What is the Internet of Things?

What is the Internet of Things?

Imagine waking to the sound of your alarm clock because it accessed your calendar for the day. As you rise from your bed, the window shades in your bedroom open. Downstairs in the kitchen, the coffee machine has begun to brew and the thermostat begins to warm the house to a temperature of your liking. Your smart phone uses your weather application and sees cold temperatures this morning. So your car turns on the heat 10 minutes before you have to leave your house. As you leave the house, all the lights automatically turn off and the security system enables.

This scene sounds like something from a far off future. Actually, this describes the Internet of Things (IoT, for short) and it’s closer than you think. The IoT, simply put, connects – everyday objects, devices, and appliances – to the Internet functioning as one system. The object or device has the ability to communicate with its surroundings, thus becoming something greater than itself.

According to analyst firm Gartner, by 2020 there will be more than 26 billion connections. Also according to Gartner’s 2014 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, the IoT will become common practice in 5 to 10 years. This is partially due to having a decrease in the cost of technology, more devices built with Wi-Fi capabilities, and wide spread availability of broadband Internet.

The IoT has been described as a “virtual utopia” or “hacker’s heaven”. The IoT will allow essentially an unlimited number of possibilities and connections. Even before the IoT becomes mainstream, data breaches are already fairly common today. To add a billion more connections will drastically increase the chances of an attack on a new frontier. Personal information from homes and wearable technology will grant hackers to a new realm of information.

There will also be a problem for us to keep up and extract useful information out of the explosion of data because of the growth of IoT. We need talent in these areas to help us realize IoT’s great potential to do amazing things while also protecting us from its hidden dangers.

It’s estimated that there are about 300,000 developers contributing to the IoT. It’s also projected that we’ll have 4.5 million developers working in an IoT related role by 2020. Without the right talent to deliver IoT’s promises, it’d be a lose-lose situation for both the industry and the consumers. Since we’re already seeing the talent gap today, we need to strengthen our STEM education and training programs to take us to IoT promise land, sooner rather than later.

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