Contact Us

Understanding the
Internet of Nano
Things applications

Author: Gary Hilson

A variety of Internet of Nano Things applications could build on the progress of Internet of Things (IoT) innovations in the coming years. But before diving too deep, it's worth first answering the question: What is the Internet of Nano Things?

What is the Internet of Nano Things (IoNT)?

The Internet of Nano Things, or IoNT, has roots in IoT and nanotechnology—StatNano defines IoNT as "an interrelated system of very small devices to transfer data over a network."

It's important to note that this next revolution in the area of computing will be totally outside the realm of the traditional desktop.1 It's also expected to grow globally at a compound annual growth rate of 18.2% from 2021 to 2027.

For enterprises, a key takeaway from answering the question "What is the Internet of Nano Things?" is that the emergence of nanomachines, nanomachine architecture and Internet of Nano Things applications will require a robust, private and secure multi-access edge computing (MEC) infrastructure.

Internet of Nano Things applications are defined by details

If there's one aspect that's clear when discussing what is the Internet of Nano Things—it's the size. By definition, nanotechnology is all about designing and engineering functional systems at a molecular scale.

The backbone of nanotechnology is the nanomachine, a basic functional unit integrated via nano-components that performs basic tasks such as sensing or actuating. The cooperation and coordination of these nanomachines allow increasingly complex operations to support a variety of applications. Nanotechnology already has real-world uses for agriculture, industrial, military, biotechnology, and biomedical applications.

The IoNT is ultimately a new networking paradigm that includes advanced electromagnetic communication among these nanomachines. Like IoT devices, they have their own architecture requirements and challenges, while also presenting novel opportunities for businesses through emerging applications.

All nanomachines include some essential components:

  • A control unit that executes all the instructions to perform a task and stores necessary data
  • A communication unit that sends and receives information at nanolevel
  • A reproduction unit that fabricates each component using external elements
  • A power unit that collects energy from various external sources, such as temperature and light, for consumption and distribution
  • Sensors and actuators that act as bridges between the nanomachine and its environment

Addressing "What is the Internet of Nano Things?" means taking a step beyond the devices themselves to a nanoscale network of physical objects that exchange information through nano communication. This, along with existing communication networks and the internet, creates a new networking paradigm that can allow for applications that have real-world business impacts.

Internet of Nano Things applications across industries

The potential for the IoNT is wide-ranging, and this new network paradigm of nanoscale devices can be applied in urban, rural, and even harsh environments.

Just like with standard IoT, smart cities are ripe with potential use cases for IoNT applications. Nanosensors can be deployed to monitor a whole host of activities within a smart city, and the vast amounts of data collected can be used in real time to optimize services for citizens, develop new ones, and improve the overall quality of life for residents. Nanosensors could, for example, monitor and identify locations with high concentrations of air pollution to trigger a clean-up in that location.

In a more rural environment, Internet of Nano Things applications could improve the productivity of agriculture. For example, it's been demonstrated that many nanoparticles can contribute to pest management or control fungi in plants. The energy sector could deploy Internet of Nano Things applications to support the discovery of oil reserves. Nanosensors can travel through the pores of the rocks to find the oil bound to those rocks. They interact and communicate with each other by molecular communication to convey collected information in real time using a nearby gateway, thereby accelerating and optimizing the mapping of oil locations.

These Internet of Nano Things applications are quite compelling, but the ecosystem necessary to support these emerging use cases comes with its own set of challenges.

New devices, familiar challenges

Understanding the IoNT means recognizing the devices in use are distinctly different from your average IoT device.

For one thing, nanomachines will require their own new medium access control (MAC) protocols for pulse-based transmissions of nanonetworks because nanomachines transmit the information from the source to the destination using very short pulses, and there is no carrier signal for sensing. Since nanomachines are simple, these new protocols should not be complicated but will need scalability.

However, because data is growing every day, the Internet of Nano Things applications will encounter bandwidth constraints and need adequate channel capacity. This can be addressed by converting to unexploited bands of the electromagnetic spectrum, such as the terahertz band, which provides a great deal of bandwidth for very short ranges.

As with any communications infrastructure, security and privacy must be considered as well. Given that the Internet of Nano Things applications could be incorporated into daily life and business operations through smartphones, vehicles, household appliances, sensors, and critical infrastructure, control and monitoring will be necessary as nanomachines and processes are connected to the Internet. The data gathered and transferred could become a target for threat actors that could lead to data breaches, theft, and manipulation.

Given the threats to security and privacy, as well as the network protocols and architecture hurdles that must be overcome, businesses should seek out a partner that can help them navigate the many connectivity, MEC platform services and sensor needs to make their Internet of Nano Things applications a reality.

Learn more about how Verizon’s IoT products and services can support the Internet of Nano Things.

1Anand Nayyar, Vikram Puri, Dac-Nhuong Le, Internet of Nano Things (IoNT): Next Evolutionary Step in Nanotechnology, Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, Vol. 7 No. 1, 2017, pp. 4-8. doi: 10.5923/j.nn.20170701.02.