The Internet of Things: Connecting Devices for a Smarter Future
Maybe you’ve heard of the Internet of Things. It’s a concept that has been around for many years and is starting to become a reality.
Going back about 20 years, the concept of the internet was new, and the opportunities that the web contained were unproven. Household names such as Facebook, Amazon, and Google didn’t exist at the time. Over the last twenty years, the internet has become a tool for common communication, information, and interaction… between people.
The Internet of Things is another step. Although the term was first used in 1999, it has only come into common use recently. The Internet of Things can best be described as the network of devices that are linked to other devices without the need for human interaction. It is estimated that there are already nearly five million devices connected, and Forbes Magazine suggests that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion devices connected.
Think of the factors that have changed in accessing the internet over the last twenty years. The world moved from dial-up to broadband and then fiber. Remote 4G technology now provides timely access to the internet using tablets and smartphones wherever people are.
At a basic level, people are becoming accustomed to the idea of using the internet to remotely access devices. Some people have home security systems that can be accessed through a website. Others can turn home heating systems on and off remotely using the internet. You can set your Digital TV Recorder to record a program at home using your internet, anywhere. All of these interactions still require human activity. They are examples of using the internet to interact with things.
In continually more situations, devices are being designed to connect, without the need for human interaction. The simplest way to think about it is to realize that any device that can be connected may in the future be connected. This could include your garage door remotely opening as your car approaches it, or your car automatically sending a text message if you’re stuck in slow-moving traffic. Your printer could be programmed to know when it is running low on toner or paper, and automatically place an order with the stationery supplier for replacement stock to be delivered. These linkages all meet personal needs.
In the future, the Internet of Things will have effects on you without you being aware of it. Think of traffic flows being automatically adjusted based on the number of vehicles on the road at any given time. Think of manufacturing processes being automated and linked with suppliers of material to maximize the efficiency of supply and distribution channels. All devices that use electricity can interact with utility companies to balance power generation and usage. Remote health monitors can provide real-time information to medical staff regarding patients in their care. The opportunities for devices to interact with each other to benefit our lives are endless. And over the next few years, these advances will start appearing in our daily lives, probably without us even being aware of the new, efficient Internet of Everything.