One way of understanding why the Internet of Things (and 5G) is important is to view it as the next generation of computing, the long-predicted “era of pervasive computing.” The other insight is that pervasive computing is not built primarily on direct use by humans, but embedded sensors and processing in all manner of devices, surfaces, places and things.
Still, one important as aspect of the Internet of Things (IoT) is that it is “not about things.” IoT does include “things” (devices). But it includes real estate and fixtures (roads and buildings containing sensors), plus intangibles (software and data), plus a range of services (transmission, development, access contracts) that will feature both scale and scope, according to the Section of Science & Technology Law of the American Bar Association.
IoT, for example, might represent 250 billion connected sensors on consumer appliances, or 50 billion North American sensors for highway control devices, says the group.
In other words, IoT represents an example of computing at huge scale. “IoT technology is finding its way into almost every portion of our daily lives and our nation’s economy: smart cities; connected cars; connected homes; remote telematics for almost anything with an engine; fleet management; cargo tracking; personal wearable devices for health and fitness and for medical uses; and drones, just to name a few,” says AT&T.
AT&T is looking for new roles in a variety of “industry verticals,” including smart cities. In early 2016 AT&T announced the establishment of its smart cities framework, aiming to solve problems such as high energy costs, transportation, aging infrastructure and public safety.
Pilot projects are using devices to monitor water quality in rivers; listen for and locate leaks in municipal water supplies; listen for, locate and identify the number and caliber of gunshots; and control street and traffic lights.
The connected car opportunity is important because “mobility” (transportation) requires “mobile communications.”
AT&T already connects more than seven million cars in the United States and Europe and has relationships with 19 car brands. AT&T expects that more than 10 million cars will be connected to its network by the end of 2017.
Likewise, other transportation use cases are important. AT&T is working with Maersk to track and monitor the condition of over 280,000 refrigerated shipping containers with perishable goods around the world.
AT&T CargoView with FlightSafe helps customers monitor shipments across road, rail, sea, and air.
AT&T also is looking at 4G LTE connectivity to control unmanned aerial systems beyond line of sight.
Aircraft video streaming, or transmitting diagnostic, telematics and flight information, are related potential use cases.
Connected homes also are arenas for IoT to support energy efficiency, security and convenience, AT&T says. The Digital Life platform connects security and automation devices to customers’ homes.
U.K. carrier O2 has announced plans to offer AT&T’s Digital Life Services under its own brand in Europe.
Nearly five million active fleet management systems were in service in North America in 2014, and AT&T connects 1.9 million of these systems.
Health and fitness wearables and remote patient monitoring provide examples of monitors and sensors used to support human health.