Smart cities and energy efficiency: the Internet of things is changing the world

The Internet connects not only people: machines communicate with one another online as well. The rapidly developing “Internet of things” will soon become part of our everyday lives.

The Internet of Things

“First telecommunications cables connected computers located in different places, then wireless networks and smartphones formed a network of people. Now it is time for an Internet of things,” summarises Professor Sasu Tarkoma from the Department of Computer Science of the University of Helsinki, when discussing the history of telecommunications.

The “Internet of things” refers to a system where various objects and devices communicate with each other. In practice, this can refer, for example, to a postal parcel whose journey can be monitored thanks to an ID tag or microchip attached to it.

A new research project entitled The Internet of Things was recently launched in Finland with EUR 6 million funding from the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation as well as other contributors. The project partners include seventeen companies, seven institutes of higher education and the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

The project’s research is led by Professor Tarkoma and the University of Helsinki. The professor emphasises that Finns are not the only developers in this field. Similar projects are ongoing all over the world.

“Communicating objects are a reality, but there is still much work to do. At the moment there are separate parallel systems that do not communicate,” Tarkoma explains.

One of the pioneers in the field is China, which has built entire smart cities.

“In such cities there are sensors in homes and public places alike. The sensors alert you to when it is time to change a light bulb, adjust the temperature or pace traffic lights according to the traffic volume.”

The professor explains that each country has its own focal areas in the “Internet of things”. In Finland, key practical applications include geriatric care and logistics.

The University of Helsinki is specifically focusing on expediting data transfer between sensors and the Internet, improving the sensors’ energy efficiency and sifting through relevant information from among the large amount of data collected by the sensors.

Digital Agenda: Commission consults on rules for wirelessly connected devices - the "Internet of Things" » »


Text: Anu Vallinkoski
Photo: 123rf
University of Helsinki, digital communications

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