a major track of MWC, with events on IoT platforms, solutions, gadgets and security.
The term Internet of Things has been doing the rounds for some time - in fact its origins can be traced back to the early days of the personal computer and the internet. The realisation of that idea it is still at a relative early stages but it seems we are now well on the road towards a world built around a connected hub of devices and 'things'.
The idea is that we will be empowered to turn on the home heating from our phones, take a journey in an autonomous vehicle, clothing pegs will alert us to bring in the washing so it doesn't get wet and we will eliminate the need for remote controls through smart voice recognition.
Some are referring to this new connected world as industry 4.0 (4th Industrial revolution) which is defined as the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. It includes cyber-physical systems, the internet of things and cloud computing. Regardless of the various terminologies, the structural framework for this next phase in technology and business is in essence the same.
Ten years ago, the Internet of Things would not have been possible. The idea of gadgets and appliances fitted with chip technology and sensors that are capable of communicating online is one the world is still getting its head around. As concepts go, history has taught us that the "boffins" that come up with the innovations often have a much better idea of how to use them initially than the actual people they have been designed to help.
By 2020, we could have around 50 billion devices connected to the internet and the business community that will ultimately get the benefits.
As with any new technology advancement, there is currently a general feeling of optimism towards IoT. There has been significant expansion of IoT into healthcare, notably, domiciliary care as IoT can be used to amplify patient treatment through remote monitoring and communication, and provides a digital footprint of patients as they move through a healthcare facility.
Onecom, as a unified communications provider, has seen first-hand that IoT has become a vibrant part of the IT and business world, with firms across the UK, including Northern Ireland, already reaping big benefits. Connected devices and eco-systems are delivering enhanced automation, increased convenience and in some conditions, exceptional efficiency gains.
The IoT is also delivering better and more cost effective products and services, along with improved safety and enhanced human knowledge. For instance, when manufacturers provide sensors to basic items such as food packs or household appliances it is instantly possible to identify defects and issues and withdraw items quickly and effortlessly.
- Paul Lawther is head of mobile sales at Onecom