It's no secret that the Internet of Things (IoT) has revolutionised business and society as we know it. Since its conception twenty years ago, IoT has transcended from a utopian concept to the current digitalisation process of our infrastructure systems such as buildings and bridges, resources such as water and food, and ultimately everything in-between.

Over the years, IoT has converged IT and OT to enable us connect “things” to the internet. And, it is projected that the number of IoT-connected devices worldwide will jump from 13.8 billion in 2021 to 30.9 billion by 2025. However, what we’re experiencing today is not so much “connectivity” but “connectedness.” So, in this article, we discuss how IoT has gone beyond connectivity to connectedness.

In this article, you'll learn:

  • The difference between connectivity and connectedness
  • The role of IoT in achieving connectedness
  • How our new connectedness is changing the world as we know it
  • Smart cities and other examples of connected things
  • The need for an IoT platform to connect and manage things and applications
  • The benefits of being connected
  • The future of connectedness

Connectivity vs. connectedness

Although closely related, connectivity and connectedness differ slightly. Connectivity is an important initial step toward connectedness, but it is not the same thing. The world has been connected for a long time now — it's just that we weren't thinking about it that way. We've been connecting with each other, exchanging information, and finding things out via phone calls, letters, email and, more recently, social media.

Connectivity is about things being connected for the sake of being connected. A smart machine with sensors and automation features has connectivity capabilities (i.e., the ability to connect things), but it doesn't have a purpose. On the other hand, connectedness is about connecting things for a reason – using the data shared by smart machines to gain insights into problems or opportunities and take action. Hence, connectivity is meaningless without connectedness.

Also, connectivity is what links or integrates devices with each other, with people, or with other information sources to gain access to data. Connectedness, however, is what makes sense of all the data generated by IoT devices so they can actually be used in meaningful ways. It's about having access to raw data, as well as real-time analytics that transforms the data into information that can be used for monitoring, analysing, and managing operations.

The role of IoT in achieving connectedness

The internet of things (IoT) is changing the essence of what it means to be connected. IoT is now the most significant driver pushing us towards a new era in which everything we interact with and depend on is connected, generating and processing data — an era termed 'the 4th industrial revolution', or 'Industry 4.0'.

At its core, the IoT is about connecting devices in such a way as to enable them to communicate with each other and with us on their own — creating a degree of connectedness that was previously impossible or impractical. For businesses, the ability to connect countless devices means an explosion in data points — which can be used to create an unprecedented level of visibility into business activities, allowing enterprises to make smarter decisions faster. This opens up a new range of possibilities for businesses and consumers alike.

IoT connects things by enabling them to communicate with each other via the internet without human intervention. It facilitates the transfer of data between information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) in physical devices. But how exactly does this connection occur?

IoT systems have connectivity capability, which enables smart devices to connect with the internet and with other smart devices. However, IoT is much more than a system that connects things together. IoT also fosters connectedness. Making it possible to collect and analyse data from devices and control them remotely, IoT enables us to stay connected and automatically carry out tasks that improve our daily lives.

IoT connects things in three main steps:

  • Step 1: Smart IoT devices embedded with sensors, trackers, and other components collect or record data.
  • Step 2: The data is sent using connectivity protocols over the internet to a cloud-based IoT platform or application.
  • Step 3: The data is analysed by software on the IoT platform to produce results that may be used to send instructions back to the IoT device or another device (or for humans to take action).

Let's take a look at an example of how these steps work. With smart lighting, sensors embedded in smart devices detect the availability or lack of natural light and relay the data to the IoT platform. The platform processes this data and sends a command to the streetlamps to turn on/off or adjust the lighting intensity.

How our new connectedness is changing the world as we know it

Connectedness is disrupting every industry at blinding speed. IoT connectedness improves our way of life, from the housing and transportation industry to the agricultural and health industries.

The vast amount of data collected with IoT-connected devices are being used to carry out tasks efficiently, reduce waste of resources, secure lives and properties, and more. Home appliances can turn on/off themselves, law enforcement can be auto alerted, and even cars can drive themselves.

Furthermore, the combination of IoT and big data analytics unlock insights that will lead to better decision-making and higher profitability. For instance, smart traffic devices can be used to predict traffic patterns, and smart metres can record electricity consumption data to auto-bill consumers.

Smart cities as an example of connected things

Smart cities are the ultimate example of connected things that impacts everyone. Smart cities leverage IoT connectedness to carry out tasks more efficiently and safely to improve residents' well-being. Here are some examples of connected things in smart cities.

Smart Waste Management

IoT connectedness help optimise the waste collection process with smart waste bins. Smart waste bins are equipped with IoT sensors connected to IoT platforms accessed by the city's waste disposal agency.

The smart waste bins send data on how much trash is in the bin to the IoT platform. And the data is analysed to determine the right time to collect waste for disposal so that waste bins don't overflow and litter the city.

Imagine you're a city mayor or municipal leader, and your residents have been complaining of pests due to overflowing waste. By simply upgrading the waste bins with sensors that signal an IoT platform when it needs emptying, you can prevent waste litter and control pest infestation.

Smart Parking

How long does it take you to park your vehicle when visiting the mall? How often do you have to drive around the business district before finding a place to park your vehicle? With smart parking, it would take you less time to park your car.

Smart parking utilises IoT to connect smart vehicles to parking spaces to help residents find available parking spaces easily. Sensors in parking lots determine if a parking space is vacant and sends the data in real-time to an IoT application, which informs the smart vehicle of the exact location of an available parking space.

This connectedness saves the time of residents in busy parking areas. It also helps the city reduce traffic jams caused by cars driving around looking for a vacant parking space or indiscriminate parking by the curb.

Smart Lighting

With smart lighting, smart cities can optimise how streetlights work at night to manage electricity consumption and reduce strain on the power grid. IoT sensors are installed on the streets to detect when vehicles or people approach. Then, it sends the data to the IoT application, which processes the data and signals the streetlamp to turn on and off after the vehicle passes.

Smart Metres

Smart metres, including electricity, water, and gas metres, are installed in buildings to help reduce utility costs. These smart metres record utility consumptions and send them to IoT platforms where it's analysed and the information shared with residents and utility companies.

This allows residents to see what they are using and how much it's costing them. It also enables utility companies to bill residents more accurately. Furthermore, smart metres can be connected to other smart devices to automate certain tasks. For instance, they can turn off the water supply when a leak is detected or turn down the heat in an office complex during off-hours.

Other examples of connected things

Besides Smart Cities, IoT connectedness is being used to connect things in several other industries, from health to agriculture. Here are some examples:

  • Smartwatches track and record information such as steps, sleep duration and pulse rate and sends it to a platform where it's analysed to provide information on the wearer's state of health.
  • Smart irrigation systems use soil sensors that monitor moisture levels connected to an IoT platform to determine when to turn on/off the irrigation machine.
  • Smart cars utilise IoT connectedness to turn on cars remotely, avoid collisions with other cars, and conduct diagnostic tests.

The need for an IoT platform to connect and manage things and applications

IoT platforms are at the heart of IoT connectedness. They are the operations centre (or command-and-control centre) that makes connecting and managing things and applications possible. Without them, devices will be unable to communicate, let alone carry out instructions.

IoT platforms are essentially the communication portal that facilitates the interaction between "things." They connect with IoT devices to collect data, utilise data analysis applications to process the data into actionable information, and then issue commands back to the device or other connected device.

However, IoT platforms differ in their capabilities. Some platforms can only connect to select devices, while others operate via a particular communication protocol. Our own Cervello THINGS IoT platform (a low-code, vendor-agnostic platform) enables you to connect anything and everything, regardless of the communication method or connectivity protocol. We also have a solution called Cervello Cities that allows you to connect multiple applications across entire smart cities and smart spaces.

The benefits of being connected

IoT connectedness offers numerous benefits, some of which we've outlined below.

1. Faster digital transformation

Being connected enables the transformation of digital devices into smarter things that can carry out tasks more efficiently. For instance, digital watches have been transformed into smart devices that can send medical emergency alerts when a change in health status is detected.

2. Automation of tasks

IoT connectedness allows the automation of numerous tasks, which increases efficiency. For instance, the ability of smart electricity metres to automatically send electricity consumption readings to power companies makes the billing process more efficient, saving time and money.

3. The availability of more data

With IoT connectedness enabling the transmission of data from all kinds of devices to IoT platforms where they can be analysed, cities (and even individuals) can have enough information to make better decisions.

4. Smarter, more sustainable world

The ability of IoT to connect devices results in smarter systems and processes that contribute to a more sustainable world. For instance, IoT connectedness in the energy industry helps optimise energy flows and reduce toxic emissions.

What next: the future of connectedness

As the world moves towards a smart, sustainable future, the demand for connectedness will continue to grow. Smart cities, smart metering applications, and other smart solutions will be needed to realise this future.

Furthermore, rapid advancements in technologies such as AI, machine learning, and 5G networks will improve IoT connectedness. For instance, the development of 5G networks will mean a faster internet connection that will enable connected devices to send data and receive commands quickly.

So, while there are so many ways IoT is fostering connectedness in today's world, it is only the tip of the iceberg. The possibilities of how IoT can improve the way we live by connecting people and devices are endless. Hence, now is the time to get into the future of connectedness powered by IoT.

Are you interested in how you can leverage IoT to connect and manage your devices, systems, and applications today? Connect with one of our IoT experts to discuss how we can help you.