There’s a lot of talk at the moment about the Internet of Things (IoT). A quick Google search reveals that many people think it is going to be bigger than the internet.
McKinsey Global Institute has called it the fourth industrial revolution and says it will have a value of $10 trillion dollars by 2025. We have no real idea how much that is, but it sounds an awful lot.
All this is fine and dandy but here at Opus, it sparked a discussion about how it is going to affect our daily lives. No one had much of an idea apart from the fact that you can already control the heating from your phone and buy fridges that tell you when you are about to run out of milk.
So we took a look and found out that there is more to it than milk and heating. A lot more. Here’s our brief guide to a few ways in which the Internet of Things is going to change your world.
1. Your Home
Some of us are old enough to remember when a smart home meant not having to get up to change the channel on the TV. (Apologies to younger readers who had no idea that TVs without remote controls ever existed).
The new generation of household gadgets come with an internet connection. That means remote-controlled locks, flood sensors to monitor leaks (and turn off your water supply), and motion sensor lights and security systems, to name but a few.
One of our favourites is the Amazon Echo. It’s a voice-enabled speaker that connects to a virtual assistant called Alexa. Alexa really is smart. She will answer your questions, play music, give you the latest news stories and play games. She can also control devices in your home through a connected hub. So, Alexa will even turn on your heating or dim your lights. If you ask nicely, I’m sure Alexa will even turn over the channel on the TV.
We’ve all got a smug friend who is addicted to their fitness tracker. Wearables such as a Fitbit will keep tabs on the distance you have covered each day, how many steps you have taken and the number of calories ingested. (Plus a whole load of other things to make you feel guilty even before you reach for that second glass of wine).
Thankfully, the jury is out about whether fitness trackers are any good for you. Wearable electrocardiography (ECG) machines could be far more useful. Strokes kill more than 100,000 people in the UK each year, so wearing one of these tiny monitors could save your or a loved one’s life.
Another practical device is one that stores and dispenses pills. It connects to an app so that you can keep an eye on whether an elderly parent, say, is up to date with their medication.
At the other end of the life spectrum, smart baby sleep-suits record sleeping patterns and can even alert parents if a baby stops breathing.
One of the best times to be online is when you are travelling. The problem is that you often can’t get a signal (on planes or the underground) or if you can, it keeps dropping out (trains, coaches and cars).
Connected transportation will change that. It involves fitting vehicles with Wi-Fi to enable an internet connection during travel. It will soon be the norm.
Car manufacturers are investing heavily in connective technology. These will change how we use our cars. Road sensors will warn drivers of dangerous driving conditions, help find parking space and even call for assistance in case of a crash.
Anything that can help us reduce waste has to be embraced. On a small level, this includes smart meters in homes to cut down our energy use.
In the larger picture, this extends to sensors that pick up rising water levels in rivers to prevent flooding or that detect sewage to stop it being dumped in the sea.
Still on the theme of water, WaterBee.eu is an irrigation system that saves water for farmers, golf courses and vineyards by monitoring soil moisture. Another device already on the market monitors air quality in your office or home.
‘Proximity marketing’ is already here. Retailers use Bluetooth beacons to customers’ smartphones to track how they move through their shops. ABI Research estimates that 400 million beacons will be in use by 2020.
More than 80% of shops on Regent Street, including Hamleys, Armani and Hackett have installed beacons to push marketing messages to customers. Shoppers receive special offers and promotions only available to visitors to Regent Street as they pass.
Sheffield’s Meadowhall Shopping Centre did something similar on a ladies’ night event to provide giveaways and prizes. Customers had to download Meadowhall’s special app to take advantage of the promotions on offer. All 52 offers were redeemed within less than an hour, representing a huge success for the event. Expect this to become standard practice in shopping centres and high streets across the country. How will the Internet of Things entwine our digital lives?