The Internet of Things: Imagining our connected future


What do your fitness tracker, your fridge, car, thermostat, phone, TV, gaming console and the weather service have in common?

They are all connected, or soon will be.

These connected devices are referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT) and — for those who’ve been living under a rock — it’s the next big thing. Just how big depends on the source. It’s estimated that, by 2020, the IoT will be worth between $7 and $19-trillion as an industry.

By 2020, it is estimated that 50 billion devices will be connected to the internet. By then, there will be 7 Billion people on the planet. You do the math.

You are already connected to many devices through the apps on your phone. A decade ago, your PC was probably the only device tethered to the web. Now, it’s highly likely that you have ten or more connected devices.

If you have a smartphone, you can use it as a remote for your TV and DVR, set the temperature on your home thermostat, switch your lights on and off, manage your burglar alarm, control functions on your car, your computer, some cameras, your PlayStation and electronic door locks. Many other devices are added to the list daily. And this is just the beginning.

Soon you won’t even need a phone to connect the devices, they will simply “talk” to each other. If the weather turns unexpectedly warm, your home thermostat (which is connected to the web and the weather service) will switch on the air conditioner a half an hour before you get home. The GPS chip in your phone or the navigation system in your car will have informed your thermostat of your location.

Your fridge will be able to suggest what you can cook for dinner based on the contents that are still fresh, and the recipe will be related to the number of calories you burned that day (it was informed by your fitness tracker). When you return home, your hi fi will play appropriate music based on your mood (informed by your diary/calendar) and your heart rate (the fitness tracker again). Based on my day so far, it would need to be something soothing.

In addition, if the fridge temperature increases above a threshold, you and your repair service will receive a simultaneous SMS alert so that you may just be able to rescue that expensive Chateaubriand in the freezer.

The world will be blanketed with Billions of sensors. The sensors will be uploading information from real, physical objects to the cloud and influencing almost every aspect of our lives.
Welcome to the Internet of Things.

This is not as far fetched as it sounds. Much of this technology is active right now. Nest thermostats are programmable via your phone and connected to the cloud, LG appliances are too. Uber uploads the position of available cabs to the cloud so that you can hail one from the App on your phone. Many connected cars automatically inform emergency services if the airbags deploy.

The IoT has the potential to save lives and change the world too. Applications are being developed in the arenas of personal healthcare and automotive safety that can truly make the world healthier and safer.

Another fascinating byproduct of IoT will be the data that is generated. Every movement, action, state, command, every microsecond on every one of the billions of connected “things” is recorded, stored and analyzed. The deluge of data will be hard to imagine.

How this data will be used and secured is of great concern to privacy advocates. Will governments have access to the data that literally reflects every aspect of our lives? Will big corporations treat our data responsibly and securely? What happens if the database where all the information is stored is hacked? Do we need laws to govern the use of IoT personal data?

What too, will be the effect of the IoT on marketing and advertising and the people we hire to make sense of it all? How will it effect the environment, government, transport systems?
How will the IoT affect you?

These are all great questions, but we will have to figure them out as we go along. The train that is the Internet of Things is already traveling at an unstoppable speed.

Want learn more about The Internet of Things? Be sure to attend John Montgomery’s Keynote at Social Media Week Johannesburg next week.

Image by Heather via Flickr.



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