LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS - stock.adobe
IT pros can trace the inspiration behind IoT to well before it was mentioned by Kevin Ashton -- the person who allegedly coined the term IoT -- at a presentation in 1999.
The first real-time embedded digital computer, the Apollo Guidance Computer, was limited in its capabilities, but it pushed the development from room-size machines toward the miniscule sensors available today. Apollo engineers had to reduce the computers of the day to fit in the limited space of a space shuttle. The success of the Apollo missions led to the incorporation of smaller computers into commercial and military aircraft and commercial use in science and financial services. The computers also increased the performance capabilities of satellites.
Digital technology continued to grow faster and smaller, transitioning from the space program to the commercial market and eventually leading to the development of PCs, cell phones and then smartphones. At the same time, sensors adopted digital technology to improve functionality and manufacturers could make devices smaller, easier to power and cheaper. The latter was the driving force for expanding the uses of IoT. These changes meant sensor technology could be applied not just to space programs, but also to military sensors for combat purposes and medical field applications.
Movies such as Fantastic Voyage had entire vehicles and crew shrunk down to the size of a blood clot, but reality saw applications develop where miniaturized medical sensors were inserted into patients to expand arteries, deliver medication and capture data on patient state.
The next uses of IoT will be in wearables. Many people have become comfortable wearing activity monitors. The next jump in IoT development will be even bigger than the steps it took to get to pulse rate and EKG sensors. The expanded uses of IoT in healthcare will decrease patients' hospital stays because providers can monitor patients at home. People will also deploy sensors in factories and schools to monitor internal conditions and safety and to respond to natural emergencies, such as earthquakes and hurricanes.