You’re probably familiar with the term Internet of Things. It’s a phrase you’re likely to hear more and more in the coming years, as it will have a huge impact on many aspects of our lives, from our daily household routines, to office life and business, to healthcare and industry. Internet of Things sounds like something from a science fiction story, but it simply refers to the way that many objects are becoming connected to one another, and to the internet, and can communicate and synchronize, creating a responsive network of objects, aids and devices.
What this should lead to is a more interconnected and efficient lifestyle, in which friction is removed and labor costs eased. And it’s already taking shape, evidenced by all the objects we call smart–smart watches, smartphones, smart cars–which can network together and assist us. What’s more, with Machine Learning and AI advancing at pace, our smart objects will become, well, smarter, and eventually, perhaps every object will be a smart object.
Already, computers can be trained, and not just in cutting edge laboratories: Alexa can pronounce your name, Amazon figures out your shopping habits, Twitter learns your preferences, and this is just the beginning.
Let’s take a look at exactly how the Internet of Things is moving forward, and what its applications will be.
Google, Tesla, and Uber are already working on this, and tests have been performed on real highways, with a truck making it safely from coast to coast on autopilot. It’s necessary to tread carefully and ensure that there is public trust in this technology, since human lives are at risk if it isn’t fully functional, but self-driving cars are a reality now, although it will take time before they are deployed and in common use.
Self-driving vehicles will–through the Internet of Things–be in constant communication with other vehicles, perhaps with the highway infrastructure itself, and with any other data that is critical, such as weather conditions and traffic news.
Autonomous vehicles will bring great convenience and ease workloads, but will present further challenges of their own, most notably, what happens to professional drivers and delivery people if such tasks become automated?
With aging populations placing additional strain on already stretched healthcare systems, and uncertainties over how to balance the budget in future, any move towards streamlining and automation is to be welcomed. Healthcare professionals are busy and resources are limited, but though smart devices and AI we can significantly ease the burden.
Internet of Things technology is particularly effective for patient monitoring, and Machine Learning means that computers can manage the data gathered and trawl for warning signs or anything that needs attention from a doctor. Furthermore, this can be done remotely, freeing up resources and making the process more comfortable and convenient for patients.
In most industries, remote work is dependent on a dependable level of connectivity. The drawback to remote work is, basically, that everyone is not together in one place, but through improved technology that feeling of connectedness and availability can be recreated, regardless of location. Of course, it’s not perfect, but then it becomes a case of weighing up the gains and losses and deciding what works best.
The more interconnected our devices and data are–and the more kinds of devices become included in this interconnectivity–the easier it becomes to synchronize our tasks and work as a team, remotely. How far remote work will go remains to be seen, but it may be that crowded commutes, as entire populations shift from location to location on a daily basis, are rendered obsolete by the Internet of Things.
Imagine a shop where you enter, browse the shelves picking up items you want to purchase, then just put your products in a bag and leave. The shop itself has monitored what you selected and charged you cashlessly, and you didn’t need to open a wallet or ask for assistance. It would have sounded far-fetched a few years go, but in fact, Amazon is already moving in this direction with its Amazon Go stores.
As with many new technologies, it won’t suit everyone and there’ll always be a requirement for human interactions, but in some situations, these kinds of stores can be a useful, beneficial option, saving time by removing the need to queue up and pay for goods.
Farming and Industry
It’s likely that we’ll see widespread adoption of smart technology in farming and industrial sectors, which make heavy use of sensors and measuring instruments, and in which hard data, and the ability to manage that data, are invaluable. This will lead to improvements in both efficiency and safety, improving productivity and reducing costs.
What the Internet of Things promises is a world in which connectivity is the norm, and where data is utilized constantly and automatically to streamline important tasks. And used effectively and fairly, smart technology has the potential to significantly raise standards of living around the world.