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The research firm Gartner said that “the Internet of Things is the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment.” In the same press release, they speculated that by 2020, there will be 26 billion base units installed (excluding PCs, smartphones, and tablets). This estimation was done in 2013 and since then the number has only increased.
The concept is that a device that connects to the Internet or to other devices can send data through a ‘network of connectivity.’ It’s machine-to-machine communication that includes humans in the equation. As long as something can be connected it can be optimized.
How Does It Impact My Life?
Daniel Burrus, CEO of Burrus Research, said that “the Internet of Things revolves around increased machine-to-machine communication; it’s built on cloud computing and networks of data-gathering sensors; it’s mobile, virtual, and instantaneous connection; and they say it’s going to make everything in our lives from streetlights to seaports ‘smart.’”
1. Home Automation
Home automation is the first thing that comes into the minds of many when you mention the future. The reality is that it’s already here. Apple has a whole line of home automation products that can all sync to a “Home” app and be controlled from a single device. You can enable accessories to work in combination with each other and perform tasks that are grouped into a single ‘scene.’ Whereas a “Good Morning” scene turns on certain lights, opens some locks, and raises the temperature, a “Good Night” scene does the opposite and prepares you for the night. Google, another tech giant, has its own home automation product, Google Home, and others like Microsoft are quickly catching up.
2. Health Monitoring
A report by MarketResearch.com states that the market segment for the healthcare IoT is poised to hit $117 billion by 2020. Many advances come from remote health monitoring, or telehealth, and use mobile devices and wireless technology to surveil diseases, track chronic illnesses, and provide overall treatment support. This includes performing routine tests and sending the information back to a healthcare professional in real time, and monitoring glucose levels for diabetics and heart or blood pressure for patients receiving cardiac care.
3. Smart Automobiles
If you’ve heard of Tesla Motors you’ve heard of semi-autonomous driving cars. These are cars that can accelerate, decelerate, change lanes, merge with traffic and even move in and out of parking spaces and garages without a driver’s assistance. They include some of the many features of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) that are designed to help drivers by improving their situational awareness or enhancing a vehicle’s response to aversive conditions. They offer real-time traffic notifications and vehicle sensors that track car telematics, location and fuel consumption. A forecast by Research and Markets also states that the market for ADAS components is expected to bring in $89.3 billion annually by 2025.
4. Smart Farming
Smart farming ensures that crops and soil receive exactly what they need for optimal health and growth by using sensing technology that keeps track of everything. These can be moisture sensors that send data to a cloud, where it is then processed and sent to the farm’s irrigation system. From here a calibrated amount of water mixes with fertilizer and is dispersed at desired intervals.
5. Design & Construction
The Internet of Things is also impacting the world of construction and design. There are machines that can be controlled remotely in conditions that would otherwise be harmful for humans. There are also sensors that track operational parameters and send notifications when a machine needs repair. Another recent advancement, Building Information Modeling, combines computer-generated buildings with real sensors and sends data showing how the material is affected by climate and the passage of time. Newer construction projects in bridges and buildings are also being outfitted with devices that monitor vibrations and track how much stress they can take.
Can It Go Wrong?
In short, yes. There’s a certain loss of privacy and security that can be incurred when connecting something to the internet. The same benefit gained from IoT, creating a network of devices that connect and interact with each other, is also its drawback. Think of opening a door that leads to a hall of doors. All it takes is opening that first door to get access to the rest, and sometimes the first is as mundane and non-threatening as a Hello Barbie doll.
Just because it can go wrong doesn’t mean that it will. Home automation and smart automobiles are making life easier while health monitoring keeps us safe. Smart farming is improving our crops while innovations in construction and design are improving our cities. Yes, it has its downside, but the many benefits that stem from IoT combine to create an overall better quality of life.