The Internet of Things for Education:
A Brief Guide
We’ve been reading a lot about the Internet of Things (IoT) lately and although it’s a not a brand new concept, it’s destined to hit the mainstream in a big way over the next few years. Read on for our brief guide to the concept, and what it might mean for those of us working in education.
What is it?
In a nutshell, the Internet of Things is an overarching concept that describes how everyday objects are being developed to connect to the Internet and interact autonomously not only with users, but with other devices.
Where did it come from?
IoT-enabled devices aren’t the stuff of the future. This inter-connectivity has developed naturally as part of the constant advancement of technology, and you’ve probably come across plenty of connected devices already. Thermostats that you can control from your smartphone, video baby monitors with feeds you can view online from anywhere, and fitness trackers that sync with phones, computers and even weighing scales.
How important is it?
The sector is anticipated to experience incredible growth in the next few years; experts predict there will be 6.4 billion connected devices in use by the end of 2016, rising to over 25 billion by 2020. The potential for growth in the field has caught the attention of the government too – in January of this year it announced plans for an IoT research centre, which will bring together expertise from nine UK universities. The new consortium is tasked with looking into issues surrounding the IoT, including privacy, ethics, trust, reliability, acceptability and security.
Is it safe?
While there are obvious benefits to devices learning and acting with independence, there are understandable concerns about the data that is generated. As is often the case with leaps forward in technology, policy and legislation can take a while to catch up. Questions over who has access to data generated by connected devices, as well as how it is used and how users give permission for it to be transmitted are still yet to be answered completely. Device security is another major issue; cyber attacks now have the potential to move from the virtual into the physical as machines become capable of being operated remotely.
How could schools use it?
There are many possibilities, but as with any application of technology, it has to start with the right educational aims. If using new interfaces becomes disruptive rather than supportive, then it’s time to think again. Another key consideration is ensuring school networks are up to the job and ready to handle huge amounts of traffic and data.
And the implications for asset management are worth mentioning too – connected devices will be more easily discovered, tracked, and audited. (Have a read of our Q&A on Asset Management for more.)
Devices connected to the Internet of Things are sure to become an integral part of our daily lives before too long. We’ll be keeping a close eye on the exciting ways schools can take advantage of the great opportunities it could offer – watch this space!
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