What is the Internet of Things and how will it affect you?
When discussing the Internet of Things it’s difficult not to get lost in a sea of statistics which, while making it immediately obvious to anyone that the IoT is already big business and will get exponentially bigger over the next five years, does little to put into context the reality in front of the theory. Statistics also don’t explain how this phenomenon will affect you and everyone in your life, from your co-workers to your sons, daughters – even your pets.
Crucially, most of the IoT doesn’t need you to function anyway, as its description in its simplest form attests: devices that talk to each other. Only some of the below example is theory. Most of it is practice, and it’s now difficult to imagine a time when these ideas were solely the preserve of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek.
Could this be your journey to work in ten years’ time?
You step into your car, shirt dry and self-cleaned after you spilled some milk on it at breakfast. After calibrating for the optimum journey, the car powers up and gets to work in record time, avoiding all bottlenecks (as do most of the cars on the road today). You see a crash (it’s the first this year in your city – in November!) which is rare as incidents are at their lowest level since the Ford Model T rolled off the production line in 1908, nearly 120 years ago. Your fitness tracker detects the adrenalin surge from seeing the crash and notifies you suggesting redbush tea when you get to the office instead of coffee. Caffeine will only heighten the anxiety and you won’t be your best at decision making for the rest of the day.
This example only takes you to work: the benefits of IoT in Enterprise, beginning with streamlining of working processes, are myriad. Couple all this with stress levels at a record low thanks to easier commutes and near-faultless machinery, plus the knock-on effect of a healthcare system less burdened with cardio-related diseases, and it’s easy to see why the IoT ecosystem of wearables to smart cities continues to be in the news.
In 2016, with the IoT Tech Expo gaining steam and all eyes on its line-up of speakers and exhibitors, to define the IoT as just ‘devices talking to each other’ would be considered somewhat facile. Far more appropriate is a paper from Queen Mary School of Law and Legal Studies research that refers to the ‘Things’ of the IoT as ‘an extricable mixture of hardware, software, data and service’. This confluence of devices, applications and processes is exactly what makes the IoT so special and despite its cross-discipline concept is a perfect description of why it’s set to change everything, for everyone, no matter what you do or where you are.
If Kevin Ashton’s work in 1999 was IoT’s Year Zero, then as it moves into adulthood it’s just starting to get interesting. A difficult first decade for IoT in the 2000s saw the concept fail to gain traction, and it could be argued that only since such behemoths in the consumer space such as Google, Apple and Amazon have come on board with significant development funds and acquisitions have we seen the rate of innovation that indicates a bright future. It’s worth noting that a public acceptance and enthusiasm has truly cemented its place in the consciousness.
IoT is in a position of young maturity and expectation, where the data loop of usage patterns generated constantly informs research in the lab and in the field, where public hacks can be viewed as valuable use cases rather than just hardware breaches. The Internet connected everyone to information, and now the IoT will connect everyone to everything.