The Internet of Things (IoT) is a hot topic of conversation, but there are a lot of people who do not understand exactly what it is and how it impacts them. Today, we discuss just what IoT entails, in a simplified, easily understood version.
By definition, the Internet of Things is the internetworking of physical devices, vehicles (also referred to as "connected devices" and "smart devices"), buildings and other items – embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data.
To put it simply, the concept of connecting any device with an on/off switch to the internet, and/or to each other is the essence of the Internet of Things. “Things” includes devices such as cell phones, headphones, and wearable devices. It even includes major devices such as washing machines, refrigerators, heart monitoring implants, and even machine component. Sensors installed in machines will be able to monitor if parts have exceeded their designed lifetime periods and, if so, will automatically send reports to owners and manufacturers. Equipment malfunctions will be predicted early so maintenance can be performed before an equipment failure occurs.
The Impact on You
Do you own a smart watch or a fitness watch? Perhaps, you have a smart thermostat such as Nest in your home. If the answer to any of these is yes, you are already impacted by the IoT. Of course, you already know what the internet is. In this scenario, the “things” are the smart watch, the Fitbit Flex, and the smart thermostat.
The IoT does not include computers, tablets, or smartphones; however, IoT devices can function as intermediaries between you and these devices. For example, an activity or exercise tracker records the number of steps you take and the calories you burned. You then sync the activity tracker with your smartphone to analyze the data and, if desired, to keep a history.
The Pew Research Center states the IoT will thrive by the year 2025. Here are some of the things on the horizon that could impact you:
- Near-empty milk cartons that carry sensors, or sit on a smart refrigerator shelf in your home will send signals to you or to the grocery store to conveniently let you know you need milk before you get all the way home.
- Sensors or chips positioned under your skin will provide real-time vital signs to self-trackers and medical providers.
- Municipal trash cans will signal when they are full and need emptying.
- Alarm clocks will be able to signal the coffee maker to start brewing.
Three of the above only impact you if you choose to let them. It is your choice to buy the smart refrigerator or the milk carton with sensors, have sensors implanted under your skin, and buy an alarm clock that signals the coffee maker to begin brewing.
There are, however, some things the Internet of Things will change that you have no control over. The municipal trash cans mentioned above are not owned and operated by you. The environment will be impacted by being able to track water, monitor pollution levels, and help save wildlife.
The Early Stages
The Internet of Things is moving along; however, it’s is still in the early stages. It is predicted to make impacts in government, education, industries, finance, and transportation. For you, the consumer, there are nearly endless combinations of applications.
Today is just the tip of the iceberg for the technology that is to come. We hope this article helped you understand the IoT and what it will mean for you and the world you live in.