If it is not already there yet, the ‘Internet of Things’ will be arriving in your home in the very near future. While this poses many new, exciting opportunities, we take look at how the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) could change our day-to-day lives.
About the ‘Internet of Things’
Simply put, the ‘Internet of Things’ is the concept of connecting any device (with an on and off switch) to the Internet. This also applies to components of machines, for example a jet engine of an airplane or the drill of an oil rig.
What was once an appliance that lay inanimate until we intervened, will now be able to predict and implement your requirements without you being anywhere near it. By setting up connections between your appliances, your will can be predicted and satisfied, without any intervention from you directly.
So, how does it work?
In our homes, IoT has the potential to revolutionise our routines. An example of this would be where your morning alarm goes off, also triggering the coffee machine to get going and the heating to turn on. The opportunities are almost limitless!
Race between Tech Giants for Control
With IoT set to be the next big thing in the rapidly-changing technology industry, it’s understandable that many of the leading tech companies have begun competing to gain control of the market.
While Amazon and Google are the current frontrunners, it appears the competition won’t always be so simple for them. Just last week, Apple joined the race and introduced the HomePod:
In order to be one up on their rivals, each of leaders will need to rapidly work on continuing to improve their IoT offerings to harness the power of home-appliance connectivity. The winner of this race will have near complete control over our homes going forward, locking out the competition at the same time.
After all, if you have an Alexa (Amazon’s Personal Assistant) connected fridge, toaster, washing machine etc. – you are unlikely to go out and buy a Cortana (Microsoft’s PA) heating system, because it wouldn’t speak the same ‘language’ as the other appliances in your home.
And it is for this very reason that the world’s leading tech companies are rushing to capture our homes now. With the AI assistants running our homes from the Cloud, there is no need to buy new devices to upgrade them, they’ll get smarter automatically. So once a company has control of your home – they are likely to keep it for some time…
The obvious challenges surrounding IoT have fueled heated discussions across the world for a number of years now. With concerns over privacy and security being at the top of the list, the introduction of chips and digital components into everyday objects and appliances certainly promises to transform the way we interact with our possessions.
One of the most pressing issues is how this could pose a threat to the very concept of ownership. As our everyday appliances begin to connect with each other, sharing information from one to another, there is a new connection to think of, the connection between the appliance and its manufacturing company.
This conversation will happen every time you use your connected appliance, quietly sending data back to its hub about your everyday habits. Your day-to-day life will undoubtedly be scrutinized by marketers and algorithms globally, so they can better anticipate and meet your needs (whilst selling you more in the process).
There are fears that user agreements may even start to try and restrict you from fixing appliances you’ve already bought and paid for. If your kettle is reliant on Cloud support from the manufacturer to even turn on, do you really own it?
There’s a famous phrase in the tech industry that says, “There is no cloud, just other people’s computers.” So when your appliances rely on the Cloud to run, you’re reliant on the manufacturing company’s continuation of that support for you to use it, which has obvious negative implications.
The dawn of the Internet of Things promises to place our private lives into the public eye of the major corporations like never before. How they use and keep secure these intimate insights remains to be seen.
Putting the concerns aside, there are also many positive opportunities to grasp as society starts to embrace this new technology.
The major positive is the creation of a far more efficient ecosystem in the home and office. With all our appliances being able to communicate with each other, as well as you being able to communicate with them, everyday activities and processes can be streamlined and made more efficient.
At home, your shower turning off in the morning can let your toaster know it’s time to get toasting, your car understanding how far from home you are can let your heating know it’s time to warm up before you get home…
In the workplace, your printer can already tell the supplier it’s time to order more consumables when it’s getting low on ink, a drill can tell the operator where the ground is too dense to dig efficiently. The world could become a lot more efficient if everything becomes ‘connected’.
As appliances become familiar with our habits, and the makers behind them do too, the prospect of a life where products, processes and experiences are customised to your specific wants becomes a reality. And far from being a cause for concern, many will relish the prospect of an automated world, reducing hassle and freeing up their valuable time to spend on more rewarding activities.
Watch this space…
Whether the positives outweigh the negatives is somewhat of a moot point. The age of the Internet of Things is upon us. Many people are already embracing the first offerings from the tech giants, if you’re not one of them, you soon will be! Analyst firm Gartner said, “By 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices”, with other companies predicting much higher figures.
As Mikko Hypponen the chief research officer at security firm F-Secure warns, “The [internet of things] revolution is gonna happen whether you’re part of it or not.”