The following email recently arrived from one of our readers.
Some of my colleagues say there is no Internet of Things. Or big data. Or Santa’s workshop.
Please tell me the truth; are these things real?
—Virginia from IT
The following is our response.
Virginia, your coworkers are misinformed. The Internet of Things is real. Big data is real, too. And Santa’s workshop? Well, more on that later.
The Internet of Things is a complex network of physical objects that are embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and remote connectivity. The IoT enables these objects to collect and exchange data.
Think about your favorite electronic toys. Many of them include little devices called sensors. Sensors collect data from the toys you interact and have fun with. The thermostat in your home that you adjust from your smartphone is one of those IoT toys. The IoT is comprised of all of these sensors in all of the gadgets, devices, and machines that we rely on that connect to the Internet. But collecting all of that data is just the beginning.
Once gathered, the data must be leveraged so that people like you can benefit from it—so lots of people can benefit from it. The IoT is the infrastructure that creates an infinite number of opportunities to integrate things with sensors and make our lives better. That’s not just a powerful concept, Virginia, it’s real!
What about big data? Big data refers to data sets that are so large and complex that traditional data processing applications are inadequate. Virginia, you might be asking yourself, “What does all of this mean?” These days it’s relatively easy to create data and more data until it becomes BIG DATA! There are many more toys, gadgets, desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, servers, and all sorts of devices that create data than ever before. It’s almost incomprehensible! For that data to be useful and valuable, there needs to be ways to capture and analyze it, and search for and share it. And because it is so valuable, there also needs to be ways to back it up and store it so it’s protected. Those are some big challenges.
Virginia, there are many ways people download, access, store, forward, and analyze the data that’s important to them. In fact, millions—even billions!—of people all over the world are downloading, accessing, storing, forwarding, and analyzing data every second, every minute, and every hour of the day—everyday! All of this data makes the world go around!
There’s more! Something called the cloud is a very important part of all of this. The cloud is one destination for storing the big data and allowing that data to be accessed. And cloud-based apps allow us to leverage that data. In fact, without those cloud-based apps analyzing and interpreting the data, the IoT can’t function the way it does.
Yes, Virginia, the Internet of Things is real. And so is big data. Santa’s workshop? Well, we’ll leave that up to you. But if there is a Santa’s workshop, just imagine how challenging it would be to keep track of all of those toys being created. Fortunately, the cloud is a great place to store and protect all of that data. Remember this: Just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it’s not real. You could tear apart your thermostat and find the sensor, but you wouldn’t be able to see the associated data or the IoT or the cloud that stores the data. But they’re still real.
One more bit of advice, Virginia: When someone tells you something isn’t real, just look up into the clouds and dream. But don’t just simply dream. Dream big! Real BIG! Anything is possible. Your dream, Virginia, could very well turn into something that makes life better or safer for people all over the world. The possibilities are big and they’re endless!
Thanks for the email, Virginia. Happy holidays!