Evolution of Internet of Things : Past, present and future

Evolution of Internet of Things (IoT): Past, present and future

Evolution of Internet of Things (IoT): Past, present and future

Internet of Things(IoT) is an ecosystem of connected devices that exchanges data over a wired or wireless network. These devices could be smartphones, laptops, smart electric appliances, smart office equipment or any device tagged with sensors. Data generated by these devices is then shared with servers located in cloud or on-premise, where it is processed to gain insights that help in taking decisions. The IoT ecosystem can be established not only within small areas like our homes or office but over larger areas like gated communities, university campus and cities.

Smart devices that connect with each other are ubiquitous part of our lives. As an individual user or business owner providing IoT related products and services, it makes sense to understand evolution of IoT. Knowledge of past equips us to foresee the future and use any technology to our advantage.

Milestones in IoT Evolution

A child grows every day and amazes their parents every moment, but still there are some moments that become milestones in their life history. Let us attempt to chronicle such milestone moments in the evolution of IoT:

ARPANET was the first connected network – granddad of the Internet as we know it today. The history of IoT starts with ARPANET.

In 1982, a graduate student in Carnegie Mellon University’s computer science department, David Nichols, wanted to know if the department’s coke vending machine had cold soda bottles. He was tired of going to the machine only to find there was no cold bottle available; the vending machine was quite some distance from his classrooms. So, he wanted to have information beforehand.

He was helped in this endeavor by Mike Kazar and Ivor Durham, two fellow students, and John Zsarnay, a research engineer at the university. The code they wrote could check if coke was available in the vending machine, and if yes, whether it was cold or not. Anyone on the university ARPANET could monitor the status of the coke vending machine.

In 1989 Tim Berners Lee proposed the framework of world wide web, which laid the foundation of the Internet.

In 1990 John Romkey developed a toaster that could be turned on and off over the Internet. It was a toaster wired to the computer as there was no Wi-Fi then!! This toaster is considered to be the first IoT device – the first “thing” that began Internet of Things.

Researchers and scientists seem to have a thing for caffeine – cold or hot. In 1993, the Trojan Room Coffee Pot was built in the computer laboratory of the University of Cambridge by Quentin Stafford-Fraser and Paul Jardetzky in 1993. An image of the interior of the pot was uploaded to the building server thrice every minute. Later on, when browsers began displaying images, these images could be viewed online.

The next milestone in development of IoT came in 1999 when Kevin Ashton, current Executive Director of the Auto-ID Labs, coined the term internet of things. It was the title of a presentation he made at Procter and Gamble (where he was working at that point of time) about linking RFID in P&G’s supply chain to the Internet.

The term IoT began to be used in mainstream publications like The Guardian and Scientific American by 2003-2004. In the same period RFID deployed by the US department of Defence and by Walmart in its stores.

The United Nations International Telecommunications Union acknowledged the impact of IoT in its report in 2005. It predicted that IoT will help create an entirely new dynamic network of networks.

In March 2008, the first IoT conference was held in Zurich. It brought together researchers and practitioners from both academia and industry to facilitate sharing of knowledge. In the same year, the US National Intelligence Council included the Internet of Things as one of the six disruptive civil technologies.

In its 2011 white paper, Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (CIBSG) said that internet of things can truly be said to be born between 2008 and 2009 when the number of things connected to the internet exceeded the number of people connected to it. CIBSG calculated that the things to people ratio grew from approximately 0.8 in 2003 to 1.84 in 2010.

Together with the white paper, Cisco released many educational materials on the topic and started marketing initiatives to attract clients looking to adopt IoT. IBM and Ericsson joined the race soon after.

In 2011 Gartner included IoT in its Hype cycle for emerging technologies that were on the rise.

In 2013 IDC released a report that predicted IoT market to grow at a CAGR of 7.9% and reach USD 8.9 trillion by 2020.

IoT Evolution

IoT Architecture

The definition of IoT reveals that any IoT system comprises things or devices that generate data, network that transmits data, and service that store and process this data. An IoT system can be said to have these three layers:

Physical layer

The physical layer is made up of devices, sensors and controllers. They are what make the IoT environment. Devices may be smartphones or tablets, laptops, devices with microchips or a brownfield device with RFID tags.

Edge computing layer

Storing and processing data near the devices where it is generated rather than the servers located far away is called edge computing. The edge computing layer defines the networks and communication protocols to be used for connectivity as well as edge computing. The processing of IoT data starts at the edge of the network.

Application layer

Beyond the edge computing layer, action moves to cloud. The application layer is a set of integrated services provided by the IoT cloud to gain useful insights and perspectives from the data gathered.

The data generated by the IoT devices is cleaned and relevant data stored on cloud servers for further processing to generate reports and insights. Businesses can get their own customised applications developed on top of the tools provided by cloud service providers.

Once an IoT ecosystem is set up, new devices continue to get added to it as per requirement. The network should be scalable quickly so that it can handle the surge of connected devices. As different types of devices connect over different types of networks, protocols different to internet are required.

Some of the protocols used include ZigBee, Z-wave, Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity), Li-Fi (Light Fidelity), NFC, 5G, BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy), IETF 6LoWPAN, IETF’s CoAP (Constrained Application Protocol), etc.

Economic Impact of IoT

According to McKinsey, the economic value of IoT could be anywhere between USD 3.9 trillion to 11.2 trillion by 2025. This does not seem a very far-fetched estimate considering that IoT is being used in manufacturing, healthcare, automotive, public safety, logistics, energy management, organisational redesign, etc.

The list of types of industries and businesses using IoT is really long and the COVID-19 pandemic has forced rapid adoption because it holds the promise of enabling businesses to pivot to the new normal.

Challenges in IoT adoption

Although IoT promises to transform the way businesses operate, there are multiple challenges in adoption that need to be overcome.

Hardware platforms

It’s only over the past couple of years that IoT hardware platforms have really matured to enable wide range of applications. This has facilitated inroads into hitherto unknown domains.

Data planning

The amount of data generated by even the smallest of IoT ecosystems is humongous and needs much strategic planning. How much data should be collected, how long should it be stored and what insides are required. A deluge of information can destabilize business strategy if not managed properly.

Privacy and security

Data security and privacy of people associated with the IoT system is an area of concern and something that businesses need to take care of since the Inception of any IoT project.


All IoT devices need to be powered on 24/7. This requires huge amounts of energy. Sustainability and environmental impact of IoT adoption must also be considered during project planning phase.

Technologies that have supported IoT growth

IoT has seen rapid development over the past decade. This has been made possible primarily due to progress in three technologies – Cloud Computing, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence. Availability of cheap storage on cloud has enabled businesses to store the massive amounts of data generated by IoT systems at affordable rates.

Big data technologies have made it easier to organize and make sense of the data generated by IoT systems. Artificial Intelligence and its associated technologies have enabled generation of insights that help businesses grow.

Government regulations

Regulation is frowned upon by developers and technology enthusiasts. But IoT is a technology that affects people and institutions in a way that is usually not associated with any other technology. This is because the key driver of any IoT systems is data, and data in the hands of wrong people is prone to misuse.

Governments across the globe have taken note of this and are issuing their own guidelines for IoT adoption. In 2019 Australian government released a draft cyber security law that mandates manufacturers to ensure device security at their level. IoT regulations in the UK have moved the onus of data security from citizens to the businesses who are storing and using the data.

In January 2020, the states of California and Oregon in the US introduced legislation that required “reasonable security features” to be added to IoT devices.

Future of IoT

According to Statista, the total number of installed connected devices is expected to be 75.4 billion globally by 2025. This would be five times increase since 2015.

These numbers indicate that the future of IoT promises to be more innovative and revolutionary as compared to the present. That more and more domains would be embracing IoT is a foregone conclusion. Let’s discuss some of the trends that will change the face of IoT:

5G integration

2020 has already seen testing of 5G by many companies. IoT architecture will be integrating 5G into systems, new as well as old. 5G would enhance capabilities of existing networks manifolds. 5G would not be replacing the existing network but enhancing its capabilities. Old or new, 5G would be enable transmission of data to and from cloud servers at lightning speed.

Single interface

As discussed earlier, more and more devices with varieties of capabilities are joining the IoT networks every second. users — individuals or Enterprises — would need a single interface that provides them end to end access instead of a basket of remotes and interfaces.

Multi-level privacy and security

Data privacy and security is going to be even more important. Historically data security has been implemented at device level be it a smartphone or a laptop or a any other smart device connected to the IoT network. However, in future privacy and security measures would be implemented at multiple layers between IoT endpoints.

Shift from products to services ecosystem

The key driver of any IoT system is the data generated by it. Companies providing products would gradually move towards services around insights provided by the data.

Role of TechAhead in IoT Landscape

TechAhead has a team of IoT experts who have developed a wide range of customized solutions from ambient environment and smart lighting to connected healthcare apps. Some of the services provided by our experts include:

IoT consultancy

Our IoT experts provide a range of specialised consultancy from maturity assessment and Internet of Things (IoT) road map designing to device selection and architecture development. Our experts have hands on experience in full stack development.

Product design

Our experts produce innovative IoT designs that are functional, reliable, robust scalable and Secure and cost effective. They design fully optimised IoT products for Agile development, easy testing and troubleshooting, and predictive maintenance.

Mobile app development

Mobiles are the most common interface used to control IoT devices. Our mobile app development team applies robust mobile development frameworks to craft powerful, engaging, easy to use, secure and adaptive mobile IoT apps.

IoT dashboards

The most important business case for any IoT ecosystem is utilizing the data to gain insights. We at TechAhead develop IoT dashboards that enable configuration, control and monitoring of end-to-end IoT system. The dashboards also provide role-based data visualisation solutions and BI tools to analyze real time data.

IoT Testing

Our product development team follows rigorous QA and testing procedures so that the product released to your customers is its best version.

Final Words

IoT is a set of interconnected devices that exchange data over the network. An IoT system can be established within homes, officers, universities and cities. The evolution of IoT started with the first connected network ARPANET. A coke vending machine at Carnegie Mellon University connected to the university ARPANET in 1982 WAS the first connected device.

When Tim Berners-Lee proposed the framework of world wide web in 1989, the way for internet of things was paved. In 1990 John Romkey connected a toaster to the internet and it could be switched on and off over it. In 1993 the Trojan Room Coffee Pot was built in the University of Cambridge computer laboratory. The images of the pot could be viewed online.

The term IoT was coined by Kevin Ashton, current director of Auto-ID Labs, MIT, in 1999. By 2004 it was part of the general vocabulary. The first IoT conference was held in March 2008 at Zurich. The same year, US National Intelligence Council listed it as one of the six disruptive civil technologies.

In 2011 Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group released a white paper in which it asserted that IoT can be said to be born between 2008 and 2009 when number of things connected to the internet was more than the number of people connected to it. In 2011 IoT was also included in Gartner Hype cycle for emerging Technologies.

A modern IoT system has three layers — physical layer, edge computing layer and application layer. The physical layer collects data. The edge computing layer processes it and prepares it for transmitting to the cloud servers. Application layer consists of applications that provide useful insights using the data. According to McKinsey, the economic value of IoT is expected to be USD 11.2 trillion by 2025.

Although IoT is being adopted by a variety of industries and businesses, there are multiple challenges in its adoption. Data is the key driver of any IoT system. Collecting only the required data is essential so that the business is not swamped by too much data. And then the data collected must be stored and transmitted in a secure way so that neither the users nor the IoT devices are compromised.

Many governments have woken up to the realization that IoT is fast becoming a part of every civilian’s everyday existence. Across the globe security regulations are being drafted so that data privacy and security can be ensured.

The rapid growth of IoT has been supported by advancement in three Technologies — Cloud Computing, big data and artificial intelligence. The future of IoT seems promising. 5G is set to disrupt IoT in a big way by providing high speed transmission capabilities to existing as well as new IoT networks.

Amid rising security concerns, businesses will incorporate data privacy and security approach right from the design phase and implement it at multiple levels through the IoT architecture layers. In the coming decade, as more and more data are generated by the IoT systems, product companies would shift towards a services ecosystem. The team of IoT experts at TechAhead is adept at providing end-to-end development solutions like IoT consultancy, IoT product design, mobile app development, IoT dashboards and IoT testing.

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