The “next big thing” is the Internet of Things, a world of networked devices equipped with sensors and radio-frequency identification aimed at interconnecting all things electronic to make them more intelligent and programmable. About 50 billion machines and devices could be linked by 2020, according to Cisco Systems, a leader in the IoT movement. Such smart devices are already being used, for example, to check soil moisture in vineyards, control the carbon emission of factories, alert drivers to traffic jams, and monitor patients’ blood pressure—all without human intervention. But people will have a major role to play as they generate and use the data coming from these myriad devices.
While the IoT offers plenty of business opportunities, it also, naturally, presents challenges for engineers, who must build ever more complex systems, deal with a lack of standards, and figure out ways to analyze the deluge of data. Societal issues also intrude, such as the need to keep personal information private while regulating who uses it and for what purpose. These and other issues are why the IEEE Future Directions Committee, the organization’s R&D arm, recently launched its IoT initiative.
“IoT offers the possibility for IEEE members and its societies to integrate their knowledge and skills to create value and impact industry,” says IEEE Member Roberto Minerva, chair of the initiative’s working group. “Applications of IoT are wide-ranging; specialists are needed to develop and improve specific technologies while others work with a more general system view. In addition, the interdisciplinary challenges posed by IoT could be a means to creating larger synergies within IEEE, especially in the areas of education, conferences, and publications.” Minerva is head of innovative architectures in the strategy department of Telecom Italia, in Turin, Italy.
“The idea behind the initiative is to develop ‘thought leadership’ in the marketplace,” adds Harold Tepper, senior program manager for IEEE Future Directions, in Piscataway, N.J. “Then, when people want to know more about IoT, they think of IEEE as the place to go for information, whether it’s papers in the IEEE Xplore Digital Library or its videos and conferences.”
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