03 March 2016
It has been predicted that by 2020 there will be 38 billion ‘smart’ devices worldwide, forming a network of data-collating, life-improving hardware. We will soon be using sensors and data to inform, plan and react to everything around us, changing the ways of governments, technology and every day consumerism. It’s difficult to see how every aspect of your life won’t be affected in the long-run, but this sounds vague. How will the Internet of Things affect you on a day-to-day basis?
You've heard of smart phones and smart TVs but what comes next? Using the internet to turn on your lights while you’re on holiday to deter criminals, or turning on the heating when you’re 30 minutes from home? Let’s think big – the Internet of Things is all about anticipating your behaviour. There’s nothing to say that it won’t be able to recognise when you’ve stopped ‘snoozing’ in the morning, turn on your shower to warm-up, then 10 minutes later turn on your kettle to boil. When you’re ready to leave, it could even recognise that you’re no longer in the house and turn off your lights and TV.
Those eggs in the fridge that you've cooked for breakfast? Let’s consider a ‘smart fridge’ that could tell a supermarket when you’re out of a certain grocery so they can deliver you more.
It’s true, we've been able to monitor our bodies (steps taken, blood pressure etc.) for a while, but not on this level. We can now track our patterns of fitness like never before and the number of devices or ‘wearables’ we have to do this with is overwhelming. Not only can we track how many steps we've taken or how many flights of stairs we've climbed, but how many calories we've burned and how many more we need to burn before we reach our pre-set daily goals. We can analyse our sleep patterns to see at which point in the night we were restless and compare this to how we slept yesterday, last week or last month.
Perhaps the most revolutionary aspect of fitness devices is that we now hold the information they collate at our fingertips, with live analysis on our smart phones. We can now compete with our former selves and walk further than they did, or work harder than they did, on a daily basis.
With machine-to-machine communications, the possibilities are endless - we’re really not just talking syncing your mail calendar with your iPhone. This is the area that the Internet of Things can really think big as devices are given the opportunity to find data and make decisions for themselves.
Consider this situation: your car needs a service, but you haven’t had time to schedule one in. At the press of a button your car could schedule this for you, using an online booking system with the garage, cross-referencing to your diary to decide when you won’t be driving. It can even arrange for someone to collect and return itself (and of course there are devices that allow you to leave keys in a safe place, unlockable with an app)! Voila! The Internet of Things is your new PA.
From smart meters that provide real-time analysis of your energy expenditure to home appliances that turn on at times when energy is at its cheapest, this evolving intelligence can save you money.
Certain devices can already monitor real-time electricity prices, to automatically complete energy-intensive chores during off-peak hours, using cheaper electricity. If you’re thinking of your tumble dryer and dish washer trading on the stock market, you’ve kind of got the right idea!
So yes, the Internet of Things can save you money. Money that you can then spend on more and more smart devices…
By using the IoT to monitor the environmental impact of everything we do, we can save energy on traffic lights, street lights and even reduce pollution by using data to help us park! Sensors now focus on our waste – from sewers, air pollution and waste, to what we’re dumping in rivers and the sea. We might be a long way from reducing the damage we’re causing, but collecting data is a good step towards understanding the impact of humans on the Earth.
Small steps have been made. We are now using data to control thermostats in the offices of huge corporations – defining how much air conditioning is needed based on how many people (and more importantly how many devices) are on the property at one time, giving off heat. We are also starting to use ‘smart bins’ to alert councils when recycling bins are full, so that collections are only made when necessary.
It’s a step in the right direction.
As futurist Jacob Morgan wrote on Forbes.com, “The new rule for the future is going to be, ‘anything that can be connected, will be connected,’” and it’s hard to see how this won’t be true.
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