The internet of things might be an alien concept to some, but it’s a technology which is already changing the world and changing it very quickly. Such is the incremental impact of the internet of things (also known as the IoT), and the fact that relatively few people know what it actually is, means that many of us are unaware of its encroachment in so many areas of our everyday lives.
In this article, we’re going define the internet of things in a simple and understandable way and then take a moment to examine the impact it is set to have on the world as we know it. Because it won’t be the world as we know it for very long!
What is the internet of things?
The internet of things is the concept of connecting everyday objects to the internet and to other devices. That includes devices such as smartphones, thermostats, coffee makers, lights and wearable devices such as Fitbit and connected watches.
To give you a practical example, you are five minutes from home and are desperate for a coffee. Rather than waiting until you get home to turn the coffee machine on, you access an app on your smartphone that allows you to turn the coffee machine on remotely. When you get home, the coffee is ready and waiting for you. Well, it’s still in the coffee machine – we’re not talking sci-fi level developments just yet!
That’s one small way the internet of things is already changing the world, but what is the likely impact going to be over the next few years? Let’s take a look…
Your city will interact with you
By 2020, it is predicted that 9.7 billion buildings, street lights, traffic lights, parking meters and other objects in your city will be connected to the internet. This may sound a little like the machines are taking over, but in real terms, this increased connectivity could bring a number of everyday benefits for you. For example, rather than sitting at the traffic lights when there’s no other traffic, the traffic lights will adjust to the flow and allow you through. Research also shows that the average motorist spends four days a year finding somewhere to park. The internet of things will allow empty car park spaces to communicate with your car and tell you where they are. Now surely that’s something we can all get behind.
Your home will predict your needs
It’s also predicted that there will be 13 billion objects in the home that are connected to the internet of things by 2020. In real terms, that means you’ll be able to turn the heating on to warm up your home before you’re even in it. And indeed there are already apps that allow you to do that. However, you’ll also have a kettle that finishes boiling just as you walk down the stairs in the morning and a fridge that reorders the household essentials for you when you start running low. Here are some other connected devices that could change your life at home.
Your doctor will be able to monitor your health remotely
One area of our lives where the internet of things can have the biggest impact is healthcare. The use of IoT devices will allow healthcare professionals to monitor patients more effectively and better understand the symptoms and conditions they are experiencing. The data gleaned from devices such as heart rate monitors, body implants, skin patches and blood pressure monitors will allow doctors to determine and prioritise the healthcare needs of their patients. And the fact that in many instances this will be a remote process, it means you can significantly cut down on your time in tedious waiting rooms. Another popular result, we assume.
It will make exercising more fun
The internet of things will make exercising more enjoyable, quantifiable and interactive. Millions of people already wear Fitbits and other wearable devices to give them information about how they are training, and this popularity will only increase as more and more applications come out. Smart sportswear will allow individuals to turn data into training advice and monitor their progress. Users will also be able to keep an eye on their heart rates and other elements of their health. This is sure to be popular with today’s – or even tomorrow’s – health and fitness-conscious population.
The impact of the IoT will be felt by all of us. For now, all we can do is educate ourselves about the IoT and embrace the potential benefits it can bring now, and in the future.