Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, modified by Curiousmatic.
Though the concept was imagined long before the 21st century, only recently has a revolution of smart objects, called the “Internet of Things,” begun to buzz and take shape.
First things first: What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?
Boiled down to the basics, IoT is a term for the connection of everyday items to the Internet to give users better control and optimization of the things in their life, ranging from toasters to parking meters.
It’s an ambitious and deep field of technology, as by nature it exists outside the realm of regular consumer electronics like phones and tablets and inhabits ordinary objects instead.
There are endless possibilities of “things” that can and likely will become wirelessly connected in the near future using smart new sensor and computing technology.
How does it work?
Lending intelligence to inanimate objects and appliances certainly isn’t cake. For devices to be able to “sense” the world around them, collect and report data, and be controlled remotely, they must be embedded with certain key technological functions:
Wifi and cloud computing: Wireless capabilities are what would connect your refrigerator, for example, to your other devices, allowing your interaction with it; data from intelligent systems can be managed online via cloud services.
Sensors: Sticking with the fridge concept, IoT products might also utilize sensor technology in order to collect and process real-world data, like when food is running low in the fridge.
RFID: radio frequency identification could also be used in theory to scan and identify the items, such as groceries, that need tracking.
Processors: IoT objects will require “under the hood” computing power like any other device in order to parse and transmit information.
How is this technology growing?
The arrival of IoT is an opportunity for companies to develop new hardware and create user-oriented services around smart objects, and of course, make money doing it.
Business Insider estimates that IoT connections will skyrocket from the already impressive 1.9 billion devices today, to 9 billion in 2018, making it roughly equal to the amount of smartphones, tablets, smart TVs and wearables combined.
Cisco predicts that this number will reach 50 billion by 2020 (Gartner says $26B), and McKinsey Global Institute approximates that IoT has the potential to create an economic impact of $2.7 trillion to $6.2 trillion annually by 2025.
How will IoT impact the future?
While these are all hypotheses, there is good reason to believe explosive growth is close – in fact, it’s already begun. Asides from personal consumption, it is also expected that IoT will become instrumental in businesses, advertising, and government industries.
The things of today are devices – the things of tomorrow are entire offices, homes, factories, and cities, Business Insider speculates.
What IoT objects exist today?
So what “things” can be connected already? Thanks to numerous companies, including a number of ambitious startups, the list is growing every day. Here’s some standout examples:
Nest (recently purchased by Google) has a learning thermostat and smart smoke detector that connect and protect your home.
Quirky’s eggminder tracks your eggs with a sensored tray that counts how many are left and lets you know when they’re going bad.
Beam’s smart toothbrush monitors oral hygiene habits and reports them to a smartphone app.
Philips’ Hue allows for smartphone-tethered light bulbs, for mobile-controlled and responsive wireless lighting.
Withing’s smart alarm clock Aura extensively tracks your sleep cycle and reports data to your smartphone.
Belkin’s smart electrical outlets and Internet powered crock pot let you cook from afar.
Smart blinds by Jalousier automatically adjusts slats according to lighting conditions, weather, room temperature, and time of day.
The “kinetic desk” Stir tracks your sitting and standing time and automatically adjusts so workers can stay fit while working.
Smart FDA-approved pacemakers can update doctors on how your heart is doing.
And these are only several of an estimated nearly two billion of such devices existing today, according to BI intelligence.
Of course, every disruptive technology has its critics, and for good reason. Concerns about these types of products are mainly in regards to privacy, security, the troubling possibility of smart-object hacking, as well as figuring out how to maintain IoT value over time so the technology don’t become obsolete.
Energy efficiency, cost effectiveness, and the necessity of easy and universal control over multiple objects together will also be important factors in determine IoT success.
Still, it seems that despite concerns, the future of IoT is brighter than ever. Stay tuned for more IoT updates by following us @Curiousmatic, or subscribing for email updates.