While the Internet of Things might bring to mind connected homes,smart cars or wearables, the potential applications are infinite, extending to healthcare,urban planning and even more mundane tasks like pest control, according to attendeesat a recent industry conference.
"The Internet of Things, in my view, is simply the current internetextending further and further into physical objects," said Bruce Sinclair,president of IoT-Inc. a consulting firm for businesses interested in deploying IoTtechnology.
Speaking as part of the opening event at the Internet of Things Worldin Santa Clara, Calif., on May 10, Sinclair discussed how one of his clients usedintegrated devices and data in an extermination business. The business ultimatelymapped the migration patterns of mice in a building using the data gathered fromits devices.
Sinclair noted that research firm Gartner estimates that 6.4 billionconnected "things" will be used worldwide this year, with that numberprojected to grow to 20.8 billion by 2020.
Perhaps because of its many potential applications, attendees didnot give a single definition of the IoT universe.
"It's data sets beyond structured data. It's unstructured data.It's video. It's sound," said Jack Domme, CEO of the Americas for Hitachi,during one panel discussion.
Among IoT's many potential applications, Domme highlighted the possibilityof harnessing data from GPS devices for helping cities with urban infrastructurethrough tracking speed, routes and habits.
"You can create a driving behavior pattern that is more uniquethan your fingerprint," he said. "That's taking IoT to the next level,to the next business model. You can imagine the possibilities."
However, with devices pushing out billions of bits of data from agrowing number of things to the cloud, there have been concerns raised about protectingall of that data.
"A common pitfall is you do see companies underestimating thechallenges of the cyber physical security," said Microsoft Corp. Director of Azure IoT Sam George during apanel discussion. As companies begin to explore IoT possibilities, George emphasizedthe need to secure the devices that transmit the data as well as the cloud servicesthat store the data.
Microsoft launchedits Azure IoT Suite in March 2015. The company is looking to capitalize on the IoTmovement by making it easier for companies to start using connected devices. Asthe IoT space develops further, it's unclear what business models will prove mosteffective at utilizing IoT, but many tech companies appear to see promise in thespace as more and more devices are connected.
"By its nature, IoT is a global phenomenon," George said."Most companies, if they're not looking at global deployment, will begin lookingat global deployment."