It could hardly be doubted that the rapid development of communication technologies in the recent decade has brought about numerous changes in the sphere of telecommunication. From a broader perspective, the way in which people perceive information nowadays has also drastically changed. It is possible to notice that one of the most important trends in contemporary telecommunications is the emergence and development of the Internet of Things (IoT) (Amadeo et al., 2016).
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In general, the IoT represents a holistic network of various devices and communication technologies that should create a new informational environment (Amadeo et al., 2016). A very broad and simplistic definition of the IoT is provided by Perera, Zaslavsky, Christen, and Georgakopoulos (2014): “IoT allows people and things to be connected anytime, anyplace, with anything and anyone, ideally using any path/network and any service” (p. 81). It is worth mentioning that numerous scholars, scientists, and researchers in the area of telecommunication focus their attention significantly on issues related to the phenomenon of the Internet of Things.
It is evident that, on the one hand, there are many positive aspects of developing a more comprehensive and diversified IoT, such as the increased availability of the information and creation of a more comprehensive informational environment, which would enhance the overall progress of technology (Amadeo et al., 2016). Nevertheless, the development of the networks related to the Internet of Things poses considerable challenges, both in terms of technology advancements and privacy issues. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to give a detailed and critical analysis of the Internet of Things as the current trend in telecommunications, elaborating on such topics as technological aspects of the selected phenomenon, future trends, companies and corporations involved, regulatory issues surrounding the selected phenomenon as well as global implications of the development of the IoT. A comprehensive conclusion will derive from the conducted analysis.
Detailed Description of the Area Researched
To put further reasoning in the proper context, it is critical to provide a detailed description of the area researched. Therefore, this section will focus on the discussion of the essential aspects and characteristics of the Internet of Things as one of the most important trends in contemporary telecommunications. For the purposes of this paper, a considerably large sample of academic works related to the subject matter is gathered. The wide variety of both theoretical and practical scholarly research on the topic indicates that the researched area is highly important for contemporary science.
First of all, it is appropriate to provide basic definitions of the IoT. As it is stated in the profound and comprehensive overview of the phenomenon of interest by Rose, Eldridge, and Chapin (2015), the Internet of Things is referred to as “scenarios where network connectivity and computing capability extends to objects, sensors and everyday items not normally considered computers,” which allows these devices to “generate, exchange and consume data with minimal human intervention” (p. 1). Another definition is formulated in the study by Gubbi, Buyya, Marusic, and Palaniswami (2013): the IoT is the “interconnection of sensing and actuating devices providing the ability to share information across platforms through a unified framework” (p. 1649). One of the most important aspects of this definition is that it connects the phenomenon of the IoT with the concept of the smart environment, which is another ongoing trend in the sphere of technology development that will be discussed later in detail.
A less specific yet very substantive definition is formulated in the article by Sicari, Rizzardi, Grieco, and Coen-Porisini (2015). The authors refer to the IoT as “heterogeneous technologies, which concur to the provisioning of innovative services in various application domains” (p. 146). Based on three examples of how the Internet of Things is perceived by contemporary scholars, it is possible to develop a preliminary conclusion about the concept of the IoT as a whole. Despite the fact that the authors cited in this section have different perspectives on the nature of the subject matter, one can trace several fundamental points, which are shared in each particular characterization. Arguably, the two most important aspects are (1) the idea of advanced, comprehensive technologies that are connected in the form of (2) heterogeneous networks. The extent to which the notion of the Internet of Things is applicable is debated; however, the most fundamental aspect of the phenomenon under discussion is determined.
Further, it is of high importance to dwell upon more particular technical aspects of how the IoT functions. The study by Gubbi et al. (2013), which is largely focused on the investigation of the IoT architecture, argues that there are three principal elements that enable the existence and proper functioning of the IoT. The first element is hardware, which is responsible for the generation of initial informational sets. Hardware includes “sensors, actuators, and embedded communication hardware” (Gubbi et al., 2013, p. 1650). The second level of the IoT architecture is middleware, which is responsible for storing and processing the gathered data (Gubbi et al., 2013, p. 1650). On this level, the data generated by hardware devices is stored, exchanged between devices, and analyzed by other devices. Thirdly, Gubbi et al. (2013) argue that the final element of the IoT structure is the presentation level, which includes tools for visualization and interpretation that could be easily accessed on different platforms, and they also could be designed for different applications. On each of the mentioned levels, there are different technological standards, protocols, and device types that could be used for different purposes.
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Another classification of the elements, which constitute the structure of the Internet of Things, is developed by Al-Fuqaha, Guizani, Mohammadi, Aledhari, and Ayyash (2015). The authors present the most detailed, elaborated, and comprehensive description of the functional levels of the IoT system. According to their classification, the IoT comprises the following building blocks: identification, sensing, communication, computation (which includes hardware and software sub-levels), service, and semantics (Al-Fuqaha et al., 2015). The purpose of the identification levels is to provide titles and connections between services (Al-Fuqaha et al., 2015). The sensing block includes the services for gathering data from related smart objects in the network (Al-Fuqaha et al., 2015).
On the communication level, the connection between different smart devices is implemented by the use of such technologies as WiFi, Bluetooth, IEEE 802.15.4, Z-wave, and LTE-Advanced (Al-Fuqaha et al., 2015). The computation is the most crucial aspect of the IoT since it processes the gathered and communicated data. The services level relates to different IoT-type networks, serving various purposes, such as building automation systems, Intelligent transportation systems, and transportation cyber-physical systems (Al-Fuqaha et al., 2015). Finally, the semantics building block refers to the methods of extracting the overall gathered knowledge for its further use by people (Al-Fuqaha et al., 2015).
It is also appropriate to mention another perspective on the IoT’s structure that is developed by Rose et al. (2015). This taxonomy employs definitions that are different from the terminology used by Gubbi et al. (2013), and it represents a broader view of the phenomenon of the Internet of Things. Rose et al. (2015) argue that there are different models that explain the communication between smart devices, and these models could be broadly categorized into three groups: device-to-device, device-to-cloud, and device-to-gateway models. It is evident that this taxonomy resembles the one that is proposed by Gubbi et al. (2013). However, it is possible to describe the categorization by Rose et al. (2015) as more comprehensive and inclusive because the authors consider different types of mentioned models as independent approaches to operating the Internet of Things.
Additionally, they mention the back-end data-sharing model, which is defined as “a communication architecture” that allows users to export and analyzing smart object data from cloud services in combination with data from other sources (Rose et al., 2015, p. 16). In general, the provisions of this section could be summarized the following way: the Internet of Things is a significantly complicated method of merging technologies and information into comprehensive networks that could facilitate the way in which people perceive information.
Technology Involved in the Area
Despite the fact the previous section provided an elaborated description of the phenomenon of the Internet of Things by providing different definitions from the academic literature, it is essential to focus on more specific technical aspects of the researched area. The general understanding of the IoT structure makes it possible to discuss particular aspects of different IoT technologies on each of the mentioned levels of the IoT architecture.
One of the most efficient and widely used technologies in the Internet of Things is the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology (Gubbi et al., 2013). This technological approach is based on the use of microchips for wireless data communication (Gubbi et al., 2013). RFID is widely used in retail and supply chain management because it allows using “the power of the reader’s interrogation signal to communicate the ID to the RFID reader” (Gubbi et al., 2013, p. 1650). Another largely developed IoT technology is Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN) (Gubbi et al., 2013). WSN makes it possible to create efficient, low-cost, low power miniature devices that can gather, process, and communicate large amounts of information in different environments (Gubbi et al., 2013). According to the authors of the article, the WSN monitoring network includes four principal components: WSN hardware, WSN communication stack, middleware, and secure data aggregation (Gubbi et al., 2013). RFID and WSN are the most developed and widely used technologies in the sphere of the Internet of Things.
Another highly important aspect to discuss is the existing protocols of data communication within IoT networks. Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP) is the first protocol mentioned in the article by Al-Fuqaha et al. (2015). It enables such features as resource observation, block-wise resource transport, resource discovery, interacting with HTTP, and security (Al-Fuqaha et al., 2015). Secondly, there is the Message Queue Telemetry Transport (MQTT) protocol, which considerably simple in comparison with other IoT protocols since it consists of three principal components: subscriber, publisher, and broker (Al-Fuqaha et al., 2015). Thirdly, there is the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP), which is one of the most relevant and promising approaches to communicating data in the context of the Internet of Things (Al-Fuqaha et al., 2015).
Future Trends in the Area
As it was identified previously, the sphere of the Internet of Things, which is one of the most important trends in contemporary telecommunications, is developing at a significantly high pace. Therefore, it is apparent that there are numerous ongoing trends within this sphere, which have the potential for further improvement of the IoT’s efficiency and integrity. First of all, since one of the most important aspects of the IoT is its network-based nature, it is evident that the development of 5G as the latest communication technology is highly important in the context of the IoT (Palattella et al., 2016). One of the most beneficial aspects of the 5G technology is that it enables significantly faster communication of information as well as improved device cost and battery lifetime (Palattella et al., 2016). Overall, the broader inclusion of 5G technologies in the IoT architecture will facilitate the development of the IoT in general.
Further, it is essential to mention such trends as the integration of cloud computing and the Internet of Things. As it was mentioned previously, the connection between the IoT and cloud services is evident, and it could be stated with certainty that these technologies will continue to influence each other. The article by Botta, De Donato, Persico, and Pescapé (2016) provides a comprehensive analysis of the future perspective of integrating cloud computing and the IoT. Botta et al. (2016) argue that the primary advantage of such integration is that the IoT can benefit from “the virtually unlimited capabilities and resources of Cloud,” which allows compensating its technological disadvantages, such as storage, processing, and communication (p. 687). Despite that there are various challenges in particular areas of the integration process, the overall trend appears to be highly beneficial for the development of future Internet and Internet-related networks.
Another distinct and very large trend in the sphere of integrating the Internet of Things in contemporary life is the concept of a smart home (Stojkoska & Trivodaliev, 2017). In general, the term smart home, being part of the smart grid paradigm, is referred to the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in “home control, ranging from controlling appliances to automation of home features (windows, lighting, etc.)” (Stojkoska & Trivodaliev, 2017, p. 1454). Perera et al. (2014) also provide a general definition of the concept of smart cities, which have six elements: smart economy, people, governance, mobility, environment, and living. The use of the IoT for the facilitation of the human living environment is one of the most practical and significant aspects of IoT development. Stojkoska and Trivodaliev (2017) argue that the need for IoT solutions for modern households in the near future is inevitable since smart homes will be self-sufficient on energy, and they will integrate all devices in the house into a holistic system.
Example Companies Involved in the Area
In order to diversify the discussion of the Internet of Things, it is essential to mention several companies that operate in the researched area. As it is mentioned by Al-Fuqaha et al. (2015), companies like Wemo, revolve, and SmartThings offer smart hubs and mobile applications that allow people to monitor and control smart devices. Rose et al. (2015) mention Cisco since it projects more than 24 billion Internet-connected objects by 2019. Also, Huawei is planning to provide 100 billion IoT connections by 2025 (Rose et al., 2015).
Botta et al. (2016) state that large multinational companies such as Amazon, Google, and Facebook efficiently use the integration of cloud computing and IoT technologies in order to gain economic and technical benefits from delivering online services. Additionally, it is appropriate to mention that Rose et al. (2015) consider Industrial IoT, which refers to the companies that use IoT technologies in manufacturing, to be a distinct trend, and the study by Palatella et al. (2016) mentions Worldsensing as one of leading companies in this sphere.
Regulatory Issues Surrounding the Area
It is also of high significance to mention that there are regulatory issues in the researched area, which are considered important in the context of this assignment. It is possible to state that the vast majority of regulatory issues related to the Internet of Things constitute privacy and security considerations. The article by Porambage et al. (2016) focuses on this problem. Also, the study by Sicari et al. (2015) should be mentioned. The fundamental factor that influences the development of privacy issues in the mentioned sphere is that IoT networks operate large amounts of information without the user’s consent. Therefore, “a small leakage of information could severely damage user privacy” due to “application interdependency and data sensitivity” (Porambage et al., 2016, p. 36). Sicari et al. (2015) mention that traditional approaches to security cannot be directly applied to IoT technologies because there are different standards in communication. Thus, the need for the development of new legal regulations integrated with the understanding of the IoT architecture is evident.
Global Implications for the Area
As it is apparent in the context of the information provided in the previous section, the global impact of the IoT technologies development could hardly be denied. In general, future integration of devices into larger networks will inevitably result in the creation of country and global-wide IoT networks. As it is stated by Rose et al. (2015), global opportunities for further improvement of the Internet of Things for the development of a more advanced society are significantly potential. One of the most perspective aspects of the social and economic life’s facilitation of the contemporary society is the implementation of the smart home concept, discussed by Stojkoska and Trivodaliev (2017). However, the mentioned factor of privacy in the era of the IoT poses global challenges as well because the future extension of IoT networks would result in greater risk not only for individual privacy but also for national and international privacy.
In conclusion, it is essential to state that the conducted research on the phenomenon of the Internet of Things exemplifies it as one of the most important and integrated aspects of contemporary telecommunications. The benefits, which are provided by the implementation of IoT networks in various spheres of life, are significantly beneficial, and they can positively affect the current quality of life. Nevertheless, there are technological and regulatory challenges and issues that are to be considered in the future. Overall, it should be concluded that the Internet of Things is a highly important and integral part of contemporary life as a whole.
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