The Internet of things (IoT) is going to hit the world in a big way, but not too many people know what it is all about. Jokes about sentient robots aside, this new class of innovation will revolutionize every day life. Most people probably do not know that they are already using the it every day and may be confused when experts and specialists talk about it in seemingly casual terms. Seven facts about the Internet of Things can help clear up any confusion and generate excitement about the new and better future the world is rapidly approaching.
The first thing everyone needs to know is that it is going to be everywhere. Cars, home appliances, air conditioners, and anything else that people use on a regular basis will be connected to the widespread internet of things. This is going to make it the largest device market in the world. According to Business Insider, it will be double the size of the markets for smartphones, wearables and PCs combined. That means that someday people could have an Apple toaster or a Microsoft tub. No useable object will be exempt from participating in the connectedness of the internet.
What this means is that a whole market is about to be expanded in a dramatic way, which brings up the second fact about the Internet of Things. It is going to make a lot of money. With this expanded market, new forms of business will open up and the existing companies will grow to accommodate the field. The McKinsey Global Institute anticipates that it could have an economic impact of up to $6.2 trillion. Because of this, many companies are already talking about and developing the Internet of Things. IBM launched the Internet of Things Foundation to help developers engage in creating products and systems. Intel made $530 million on its IoT products and profits from that area are gaining traction. Microsoft is also pushing the concept of IoT and has released a white paper about how it can benefit businesses. Companies are aware that when it hits maturity, the IoT will generate a lot of revenue and no one wants to be left out.
With all the technical aspects of this relatively new concept, there will be a bit of a learning curve. But there are some people who want to ease the transition by making it fun. Some people have created lego-like bricks for people to put together and create something with. SAM is a system designed to click together, each unit containing its own bit of power and internet connectivity. It is one of those things that comes with a “some assembly required” note, but once the assembly is done the results are astonishing. Users have created musical instruments, games, cars and even a Miley Cyrus inspired “Twerk-bot.” Whatever else the Internet of Things is going to be, it will not be boring.
Just because something is fun, however, does not mean that it is useful every day. That is why the IoT’s purpose is to make life easier. The connections between everyday objects could save everyone a lot of time. For instance, if someone takes public transportation to work, the IoT can help inform the commuter about what the best route is. With microchips embedded in buses, trains and ferries, the user can know exactly when a vehicle is going to arrive or is going to be late. The data coming from roads about traffic will help determine the length of time it will take to get to work. If a traffic jam in the city is slowing down traffic to a standstill, then that information could be used to move up someone’s alarm clock, giving them the extra time they need to get to work on time. Without these connections, the commuter would still be asleep and then late for work.
That is just one way that the Internet of Things can be helpful every day, but there is an added bonus. It could actually save people money. That is fact number five out of the seven facts about the Internet of Things and it is one of the most exciting. For years people have been trying to find ways to use technology to save money. Energy saving appliances were only the beginning. If a home’s appliances are connected to the Internet of Things, the data coming in on the network could make sure that nothing runs too long and costs more money. If, for example, someone went to work and left a light on in the house, the IoT could alert the user and remotely shut the light off. This is just one very simple way that the IoT can help consumers cut costs, but there are many others that are only just being discovered.
All the talk about having a connected home or car, though, does raise a few concerns. The sixth fact is that hackers could possibly take control of someone’s house by hacking the Internet of Things. Stories about hackers taking over bank accounts or sensitive data on the web are commonplace. It is not unreasonable to worry about the same thing happening to all the connected devices and appliances that will someday be a part of the IoT. Obviously, businesses will have a vested interest in making their systems as secure as possible and that kind of security will develop over time. But the concern should not be emphasized more than is appropriate. The biggest security risk online is not actually the web itself. It is the user. Poorly designed passwords or mistaken sharing of information by humans is the largest security threat to the cyber world. The Internet of Things could be more secure by not being as connected to humans as may devices already are. By operating largely independently of the owner, the Internet of Things could make everything safer.
The seventh and final fact about the Internet of Things is the most astonishing of all. Almost everyone is already using the IoT. There are microchips in so many devices and appliances that are sending out data all over. What is not readily available yet is a means of accessing all that data and putting it to a truly useful purpose. The temperature sensor in a car, for instance, can tell the driver how hot it is, but it does not use that data for anything else. In the future, it could communicate with the home and signal a need to drop the temperature down a couple of degrees before the occupant gets home. With that kind of connection between data and action, the Internet of Things expands the horizons for what people do with their technology.
The Internet of Things is about being as efficient as possible with the technologies that already exist. The more information that developers and tech companies can access, the better they can make inanimate objects work the for the good of their users. It is all about asking one basic question. “How can people use their technologies more efficiently?” The answer that the IoT provides is, “By not using them at all.” Working largely autonomously, technology can be even more useful than it already is. That is why these seven facts about the Internet of Things are so important to know. They are the future of technology.
Opinion By Lydia Bradbury