For those without a technical bent, the internet of things can sound like more of a complex concept than it actually is. But despite the confusing moniker, the internet of things, or IoT, simply describes the process by which devices that are linked to the internet talk to each other.
Believe it or not, the idea of the IoT has actually been about since 1989, when the first internet-connected toaster, now the stuff of legend, was unveiled at a conference. A simple example of the internet of things in action can be found in home heating and energy, where smart meters are increasingly being installed in our homes to measure our energy usage and communicate that back to the energy provider.
The internet of things is still very much in its formative stages. However, experts predict that by 2020, there will be 13 billion kettles, fridges, freezers, thermostats and other objects in the home that will all be connected to the internet. Clearly then, IoT will have a big impact on all of us, but how will it affect our everyday lives?
The self-driving car has been one of the hottest topics in the technology world for the last few years and it would not be possible without the internet of things. Sensors, software, cameras, radar and sonar sensors all need to be able to talk to each other so vehicles can drive safely on the roads. The software then sends information back to engineers who can make improvements to the safety and efficiency of the vehicle. It has been predicted that there’ll be 10 million driverless cars on the road by 2020, so this technology could soon change our lives.
Health and fitness
One of the biggest innovations in the health and fitness market in the last couple of years is wearable technology and fitness trackers that give us more information about our exercise habits, sleeping patterns, heart rate and more. Again, this is an example of the internet of things in action. There are also many more potential applications in the healthcare sector.
As we’ve alluded to above, the internet of things also has the potential to change our day-to-day lives at home. Alarm systems, thermostats, smoke detectors, lighting, entertainment systems and even the fridge can all be connected and monitored from a mobile device. As this technology becomes more and more widespread in our homes, it will also spread to our workplaces, schools and retail stores.
Farmers are also starting to use connected sensors to monitor their crops and cattle to track their health and boost their productivity and efficiency. Some new farming machines have sensors that collect data on wind speed, humidity, soil temperature and rainfall. There are also smart watering systems that can detect when certain parts of the field need to be watered.
It’s easy to imagine an Orwellian world where employers can constantly see where we are and what we’re doing, and that’s not actually too far from reality. In the manufacturing industry, IoT is already being used to better organise tools, machines and people to track where they are and how productive they are being.
Buckle up for the ride
While many people will be resistant to the internet of things, the reality is that the benefits of interconnectedness will soon take over, and we’ll have little choice but to go along for the ride.