SimulTrans Localization Blog: SimulTips

What is the Internet of Things?

[fa icon="calendar"] August 3, 2016 / by Ciara O'Hanrahan

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Image: Tumitu Design

A Little History

The term “Internet of Things” (IoT) is said to have been coined by Kevin Ashton, a director of the Auto-ID Program, during a presentation about RFID technology in the late 90s. However, the development of technologies for sensors, devices, data processing, and internet communication has a vast history, all of which has played a part in the creation of the IoT.

Many different companies are now driving the development of the Internet of Things to new levels. For instance, IBM offers Watson IoT, which they describe as “IoT in the cognitive era.”

In other words, they are increasingly developing tech that can think for itself. Sensors can be attached to things like industrial equipment, buildings, and livestock to allow communication, analyses, and decision-making with minimal human input.


Four Things to Know About IoT

  • 1. What exactly is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things combines the power of machine-to-machine communication, a variety of sensors, and cloud computing to gather and utilize data.

At a very high-level, IoT means anything that is connected. The ‘things’ can refer to everything from a fridge to lorry tyres to a wearable device on your wrist.

Sounds simple enough, but the reality is that the Internet of Things has the potential to dramatically change the way humans live, work, and conduct business, including our own localization industry.

As the development of IoT devices, apps, and services continues to gain momentum, opportunities to sell to a global client base are growing. All these products and associated services will need no doubt localization.

For instance, Under Armour, a leading IoT sports apparel manufacturer, does the majority of business in the U.S. but has noted growth in international revenue 70% year-on-year. The company is pursuing fitness technology and earlier this month at the Consumer Electronics Show they unveiled their first connected fitness system, retailing for $400. Their platforms include MyFitnessPal, Endomondo and MapMyFitness and according to 2015 company reports they ended the year with almost 160 million unique users. These products will no doubt  need localization.


  • 2. How Does the Internet of Things Work?

The Internet of Things relies on several key components to function. The main idea behind IoT is to allow different machines and 'dumb' objects to communicate with each other in order to function efficiently.

This includes practically any machine or objects you can think of: a computer, a smart phone, a Fitbit, a television, a refrigerator, a car, etc. As the technology develops, this list of connectable 'devices' could potentially expand to include things like bridges, roadways, jet engines, stop lights, and even plants and animals.

How do plants become machines? The answer is, through the use of sensors.


  • 3. What are Sensors?

Sensors, including Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), and Near Field Communication (NFC), are used to collect data and information, which is then communicated to a computer or other “smart” device.

By adding sensors, agricultural crops could potentially communicate with a computer that controls irrigation or the application of fertilizer. Communication between sensors and devices is accomplished over the internet through cloud computing. Although this may sound complicated, the function of IoT in your daily life is meant to be simple.

For instance, if you have a watch or other wearable device that monitors your vital statistics and communicates them to your mobile phone, you are utilizing IoT.


  • 4. Privacy and Security 

One major concern is privacy and security for the Internet of Things. Hackers, thieves, and others with bad intentions will certainly try to collect this gold mine of personal information. Issues surrounding the infrastructure, energy resources, and storage needed to accommodate the huge amount of computing-power and data are also paramount.

Electronic waste and planned obsolescence also pose a major problem. Most computers and phones become obsolete very quickly, forcing people to replace them. Disposing of all of humanity's old electronics is no easy feat.

As the saying goes - More money, more problems. Or in this case, more connected devices, more problems! Gartner marks security as one of the Top Ten Internet of Things Technologies for 2017 and 2018.


The Future and Challenges of the Internet of Things

IoT is poised to dramatically change the everyday lives of many people. The way people work, shop, drive, and generally live can be changed by efficient technology that utilizes interconnected devices, sensors, and cloud computing. Despite the challenges posed by IoT technology, there is also great potential for growth.

IBM predicts that by 2020, there will be 212 billion sensors in the world and 30 billion connected devices which utilize them. Gartner estimates that “6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2016, up 30 percent from 2015, and will reach 20.8 billion by 2020. In 2016, 5.5 million new things will get connected every day.”

The Internet of Things is generally applied to inanimate, ‘dumb’ objects but last year the high-tech company, Epicenter, in Sweden offered staff the option to have RFID chips implanted under their skin. Using the chip they could access the building, activate the photocopier and maybe one day also pay for their morning latte in the café. Hence, the possible directions that the IoT industry might take are indeterminable.

As the number of connected devices and sensors grows, the need for competent programmers, engineers, and data analysts will likely grow too. And so will the need for translating the millions of words that the IoT will generate to enable fast communication among multilingual users across devices and platform on the cloud.

So, the translation and localization industry has a big challenge ahead: to enable fast, efficient and accurate translations for end users. For that we will need the very latest technologies.

Want to know what is ahead?


Show me the Future

Topics: International Business Strategy, Translation Services

Ciara O'Hanrahan

Written by Ciara O'Hanrahan

Ciara serves on the Account Management and Digital Marketing teams at SimulTrans. She works with clients in Ireland, France and Benelux from the very beginning of their localization journey to help them achieve their global business goals. As the initial point of contact for clients, she liaises with the internal engineering and project management teams at SimulTrans to make sure each project is a success and that clients get their desired end-result. Ciara holds an Honours Bachelor's degree in French and Italian from Trinity College, Dublin and an MSc in Management from the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School.