Top 10 internet of things stories of 2015

2015 was the year the internet of things began to move from theory to widespread practice, and the fledgling industry shook off the millstone of connected kitchen appliances

In December 2014, the UK government’s chief scientific advisor Mark Walport published a report on the internet of things (IoT) in society.

In the introduction to his report, Walport warned of a danger of “trivialising the importance of the IoT through examples that are used to stereotype” – such as the connected fridge.

Walport said that the IoT could have a much more wide-ranging impact on society than that, and said it had the potential to support an “extraordinary range of applications and economic opportunities”.

In 2015, the IoT continued to be the subject of a great deal of startup and mainstream media-driven hype, and all too often those people with a valid enterprise use case – or those warning of the implications of the IoT on the world of cyber security – failed to be heard over the noise of all the connected fridges that nobody was buying.

However, it is important to note that use cases did begin to emerge over the past 12 months, and much work was done on advancing the potential of the IoT. It is fair to say, then, that 2015 was the year in which the IoT began to demonstrate its usefulness to, and make an impact on, both society and the IT industry.

Here are Computer Weekly’s top 10 IoT stories from 2015:

1. How the internet of things could save the honeybee from extinction

Gemalto’s M2M unit is developing an ambitious project with agricultural science firm Eltopia and the University of Minnesota. The objective: to save the honeybee from extinction.

Its system, called MiteNot, comprises a biodegradable frame that contains 3G enabled IoT sensors monitoring multiple aspects of a beehive to indicate the status of the brood and the reproductive cycle of Varroa destructor, the mite that might be behind the devastating phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder.

Scientists believe that by elevating the temperature of the beehive at a critical stage of the mite’s lifecycle they can effectively sterilise the parasite, protecting the hive.

2. Inside Taiwan: the engine room of the internet of things

Over the summer, Computer Weekly travelled to Taiwan to meet some of the tech companies quietly laying the foundations for the internet of things.

With a long history of global leadership in sensors, components and silicon, it is Taiwanese companies that are leading the development of IoT technology, while a thriving startup scene is coming up with some intriguing use cases; including internet enabled home-brewing kits.

3. IoT value even greater than the hype, says McKinsey

Any business that fails to invest heavily in the IoT in the next 10 years is unlikely to be able to remain competitive, according to McKinsey researcher Dan Aharon

“We estimate that the total potential value of the IoT will be between $3.9tn and $11.1tn a year by 2025,” he said. McKinsey expects twice as much value to come from business-to-business (B2B) applications than from business-to-consumer (B2C) applications, and expects advanced economies to get more value from the IoT than developing economies.

4. Philips uses AWS and IoT to deliver healthcare in the home

A key emerging use case for the IoT is in the health sector. Dutch technology giant Philips aims to equip patients with the tools and technologies they need to self-manage and monitor their healthcare at home, backed by Amazon Web Services’ cloud.

Some of the tools in its arsenal include interactive weighing scales, blood pressure monitoring cuffs or hardware that keeps tabs on when patients take their medication, and even devices that can track changes in a person’s gait, which could pinpoint patients at risk of a fall or stroke in the home.  

5. IBM looks to Bitcoin blockchains for internet of things platform

In January 2015, IBM outlined a decentralised and distributed IoT platform incorporating the blockchains database technology that underpins online currency Bitcoin.

The concept was set out in a white paper that views current centralised approaches to building an internet of things as costly, prone to security breaches and poorly designed for business. Together with Samsung, IBM proposed the Autonomous Decentralised Peer-to-Peer Telemetry (Adept) platform, which seeks to demonstrate the benefits of a decentralised approach to the IoT.

6. The internet of things could be key to the future of farming

The IoT could be key to the farming industry, increasing food production by 70% to feed the 9.6 billion global population expected by 2050, according to analysts.

Smart farming will allow farmers to improve productivity and reduce waste, according to a research report on how machine-to-machine (M2M) technologies and the IoT can transform agriculture.

7. Security and privacy need to be core to IoT design

The best way of tackling security and privacy concerns around the internet of things is to focus on both from the design phase, say industry leaders.

As the number of intelligent systems increase in people’s lives, there will be more data available that criminals will want to access, according to a panel at November’s PTC LiveWorx Europe IoT show, which said that enterprises needed to build privacy into the design to ensure people can make choices about what is happening with their data.

8. Singapore’s Smart Nation vision entices IoT developers

The Singapore government is pitching to make the tiny Asean city state a centre for the development of smart city and internet of things technology, and wants to bring UK startups to its shores.

Given its small size and dense urbanisation, Singapore’s Infocomm Development Authority has taken the idea of the smart city, using wireless and IoT technology to improve healthcare standards and public safety to its logical extreme.

9. Cisco launches IoT System for enterprise and smart cities

Big networking suppliers such as Cisco also sat up and took notice of the IoT during 2015. In June 2015, the firm unveiled a number of products to address the growing complexity of internet of things deployments

Cisco said its IoT System would address this complexity with an infrastructure that was designed to “manage large-scale systems of diverse endpoints and platforms, and the data deluge they create”.

10. The IoT industry needs to do more to secure data, says Beecham Research

There are key areas where the industry supporting the IoT needs to provide better security, warned Beecham Research in May 2015.

Without concerted action now, Beecham said that the proliferation of different devices, networks, platforms and applications to support the IoT multiplied the vulnerabilities and greatly increased the potential for malicious attacks.

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