Advantages and disadvantages of the Internet of Things (IoT)
Internet of Things (IoT) is a technology that transforms the things we are used to into new connected devices. It connects physical devices far from the Internet to the network and gives them new features. In simple terms, all that has a connection to the Internet such as smart home appliances and wearable items is the Internet of Things.
Because of its massive growth, lots of people and businesses have either started connecting devices or enabled their entire existing systems to the IoT. Should you do the same?
Let's look at the advantages and disadvantages of IoT so you can decide for yourself what is right for you.
Time & Money
- Better time management
- Lower operating costs
- Improved business productivity
- Improved business profitability
Security & Safety
Quality of life
Compatibility & Integration
Security & Safety
Once your IoT devices are connected and configured, they will collect information from the physical world and exchange such data with each other on and off the Internet, likely storing a massive amount of them on cloud storage. IoT devices produce data of all types, such as sensory and status information – from the temperature in your home to your heart rate during intense workouts. That data is updated frequently in real-time and in a classified format for easy access later on.
Everyone has instant access to the data their own and public IoT devices create. You can access data and information from anywhere at any time on any Internet connected smart device such as a smartphone or a tablet, so you can stay informed about aspects of your life in real time even if you are far away from your IoT devices actual location. This makes it convenient for you to remotely interact with the physical world without being physically present resulting in life easier to manage at home, at work and on the road.
Having more information helps make better decisions. The more is information, the easier it is to make the right decision. Whether it is a mundane decision as needing to know the soil moisture level of your plants to water or a systemic decision as needing to alert staff of changes in processes or productivity to work out, knowledge is power, and more knowledge is better. IoT devices definitively make you know what is going on about what you care more, helping you make smarter decisions from general decisions to complex decisions.
The IoT devices work rapidly, and data that would have taken a long time to move can now be transferred faster. Data packets are transmitted through the connected network and communicated and shared between IoT devices to make your systems efficient. By translating it into your requirements, you can automate repetitive tasks and engage yourself in some other tasks. For instance, you can control your thermostat from your smartphone saving you a trip to the living room, and you can keep your cat or dog from going hungry with a smart pet feeder if you happen to forget their mealtime. You can do almost all the things from the palm of your hands. Hence accurate results can be obtained fast. Eventually, you end up saving valuable time and effort to invest in more challenging things.
IoT fundamentally proves to be very helpful to people who are in charge of monitoring and maintaining systems. For example, IoT devices can issue proactive alerts about their status, allowing people to schedule maintenance before problems arise. Integrated into larger systems, IoT can significantly improve operational efficiency and reduce costs associated with bottlenecks, breakdowns and system damages. In some cases, IoT can replace humans. You can also achieve optimum utilisation of energy and resources by adopting IoT. For example, you can automate switches lights off in daylight and switches them on during the onset of darkness to ensure no wasted electricity.
When it comes to success for a business, productivity plays a key role. IoT offers just-in-time training for employees, improves labour efficiency, and reduces the mismatch of skills while increasing organisational productivity. For example, in the agriculture field, if you know how to use drones then you will use its results efficiently to increase productivity. And because the IoT allows you to monitor your products and services 24x7, in case of a malfunctioning device, you can take immediate action to rectify the issue accordingly, even before the situation worsens further, therefore saving both money and resources. IoT also enhances the efficiency of machines by making them less prone to errors, therefore increasing the productivity of your business.
As you may be aware, information has become one of the most valuable assets of modern businesses in addition to direct income. IoT represents a new way to create value for customers and stakeholders by helping businesses, for example, to gather and access more actionable data from IoT devices and use advanced analytics to uncover business insights and opportunities. This will help you identify areas of new work, hence new revenue streams. Therefore, the data created by IoT devices is precious to businesses to adjust business models in ways that improve business processes. As a result, perfectly competitive IoT data-driven businesses maximise profits.
Many IoT benefits can not come into play without automation, which is made easier and possible thanks to the so-called machine-to-machine communication. Multiple levels of automation exist with IoT, allowing you to focus on other, more important jobs. If you understand the function of each IoT component then the resources will be utilised in an efficient manner that leads to prosperity. Since automation is precise and repeatable, it leads to uniformity in tasks, quality of service and control of day-to-day tasks without or with minimal human intervention. Through automation, you can even carry out tasks without your input at all. The IoT devices are self-sufficient and capable to communicate with each other leading to faster and timely output while maintaining transparency in the entire process with lesser inefficiencies and greater quality, thus improving efficiency.
The IoT technology is based on complex advanced algorithms created by companies that are very concerned about the security of their systems. Although the huge amounts of data collected through IoT becomes very attractive to hack, these systems are almost unbreakable and hackers cannot access any personal details like credit card numbers as they only get raw data. This means that the user is strongly protected from attacks. However, nothing is perfect.
Because the IoT interconnected system senses any potential danger and warns users, it offers personal protection. For example, an IoT device that identifies a car crash or accident on the road immediately makes a call. Also, think home security cameras, smart carbon monoxide detectors, and Internet-connected fire alarms. This system will do all the dirty work for you.
All IoT applications culminate in increased comfort, convenience, and better management, thereby improving the quality of life. On a personal level, things like having connected devices that inform you are low on milk or printer ink, or that there is a malfunction with your boiler at home, will seem ubiquitous and commonplace in the near future. Aside from helping you move through the day with ease, IoT can also improve the way your communities operate. For example, smart cities offer residents efficient ways to commute while conserving energy and reducing traffic congestion and air pollution, as well as streamlining how city workers perform their duties.
Currently, no international standard of compatibility for the IoT exists. This makes it hard for devices from different manufacturers to communicate with each other, hence making it problematic to integrate multiple devices into one network. The lack of standardisation causes interoperability concern among IoT application developers because each company develops its proprietary solutions, which ultimately makes things difficult for consumers to choose between various options available. Also, each IoT device from a different manufacturer may require a different configuration and hardware connection, making it hard to deploy efficiently. Thus, development time and costs increase. Although this disadvantage may drop off if all the manufacturers agree to a common standard, technical issues with the interconnection of IoT devices may persist even after achieving compatibility. At present, compatibility issues may result in people buying appliances from a specific manufacturer, leading to its monopoly in the market.
The designing, developing, maintaining, and enabling of a large IoT system is quite complicated because it is a diversified network connecting various devices that make complex operations behind the scenes. Although IoT may seem to be managing tasks with ease, any single failure or bug in either the software or hardware can have serious consequences; even power failure can cause a lot of inconveniences. If an IoT device that provides essential data to another interconnected device or workflow stops working suddenly or behaves maliciously, it could negatively affect the entire system. Not to mention that the origin of the flaw may be hard to track down.
Simple to use IoT devices exist, but there is still a learning curve for deploying many of them. It is not always easy or intuitive to set up an IoT-equipped smart space such as a home, a factory or a city. Because some users may need to enlist outside help to get up and running, it makes sense to develop a strategy on how and why to deploy IoT devices before purchasing them in order to make sure they are working as intended and you can support them.
Because the IoT devices are interconnected and communicate over networks, any of it can be the target of various kinds of attacks such as network-based and hardware-based attacks. Although cybersecurity is a high priority for IoT producers, because nothing is perfect, there is a chance that one or more IoT devices can be hacked and information available in the IoT system misused. Issues and questions about security and privacy remain, especially when a massive amount of data is exchanged and IoT devices are being used in more sensitive industries such as healthcare and finance. Think of the information generated by all the household appliances, industrial machinery, medical equipment like heart rate monitors and oxygen pumps, public sector services like water supply and transport, and many other devices that are connected to the Internet. That is an attractive environment for attackers and hackers. In a worst-case scenario, IoT could be used to control populations instead of help them.
Aside from IoT devices such as surveillance cameras, door locks, smart safes, fire alarm systems and access control systems that are used to secure a location or prevent a hazard, there are IoT devices such as smart kitchens and boilers, water treatment equipment, traffic lights controllers, medical machines and smart cars that, if they fail, may be hurting and potentially kill people. For example, if an IoT system ensuring the structural integrity of a major bridge fails, people die. As companies race to fill the highly competitive IoT market space, they tend to ignore some of the security failings implicit in IoT technologies. The major cause of these issues is the rapid growth of IoT without laws in place. Considering the importance of the role the safety-critical IoT devices play, it should be paramount to make sure that they can't enter the market unless their cybersecurity status is satisfactory. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
As IoT brings in more consistent automation, unskilled workers and helpers or even the skilled ones may end up losing their jobs. With monotonous and unsafe daily activities getting automated, it is quite obvious that the need for human labour will reduce drastically, thus prompting the unemployability of workers in society. Humans who would earlier do their works will be replaced by smart surveillance cameras, robots, smart ironing systems, smart washing machines, and other facilities. However, as in the past, technological change remains uncertain and open to reform. Mastering new ways of working with optimum education and skill training will increase or stable the chances of a person's employability.
Deployment of an IoT system often comes with high time and money investment requirements. IoT devices must be purchased, installed by staff, integrated into the network and configured eventually with support calls to the manufacturer for help. For a small IoT system going into a single location, businesses can quickly afford that investment. However, the cost rises exponentially when businesses expand their IoT system to a large fleet of IoT devices. In such a larger case, the top priority of any project that takes advantage of the IoT should be planning the deployment budget and strategy before purchasing. This will make sure the IoT devices will be useful to the business, be working as intended and that the business can maintain them.
IoT is basically a network of electronic devices connected to the Internet. Hence, continuous power supply and Internet connectivity are required to function properly. Relying on IoT devices may create trouble in case of a non-working or crash of an IoT infrastructure. A problematic Wi-Fi network could bring down your smart home, disabling your thermostats, fire alarms, and other critical hardware. Businesses must understand how outages will affect their devices to plan proactively for outages.
We are witnessing a major shift in technology and its implementation in everyday lives. Our business and private lives are becoming more and more dependent on technology. This is affecting basic human interaction social skills. IoT is not going to help that. Unlike other technologies, IoT causes people to become lethargic and inactive because they rely on smart devices instead of doing physical work. This dependency becomes even more in daily routines. Be it young children, adults, or even old men, people are finding that they have less choice about adopting IoT and what that lifestyle means. They have to decide how much of their daily lives are they willing to mechanise and be controlled by IoT.
IoT has the potential to shift the way humans interact with the world around them. Just like any other technology, IoT too has its set of advantages and disadvantages. IoT impacts both personal lives and businesses saving them time and money, improving quality of lives and easing processes, but there is also the potential to lose those as well.
Technological advancement is inevitable. We need to benefit from IoT devices and ensure that we are well-informed to leverage the IoT power while not letting it control us.
IoT is progress.
About the author
The Internet of Things (IoT) has been defined in a number of different ways in technical literature and popular media. Each definition reflects a different perspective and supports a different interest. While there is no universal definition of the IoT, these different definitions highlights IoT's common traits and can help illuminate its strenghts and weaknesses while giving us a good sense of the tremendous impact IoT has on our life.