Internet of Things (IOT), is a new buzzword works beyond Internet of communications, which we already are quite familiar with. It is a giant leap forward for the Internet, making it possible to connect objects and transfer data with or without human intervention. Connecting any object may include everything from cell phones, coffee makers, cars, washing machines, air conditioners, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else one can think of. The objects, using sensors and having networking capabilities would be able to communicate with each other, access Internet services and interact with the people. The objects in IOT sometime even may include persons or animals. For example heart monitor implant installed in human body could be able to transmit messages to Doctors to define the state of health of a person to avoid any medical emergencies.
This paradigm shift from Internet of communications to Internet of Things (IOT) is bound to impact business models, consumer experiences and everyday life. The growth prospect for IOT is very high, as number of objects connected to Internet is increasing year after year. According to CISCO, by 2020 around 50 billion devices are going to connect to Internet, so you can think of the possible impact it is going to cause to businesses and consumers. Innumerable number of applications of IOT can be seen in various types of industries such as manufacturing, health, insurance, logistics and consumer appliances. In case of service industries, such as insurance and health it can bring in far reaching changes in the way services are provided and business is carried. Take an example of general insurance, at present such insurance for cars is issued irrespective of how the car is driven, but with the help of IOT installed in smart cars it is going to give an edge for companies to charge premiums based on the consumers driving behaviour.
In case of libraries, IOT can bring in much value addition to its services and will be able to provide rich experiences for patrons. Librarians are already aware of RFID, which does similar job of IOT by interacting with objects, tags, machines and library management systems, but only the difference here is the Internet, which is going to interact with the object or thing such as book. Libraries have physical objects such as books, journals, CDs/DVDs and many more physical objects, IOT may certainly help in overcoming perennial problem of misplacement of books. It may even strengthen the ties between books and readers thereby realizing Dr S.R. Ranganathan’s 2nd law of library science ‘Every Reader his/her Book’. Some of the areas of libraries, wherein IOT may be very useful include access to library resources and services, information literacy, collection management, Reference services, location based services and appliance management.
One way this new kid in the block offers great opportunities, but on the other hand it has risks in relation to privacy and security of data. However, over a period of time it is expected that technology may provide solutions to protect privacy and personal data of individuals. In case of libraries, it is sure to make value addition to its services and librarians may adopt it once it evolves and accepted. I hope you may find one of my joint articles ‘Internet of Things and Libraries‘ useful to get a broader perspective on IOT and its application for libraries.