The Internet Of Things: Big And Getting Bigger

Unless you’ve miraculously avoided all technology over the past few years, you’re likely familiar with the term Internet of Things — or IoT. What you may not know is exactly what this phrase means, or what it means for you.

The IoT, simply put, is a way of bringing anything that can turn on and off into the fold of the internet superhighway. It means harnessing technology to connect everyday products to the internet so that you can automate their functions via smartphones, computers and tablets.

Once upon a time, the concept of a smart home called to mind palatial, high-tech houses only within the reach of the wealthy. Times have changed. Ericsson predicts that there will be 18 billion IoT devices worldwide by 2022. Of those, 1.5 billion will use a cellular subscription.

The IoT In Real Life

What does all this tech connection mean in application? Here are a few examples of daily tasks made easier by the Internet of Things. Imagine you could:

  • Have your coffee brewing before you wake up.
  • Close your garage door from work.
  • Bring your house to the perfect temp before arriving home.
  • Send your grocery list to the store automatically — and have it delivered.

The idea of a connected environment isn’t new. Companies were dabbling in concepts like smart refrigerators as early as the 1990s. Early products like the Electrolux Screenfridge may not have become mainstream, but with smartphone ownership in the U.S. at better than 80% (according to consumer behavior analyst comScore) this technology is now available to nearly everyone.

The IoT And Business

Naturally, enterprise is taking advantage of these technological conveniences, improving both the bottom line and the consumer experience.

What’s available now: Businesses already use the IoT to streamline formerly time-consuming tasks. Counting inventory manually is a labor of the past. Inventory management can all be automated, allowing lightning fast access to any number of inventory metrics.

Data tracking has also undergone drastic changes over the course of technological advancement. Those little loyalty cards not only tell companies how much you spend but precisely what you spend on and how often.

Small businesses aren’t left out of the connection fray: from mobile credit card readers to remote security camera management, smaller companies are able to increase profit and reduce expenses by utilizing the IoT.

What’s next: According to a recent research report from Business Insider, there are exciting things coming in the next few years. BI’s forecast includes:

  • Teller-assisted ATMs
  • Soil sensors to enhance agricultural productivity and efficiency
  • Smart buildings with automated processes to improve tenant experience

The IoT is even disrupting the municipal services sector. A company called Bigbelly, founded in 2003 by two college students, offers trash collection solutions that reduce labor hours and streamline collection. By using built-in sensors and compactors inside city garbage cans, communities manage trash collection by targeting only those containers that actually need emptying at any time.

The IoT At Home

Virtually anything in your home can become an IoT integrated device. From the pedestrian — turning your lights on and off remotely — to the extravagant, like the HiMirror, which analyzes your skin conditions and recommends beauty routine solutions, life is becoming increasingly tech-ified.

While you may not be ready for total home automation, there are plenty of ways to embrace the Internet of Things to simply make life a little easier.

What’s available now:

  • Security systems with remote control functionality
  • Smart thermostats, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Smart kitchen gadgets, including cooking appliances, and refrigerators and garbage cans that track inventory
  • Wearables like fitness trackers and smart watches
  • Voice assistants like Google Home and Amazon Echo, which play music, control other devices, answer questions, even order pizza

What’s next: While in-home IoT applications are in constant states of development and refinement, one of the most exciting sectors is automotive innovation. It was only a matter of time before connection moved into our cars, and that day is here.

You can already buy a car with built-in Wi-Fi, but it gets even better. On the horizon is technology that will inform you of impending problems with your vehicle, track fluid levels, and locate your car if it’s stolen. Companies like Kaa, maker of an open-source IoT platform, are working toward enabling total vehicle monitoring, management and automation via the power of the internet.

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