The short and sweet explanation of the IoT is the idea that every object that has an on / off switch can be connected to the internet and again to each other.
Not just the obvious ones like your computer and cell phone, but everything. Home appliances such as washing machines and coffee makers as well as traffic lights and parking spots – anything that generates data can be connected.And with the way technology is expanding, it seems that anything that can be connected will be connected at some point. It’s estimated that by 2020, 25 billion devices will be connected. Some are saying that number will be closer to 50 billion.
That’s a incredible amount of connectivity. Sounds great, but what’s the point?
Let’s think about the possibilities. If most of the items in your home were connected, a day in your life could look something like this:
Your alarm clock wakes you at 7 am. Your coffee maker is connected to your alarm clock, so it’s notified to start brewing. This also sets your water heater to click on, so by the time you finish that cup of coffee and check emails, the shower water is warm.
You have an appointment set in your calendar for that day, and since your car has access to your calendar, the route on the car GPS is already set and ready to direct you before you even get in the car. At some point during the day, while you’re out and about, you realize that you forgot to start the dishwasher. Not a problem since it’s connected – you just start it up with your smartphone. The weather has warmed up a bit, so you turn down the temperature of your home remotely as well.
As you brush your teeth that night, your toothbrush monitors your brushing technique, sending the data to your smartphone with notes on how to brush better. As you fall asleep, your bed monitors your heart rate, snoring, and movements to give you a snapshot of your sleeping pattern and suggestions on how to improve your sleep.
If we can control our own personal daily lives in this way through technology, it’s not hard to see the broader implications.
Local governments are now teaming up with private industry to create the infrastructure for smart cities. What makes a city smart, then? Well think about the implications!
You can start simple with optimising traffic-flow and parking allocation, then dig deeper into waste management by tracking all the city’s containers. Keep track of pollution levels (would have been handy in Pittsburgh in the 70s!), create smarter transit infrastructure (Real Time) and an infinite list of data-based improvements. Cloud service companies like Amazon, AT&T and Bosch have been harnessing their data to create revolutionary logistics, interconnectedness and city efficiency and we’re just getting started!
As we grow more connected, smart cities will expand the scope of what we believe to be possible with the IoT. The potential is there and the possibilities are endless. This level of connectivity brings with it many challenges, such as security and privacy.
Can you be hacked via one your home appliances? Can someone access to your information or even to your entire network through your toaster?
Another issue will be how to store, track, and analyze all the vast amounts of data that will be generated by all these devices. All of a sudden, useful information has become a needle in a million haystacks… if only their was some way to process it all… As we expand the scope of the IoT, the impact it has on our lives will also grow. While we have a wide range of amazing innovation – it’s still hard to tell what will stick. Some ideas are amazing – like waste management, some are well… less so –Smart Water Bottle anyone?
Years from now, almost everything we touch could be connected – or perhaps we will fatigue of ultra-connectivity. For the time being, the opportunities continue to mount and the truly ‘smart’ people among us will take advantage of the smart age.