People may not realize it but the Internet of Things is already gaining traction and slowly influencing how people live in this connected world. Right now, its perceived advantages may far outweigh its feared drawbacks. Some analysts even called the up-and-coming technological paradigm shift as bigger than the Industrial Revolution.
The Internet of Things pertains to the concept of devices connected to the Internet where data gathered by such devices are reported to users. People can then act on the said data or the devices themselves are empowered to act on it. The ease of data transmission, reception and implementation are all meant to improve people’s quality of lives. Kevin Ashton is the person widely credited for coining the phrase in 1999 while working for Procter & Gamble. Since then, the phrase caught on and was used in a variety of articles, which appeared in scientific and academic journals.
Right now, many smart devices like laptops, smart phones and tablets communicate with each other through the use of Wi-Fi internet technology. Transfer these technological capabilities into ordinary household gadgets like refrigerators, washing machines, microwave ovens, thermostat, door locks among others, equip these with their own computer chips, software and access to the Internet and a “smart home” now comes to life.
Many gadgets comprising the smart home totality are now being offered in the market. One example is the Nest thermostat where it adjusts household temperature depending on usage patterns and billing rates. The Nest thermostat can be controlled using a mobile app. Recently, Nest which, was bought by Google for $3.2 billion, has expanded to include smart smoke detectors in its product offerings as part of its smart-home solutions. LG Electronics, the South Korean firm, is also now offering users the ability to control their appliances by way of text messages.
The Internet of Things can only work if these gadgets and devices start interacting with each other through a networked system. The AllSeen Alliance, a nonprofit organization devoted to the adoption of the Internet of Things, is facilitating to make sure that companies like Cisco, Sharp and Panasonic are manufacturing products compatible with a networked system and to ensure that these products can interact with each other. Gartner, the research company, estimates that by year 2020, there will be 30 billion devices connected to the Internet of Things.
The advantages of course of these highly networked and connected devices mean productive and enhanced quality of lives for people. For example, health monitoring can be rather easy with connected RX bottles and medicine cabinets. Doctors supervising patients can monitor their medicine intake as well as measure blood pressure, sugar levels and alert them when something goes wrong to their patients online.
In the aspect of energy conservation, household appliances can suggest optimal setting based on the user’s energy consumption like turning the ideal temperature just before the owner arrives home as well as turning on and off the lights whenever the owner is out on vacation just to create the impression that somebody is still left inside the house to prevent burglars from attempting to enter.
Smart refrigerators, on the other hand, can suggest food supplies that are low on inventory and needs immediate replenishment. The suggestions are based on the user’s historical purchasing behavior and trends. Wearable technology are also part of this Internet of Things, where these devices can monitor sleeping patterns, workout measurements, sugar levels, blood pressure and connecting these data to the user’s social media accounts for tracking purposes.
Compare these advantages to its feared drawbacks like Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tagging each item to be placed inside the smart refrigerator, each piece of clothing to be placed inside a smart closet or medicines inside a smart medicine cabinet are just too taxing an activity for many.
The other disadvantage is the fact that most devices are not yet ready to communicate with another brand of devices. Specific products can only be networked with their fellow products under the same brand name. It is good that AllSeen Alliance is making sure connectivity happens but the reality of a “universal remote control” for all these devices and products is still in its infantile development.
The most important drawback with regard to the full implementation of the Internet of Things is with regard to the privacy and security issue. Smart home devices have the ability to devour a lot of data and information about a user. These data can include personal schedules, shopping habits, medicine intake schedule and even location of the user at any given time. If these data fall into the wrong hands great harm and damage can be done to people.
It is indeed wonderful to know that technology is working for people and not against people. Despite these perceived and oftentimes realistic disadvantages, people and companies responsible in implementing the Internet of Things must work together to minimize such risks from happening. The Internet of Things has its own advantages that may far outweigh its various drawbacks. It only takes an extra effort from everyone involved.
By Roberto I. Belda