I recently asked a professional colleague of mine if they knew what the Internet of Things was.
After a brief paused, they half-said, half-asked, “a marketplace of things you can get on the internet?”
Uh – no. Not even close.
Mind you, since I work in technology, I was more than a bit taken aback.
How are we, in the mobile/tech industry, not up on a rather widely used term of art – at least within the industry?
But then it dawned on me, the Internet of Things (or “IoT” as we
say type in the industry) may not be as widely known as I thought.
If you’re like most people, you’ve probably never even heard of the “Internet of Things.”
Or, if you’ve heard the expression, you probably nodded along knowingly, without the faintest idea of what it meant.
Apple Watch. Internet of Things.
Nest thermostat. Internet of Things.
Onstar. Internet of Things.
Nowadays, virtually everything can be part of this amorphous Internet of Things, thing.
But that’s not quite explanation enough to help you know what the Internet of Things, actually is.
So here’s a little primer for ya.
According to Wikipedia,
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects or “things” embedded with electronics, software, sensors and connectivity to enable it to achieve greater value and service by exchanging data with the manufacturer, operator and/or other connected devices. Each thing is uniquely identifiable through its embedded computing system but is able to interoperate within the existing infrastructure.
Come again, say what?
The Cloud Computing glossary defines the Internet of Things like so:
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a scenario in which objects, animals or people are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. IoT has evolved from the convergence of technologies, micro-electromechanical systems and the Internet.
Yeah, that was a whole lot of gobletygook.
But if the concept still escapes you, here are five other things, about the Internet of Things, that may help you to wrap your head around it.
1. IoT promises connections to everything. The new rule for the future is going to be, “anything that can be connected, will be connected.” As a result, that very “connection” is going to allow you to “life hack” like you’ve never before. You’re already able to track your REM sleep patterns, your calories in-and-out, your mood and focus throughout the day. “Know thyself” will be the new thing as we become data crunching champions. No more ‘one-size-fits-all’ consumption because, at our fingertips, will be a ‘personality mosaic’ that informs all of our behaviors and consumption.
2. IoT will impact consumptive behavior. As the leading brand in the space, Apple will continue to lead the pack with IoT. They’ve already made the biggest impacts in “at will” consumption. Their IoT will invariably provide us all with completely “tailored” lives. The Apple Watch gives developers the ability to create apps, which will enable the reading and tracking of our consumptive habits and offer more and more suggestions tailored to our interests and lifestyles.
The possibilities for the IoT increase as the cost of technology decreases. A few years ago, you could only get feature rich smart phones with a two year contract from a major carrier. Today, you can cop an iPhone from T-Mobile or a Samsung from Metro PCS without a contact. Companies will pay you to leave your carrier. And that’s because they know that the smart phone users’ consumptive behavior is on fleek.
3. IoT promises increased efficiency and reduced waste. The IoT will to make us all more efficient, by collecting data about our habits and behaviors, and helping us to live more productive lives. Machines that order refills when supplies are low. Alarms that record how often you hit snooze and wake you up at the optimal time so you don’t have to. Cars that calculate travel time and proactively re-route you when they detect increased traffic ahead. Lights that automatically brighten and dim, based on the activity in the room. All of these advances are the Internet of Things, saving money, time, gas, and energy.
4. IoT will change healthcare as we know it. Folks are obsessed with the possibilities that Android Watch and the Google Genomic project will have on healthcare. Think about it. Through the IoT, our genomes, our diseases and our state of health can be all matched up with environmental and behavioral data fed by wearable tech. We’ll actually be able to know more about disease and what triggers certain gene expression, possibly leading to cures and disease prevention by reconciling all of this disparate data.
Lab testing on animals has proven to be highly ineffective and outdated in mimicking/predicting how humans will respond to medications and other environmental influences. But IoT provides the first truly humane opportunity EVER to virtually “test” on humans, by giving medical professionals a unique and benignly intrusive view into the relevant metadata that factors into our general health.
5. IoT has major privacy and security implications. If you follow the news, you may have heard about the hullabaloo over the new Samsung Smart TVs which ‘listen’ to you. It’s really just another form of voice-commanded technology, not unlike Siri, Cortana or Google’s voice assistant, which act on vocal prompts. So while we’re already using this type of technology, the IoT opens up the possibility that virtually every device you interact with will be ‘listening’ to you, actively and passively, monitoring and recording your every action.
The purpose of this listening, tracking and recording is to enable you to live a simpler life, but the implications include the fact that third parties will be able to access ever more granular bits of data about you, your family, your habits, comings and goings. With ‘listening’ televisions and devices everywhere, the IoT brings the very real likelihood that we are going to be sacrificing privacy, as we know it, for convenience.
But it’s not all bad.
Put simply, the internet of this is all about connections.
So let’s review, shall we?
The Internet of Things is connected devices, wired homes, smart buildings, and constant data capture.
It’s smart grids, IPv6, machine-to-machine, intelligent communication.
It’s sensors, RFID, wireless technologies, beacons.
It’s everything. Everywhere. All the time.
Welcome to the Internet of Things.