The Internet Of Nano Things Is A Big Deal

As nano networks expand, a new era of connectivity is in the horizon

Ever since Richard Feynman’s groundbreaking presentation in the late 1950s, nanotechnology has remained firmly on the technological agenda. While some have dismissed nanotechnology as science fiction, the scope for real world applications continues to grow. It’s now very much worth paying attention to the Internet of Nano Things (IoNT).

Tiny miracles

According to recent research, the market for IoNT will be worth $9.69bn by next year. And, with continued interest and investment from the likes of IBM, Intel, and Qualcomm, it’s a prediction that may well ring true.

The Internet of Things has changed the nature of supply chain management by providing visibility across networks. If gathered and analysed correctly, more information can lead to better organisational efficiency. Standard IoT sensors already collect vast amounts of data about a given appliance, but nano sensors sit much closer to the source. For instance, instead of slapping a sensor on an internal combustion engine for diagnostics reports, nano sensors could be mixed into the oil itself to measure quality and efficiency. In healthcare, an IoT wearable can extract useful data and compare it to other sources of information to build a picture of a person’s health. However, an internet connected nano sensor would be able to travel within the human body and accumulate far more accurate information.

Apply this to supply chain management, and the business case becomes clear. Not only are you tracking a shipment – you’re tracking the status of every material part of that shipment from the container to the contents. In smart factories, nano devices could monitor temperature, humidity, and air quality. In smart cities, nano sensors would be able to send detailed reports about concentrations of toxic particles to improve health and safety.

Small tech, big problems

Despite its benefits, it’s not difficult to see why some people feel distinctly uneasy about the Internet of Nano Things. The sophistication of nano devices means that they can collect information at a much deeper level. Combining the IoNT with the human body, for example, is likely to cause concern over privacy – what data is being collected, who is using it, and what for? And, despite the sophistication of nano electronics, the very same security questions that plague the IoT are just as relevant to nano sensors and devices.

Aside from privacy and security worries, there are also technological issues. Manufacturers and developers are tasked with building sensors that can communicate effectively, and are compatible with a range of different materials. You can’t stick a nano sensor into the human body, for example, without knowing the potential side effects. Testing these devices will take time, and money. Working at such a small scale makes these requirements even harder to fulfil. The IoNT will also place greater demands on connectivity. The existing IoT is held back by inadequate wireless technology, but hopefully 5G initiatives will provide the backbone for connected nano devices.

One small step for connectivity…

In a digital world, connectivity is everything. Ultimately, the IoNT is another step towards ubiquitous connectivity, so it’s wise to consider its potential impact. Granted, the implications of the IoNT aren’t entirely positive, especially as businesses already struggle to establish clean data cultures. More data isn’t necessarily better data, and this is why nano devices will need clear regulation, and fast.

Barriers aside, businesses should pay serious attention to the growth of the Internet of Nano Things. It will, like the IoT, be integral to smart environments, whether that be a factory, an office, or an entire city. Nano networks are still in their infancy, but the imminent combination of 5G, wider IoT adoption, and greater computational power will lead to an unprecedented growth spurt. Watch this nano space…

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