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How to Benefit From the Internet of Things

RFID lets businesses make smart connections, to automate processes, improve customer loyalty and cut costs with remote monitoring.
By Michael Belfiore
Oct 27, 2014

It's no secret that having the right connections is critical to personal and professional success. Or that many people worldwide are devoted to staying connected with friends, family and coworkers, and, increasingly, with devices in their homes and workplaces. So it's no surprise that the Internet of Things (IoT)—a network that promises to connect everything and everyone everywhere to everything and everyone else—is a hot topic in business circles and the media.

The concept of ubiquitous connectivity—between people, machines or objects via the Internet—is seductive and the hype is growing. While the definition of the Internet of Things is still being debated, many companies claim they offer it and others want to know how to get it.

Illustration: iStockphoto
"The IoT is just the name we have given to what you get after 30 years of convergent evolution in Internet, wireless communi-cations, processors, memory, lightweight communications protocols, machine learning and sensors," says Scot Stelter, VP of RFID and Internet of Things Research at ChainLink Research. "The IoT, like the Internet, makes a huge variety of applications economicallyfeasible and reliable for the first time."

The IoT is not one network, but many. Some of these networks exist today, some are being developed and some are yet to be imagined. Researchers in China, for example, are developing a platform to track and monitor food from farm to retailer, and enable consumers to access information, such as expiration dates (see Improving Food Safety and Quality in China). The city of Nice, France, is creating a "Connected Boulevard" system that will continuously gather data on traffic, parking, street lighting, waste disposal and environmental quality, to enhance services for residents (see The Future Is Now for Smart Cities).

But all IoT applications have a common element: To connect the physical and digital worlds, the person, machine or object must be identified. And that's where radio frequency identification comes in. While RFID will not be the only technology to identify "things" and connect them to the Internet, passive ultrahigh-frequency and Near Field Communication technologies are emerging as the two most likely standards.

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