The birth of the Internet of Things
(IoT) was steered by needs that come up in our everyday endeavours. It is
expressed as a technological revolution that represents the future of computing
and communications and that encompasses a range of fields from wireless sensors
to nanotechnology. It is defined as an open and comprehensive system of
intelligence objects that are capable of sharing data and resources and that
also sense and make necessary changes in their environment. The aliases of IoT
are; Web of Things, Embedded intelligence, Internet of Objects, Connected Devices,
Technology of Omnipotent, Omnipresent and Omniscient. Others include Cyber
Physical Systems, Ubiquitous Computing, Pervasive Computing, Ambient
Intelligence, Machine-to-Machine Learning and Human computer interaction (Makadam et al, 2015). The three C’s of
IoT according to Lopez (2013), are
Communication, Control and Automation and Cost saving.
The term IoT dates back to 1999 it was
come up with by the Executive Director of the Auto-ID centre of the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology but the history of the concept dates back
to 1832 when the electromagnetic telegraph was created by a man named Baron
Schilling in Russia. This electromagnetic telegraph was then improved in 1833 by
Carl Gauss and Wilhelm Weber who wrote code that enabled it to communicate over
a distance of 1200 metres in Germany. The actual “birth of IoT” was between
2008 and 2009 when more ‘objects’ and ‘things’ than people were connected to
the internet. (https://www.postscapes.com/internet-of-things-history/). IoT has continuously evolved
tremendously to currently being used in very man fields like education, smart
homes automation, the health sector just to name but a few. The recent past has
even seen international bodies, for example the European union (EU) create
conferences for IoT.
This defines the methods used to
collect data in a research paper. Methods of collecting data (which could be
termed as the means that enable the research) range from use of questionnaires,
interviews, textual reviews, visual reviews, use of formulated hypotheses just
to name a few. The methods for data collection used are qualitative are since
there is no actual use of numbers and mathematical calculations. The data for
the study was collected was collected mostly by analysing case studies and
previous works on the history of IoT and deducing the information required.
Other qualitative methods of research include individual interviews,
participations/ observations and group discussions. Apart from qualitative
methods of research, there are also quantitative methods which are those that
involve mathematical calculations and numbers and they also generate
mathematical data. They include surveys, Interviews; both face-to-face and
over-the-telephone, longitudinal studies, website interceptors, online polls
and systematic observations. (DeFranzo, 2011)
The choice of gathering information
from previously done researches and works, and records of achievements, the
achievers, the dates that are relevant to this topic is justified for the
research on the History of IoT since it avails data that fulfils the questions;
What?( what are we really talking about?), How (How did it start?), what( what
are the advancements since the ‘birth’ of the idea?), When?( when did each of
the ‘events’ happen? Birth, Actualisation of the idea, when each advancement
was achieved and when each milestone in IoT was made), Where? (Where were the
advancements made, or where did the events in case of one happen?), who? Who
was involved, or rather who achieved?).
My method of data collection, which is
analysing previous works and citing from articles of achievements that define
the history of IoT. As the adage goes, ‘old is gold’ and therefore ‘old’ data
is very important in investigating current research needs as it provides
insights and valuable information from back then which is very useful. This
goes for especially when using records of say previous milestones and
achievements in the History of IoT, like what and when the first milestone was,
where and by who. The choice of this method has been greatly influenced by its
suitability in the research topic and the fact that most of the other methods
cannot be possibly viable for the topic. It involves collecting the data from
previous researches and compiling them while comparing them for disparities.
This also includes arranging the data from the conception of the idea that once
computers and devices, or rather ‘things’ will be linked and sharing data while
noting changes in their environments and rectifying them, to the actualisation
of this vision, and what has been achieved ,on the same, to date.
Notably, it is very important to
analyse this data to especially avoid contradiction information, and to get an
accurate assessment of the trends in IoT.
Justification for why I chose the
research method above is because most of the other methods wouldn’t necessarily
work for this particular topic. A perfect example would be the use of
observation; just observing IoT at work or its projects cannot provide
information that would help trace back its history.
Potential limitations of using the
selected method of data collection is the fact that the actual birth of IoT is
not so long ago and therefore there is limited information available, also some
of the information on the history of this field might not have been published
online and therefore its access is impossible. Another limitation is the fact
that there are limitations of ownership rights, for example patents and
copyrights. Dishonouring these ownership rights goes against Software
Engineering Ethics and is also subject to punishment by law. Access to these
previous works is also limited to especially network which is not readily
available in remote areas and subject to factors like power availability. In
the case of gathering the information from published articles, they at times
come at a cost which is also not that friendly especially for students.
The Internet of Things has been defined
in many terms, ranging from a period where more ‘objects’ and ‘things’ than
people were connected to the internet, while others refer to it as intelligent
objects that can share data, information and resources over the network. It has
also been defined as when things think by Gershenfeld, in his book, which also
happens to be the book’s title.
The Internet of Things has no
universally-accepted definition but just several definitions people have
deduced; one being smart and intelligent objects that can share data,
information and resources over the network by Makadam et al and another
defining it as the connection of more objects than people over the internet, by
the CISCO Internet Business Solutions group, but all of them mean the same
thing which is the capability of these systems to store data, information and
resources, communicate, and sense changes in the atmosphere and make corrective
IoT will make the physical world as
economically liquid and efficient (Lee, 2016). Many researchers discuss RFID in
the basis of the Diffusion of Innovations (DOI) theory and the Technology-Organization-Environment
(TOE) framework in various industries. (Hwang
et al, 2016).
The selection criteria of the articles
to be used was original articles in English that contained information on the
definition of IoT and its components and technology or any of those that
contained that contained information on its history, which is the main topic
for this research.
I searched online journal databases, indexes, and
reference lists using keywords for search terms from the study’s inception to
19th January 2018. The search targeted both original research papers
and review articles indexed by the Association for Computing Machinery, the
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Xplore Digital
Library, Google Scholar among other trusted databases that reflect the
multidisciplinary nature of the research, which involves the computer science
field among others. (Plaza et al, 2013)
Gaps in previous research include;
inadequate information being availed making the research a bit difficult and
frustrating. At some point there was also confusion especially in dates some
minor detail, where some articles said this and others stated else. There is no
agreed upon definition of IoT and therefore it can only be termed as what
writers in previous articles termed it as, or as what some of the guys referred
to as the pioneers of IoT declared it as.
Some articles declare IoT to have
started somewhere in the 19th century, but the term came later,
while in other articles there is no mention of existence of systems that would
be defined as part of the IoT field. The history of IoT dates back to way back
but the term itself was coined in 1999 by Kelvin Ashton of the MIT auto-id lab.
Major advancements include;
The term IoT is coined by Kelvin Ashton
-The MIT auto-id lab is opened.
introduces their internet of refrigerator plans.
The American defence forces massively use RFID.
ITU publishes the first IoT article.
the robot rabbit is created.
The EU holds the first IoT summit.
IPv6 was publicly launched.
Global IoT standards were set.
Google’s Android Things is announced and launched.
The term IoT is arguably one of the
most, if not the most current and most talked about term and field of IT (Information
Technology) that is bringing down the internet. Makadam et al (2015) defines IoT as an open and comprehensive network
of intelligent objects that have the capacity to auto-organize, share data,
resources and information, and that also have the ability to sense changes in
the environment and to make the necessary corrective changes. Evans, (2011) in his research affirms the
definition that IoT is a time where more ‘objects’ than people were connected
to the internet. Islam et al (2016) describe
it as basically just physical things ‘talking’ to each other,
machine-to-machine communications and human-to-computer interaction.
The Internet of Things encompasses; Web
of Things, Ambient Intelligence, Pervasive computing, Ubiquitous computing,
Cyber Physical systems, Machine-to-machine interaction, Human-computer
interaction, Internet of Objects, Embedded Intelligence, Connected Devices and
Technology omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent.
of Things has various technologies which include; Radio Frequency
Identification (RFID), Internet Protocol (IP), Electronic Product Code (EPC), Barcode,
Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi), Bluetooth, ZigBee, near field communication, actuators,
wireless sensor networks and artificial intelligence. RFID uses radio waves to
transmit the identity objects and people and IP is the primary network protocol
used on the internet which is divided into IPv4 and IPv6. EPC is a 98 or 64 bit
code recorded by RFID’s which was intended to improve the bar code system.
Barcode is a way of representing numbers and letters that involves using bars
with spacing of different lengths between them- they are of three types namely;
alphanumeric, numeric and dimensional and they are machine-readable. Wi-Fi is a
technology that enables devices over the network to communicate wirelessly
while Bluetooth is a short-range radio technology that enables connected
devices to share files. ZigBee is used to enhance wireless sensor connections,
for example for use in home automation. Near
field communication allows close-range communication, 4 cm range and is used
for transactions, exchange digital content and connect electronic devices with
a touch. Actuators convert energy into motion meaning they drive motions into
mechanical systems, while
use sensors to monitor the physical and environmental conditions, and lastly AI
refers to electronic devices that are sensitive and responsive to the presence
of people (Makadam et al, 2015).
The history of IoT dates back to the 19th
Century with just ideas that in today’s world could be termed as devices that
could be described as a type of the same category, but the actual birth was between
2008 And 2009. The term IoT however was coined in 1999 by the director of the
Auto-ID centre, Kevin Ashton, (Corcoran, 2014).
According to the findings of a study on
the overview of the Internet of Things by the Internet Society in 2015,
Ashton coined the idea to illustrate the use of RFID tags to monitor and track
goods without human intervention. Mattern
F et al, acknowledge the input of Mark weiser in ubiquitous computing in
the early 1990’s. In 1999, Neil
Gershenfeld first spoke about IoT in his book, ‘When Things Start to
think’. This same year the MIT auto-Id lab was developed. In 2000, the
electronics company LG introduced its Internet of Refrigerators plans, which
would be defined as just a fridge with the ability to scan the kinds of ‘objects’
stored and to keep track of the stock through RFID technology/ scanning or use
of barcodes. Osisanwo (2015).
Between 2003 and 2004, RFID was
deployed massively by the American Defence forces. Soon after, in 2005, the
International Telecommunications Union (ITU) first published an article on the
topic IoT, (Kocovic et al, 2017). Also
in 2005, Nabaztag, a Wi-Fi rabbit robot was created by the current Aldebaran
Robotics. (Thompson, 2011).Three
years later in 2008 the European Union, (EU) held the first ever European IoT
summit in history. The same year, several industries did alliance to encourage
the use of IPs in IoT and the American National Intelligence Council termed IoT
as one of the 6 ‘Disruptive civil Technologies’.
In 2011, the IPv6 was publicly launched.
(Madakam et al, 2015). This launch was
termed as the end of test flights. During the launch, the initial content
provides were Google, Microsoft Bing, Yahoo and Facebook, the content delivery
networks were Akamai and Limelight while the network equipment providers were
Cisco and D-link. The committed ISPs were; AT&T, Comcast, Free Telecom,
Internode, KDDI, Time Warne Cable and XS4ALL. York (2012).
In 2015, global standards were set to
In 2016, Google’s Android things was
announced which is the giant company’s IoT platform. It uses existing Android
tools, reinstates the full Android environment and C/C++ is available through
the Native Development kit. (NDK). Android is an evidently new technology and
is currently at developer preview 2. (Yaghmour,
Ever since the birth of IoT, very many
platforms have been developed. Donald, (2015)
rates the ten best IoT hardware platforms in the following order; Arduino Yun,
Raspberry pi, ESP8266, BeagleBone black, Particle.io (photon and electron),
Intel Edison, Arduino + shield, Netduino, Flutter and Tessle 2.
The Arduino Yun is a hybrid board which
has built-in Ethernet and Wi-Fi connectivity, and which is powered by the
Atmega32u4. Its community offers large technical support and this is an advantage.
Raspberry pi runs on a Linux platform, it has a HDMI port, USB and an Ethernet
port. However, for wired connections, a Wi-Fi adapter is needed.
The ESP8266 platform low-cost platform
which is designed to provide internet connectivity to the micro-controller. It
can be used for application devices. The BeagleBone Black also runs on the
Linux environment and has a HDMI port too. The Particle.io is a Wi-Fi enabled
IoT platform and it has a website cloud platform while the Intel Edison is a
tiny microcontroller using the Intel atom and which has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
modules. It also has support of SD cards.
The Arduino shield is used to provide
internet connectivity to those Arduino boards that do not have an inbuilt
Ethernet/ Wi-Fi. Netduino is an open source platform that runs on the .NET
micro framework while the Flutter is a basic radio board that provides the
range of about half a mile. Flutter also has a crypto engine that ensures safe
transmission of data.
Finally, Tessle 2 is a powerful IoT
hardware platform that runs on node.js/io.js. It has a Wi-Fi module, an
Ethernet and USB port.
In terms of high-level capabilities,
IoT devices are classified in terms of;
acquisition and control (DAQ) -this the process of measuring real-world
conditions and converting that data to digital measurements at fixed intervals.
Sensors are used as input components while output devices include screens,
LEDs, speakers and actuators.
processing and storage- IoT devices can either process data themselves or they
can transmit it to other devices for processing. Edge analytics is a term used
to refer to the analysis of data on the edge of a network rather than on a
centralised location. This concept reduces upstream processing and requirements
of storage, and it also relieves the load on a network.
Connectivity can be wired or wireless. Wired connectivity is recommended for
devices that are stationary devices where they can be fitted with Ethernet.
Wireless connectivity can be through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, RFID, cellular networks
and low power wide area networks (LPWAN).
management- IoT devices rely on power from batteries and other sources like
solar and this makes them require to manage this power. Power consumption has
to be kept on check especially for devices that process data or perform overly
power-consuming activities.( Gerber
The network connectivity should be improved in
areas it is already existent and it should be laid down in marginalised areas.
This is in order to open up these areas in order to enable spread of IoT, which
requires network connectivity, either wired or wireless. This will aid learning
too in these areas among interested parties.
Another recommendation is availing of
more resources online and in publications in order to increase exposure and
also in order to improve the circulation of knowledge about IoT. Educational
institutions should also roll-out a curriculum on IoT in Africa and expose kids
at a lower age to it. This is going to positively impact the society in terms
of numbers of those interested and those already working on IoT projects. It
will also increase the chances of the next big thing in IoT coming from
More research on what IoT can achieve
especially in areas of global warming and climatic change, drought and famine
in Africa, the creation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), health
research especially in areas of Chronic killer diseases like cancer.
The government of Kenya should also
look into improving, funding and supporting IoT projects. It should promote
developers of IoT projects that are especially unique and that are helping to
solve the continuous problems that drag us behind in a vicious cycle of
International companies that produce
especially the hardware kits for IoT should continue providing them for at
lower costs since the high cost of some of these devices is a factor causing
slowed growth of this field in Kenya and Africa in general.
There is need to develop a culture in
IoT systems development. Stakeholders involved should find means to cultivate
an IoT culture. This may be through creation of more forums, introducing
competitions in the field and providing awards for those who do very well.
Lastly, organizing IoT mentorship
programmes, fun events once in a while and setting up IoT communities to add to
the already existing ones like the Intel A.I workshops.