“Does it come with an App?”
That was the first question my 18 year old cousin fired at me (without missing a beat), when I announced the arrival of our new refrigerator.
I too didn’t waste any time to tell him, “No, but it comes with a huge promise to cool things off!”… I may have paralysed my cousin’s enthusiasm at that moment, but his question was a valid one.
These days it’s not uncommon to find ‘smart’ homes with refrigerators that remind you via an App in your phone; that you’re out of milk. Some of these smart fridges can not only detect but also reorder depleted food supplies automatically.
Same goes with a coffee maker that can sync in with your calendar and have a freshly brewed coffee ready for you; just before your alarm goes off in the morning.
Or take the wearable fitness devices like Fitbit, Jawbone and Under Armour which can monitor heart rate, track activity, sleep, caloric intake and other crucial metrics to keep us healthy. Some can even communicate with other Apps to share crucial info on the user’s chronic condition to healthcare providers.
All of these devices are what we call the ‘Internet Of Things’ or IoT devices. To put it simply, the Internet of Things (IoT) is the concept of connecting any device (with an on/off switch) to the internet and to other connected devices.
In today’s world, it includes everything from your cellphones, coffee makers, washing machines, microwave ovens, lawn mowers, headphones, surveillance cameras, self-driving cars, drones etc. - It is a gigantic network of ‘connected’ things, which also includes people.
Gartner predicts that by 2020 the number of IoT devices will reach a staggering 20.8 billion! Given the advancement in M2M (Machine to Machine) Communication Technologies, and the cost of technology rapidly decreasing; more ‘smart’ devices are being built with sensors and WiFi capabilities, which can communicate data to other devices and apps to help analyse and share valuable information to address specific needs.
To give you a picture of how Internet of Things are altering the way we communicate and connect with our environments and to see how it is shaping our future in every verticals such as the industries, business, social or health – here are a few examples for you to sample:
Say you left for work in a hurry and forgot to turn off the lights. What would it mean to you if you could turn off your lights and AC from work via an app in your phone? Or wouldn’t you love to switch on your AC before reaching home? How about remotely unlocking your doors for your cousins who have paid you a surprise visit?
Well, that and much more convenience is what ‘smart homes’ with IoT devices is bringing to us. Nest is one such company who is already entering the residential spaces with its smart home products, helping us live comfortable lives and saving us time, energy and money.
With their smart devices such as cameras, thermostats, alarm system and door bells; Nest is already helping us better manage our homes. The thermostat can learn about your preferences and automatically adjust the temperature when you’re home. The indoor and outdoor cameras provide you with a 24 hour remote surveillance and the smoke and CO (carbon monoxide) alarms make your homes safer.
The video below shows how Nest’s learning Thermostat operates in a typical ‘smart home’:
With more companies like Amazon (Echo), Ecobee, Ring, August etc. jumping into making similar smart home IoT devices, consumers and home owners are just beginning to realise how Internet of Things can be used to change the ways we live in and around our home environments.
Smart city is another concept powered by the application of IoT technologies. Managing cities with smart surveillance, automated transportation, efficient energy management systems, smarter water distribution and urban security systems; are some of the potential applications of IoT for smart cities.
IoT holds huge possibilities in urban-centric problems like pollution, traffic congestion and solid waste management. We are already seeing the smart garbage bins ‘Bigbelly’ in the streets of New York which not only alerts the municipal authorities when the bin is full or is getting rather smelly – but it also acts as a WiFi hub and generates enough bandwidth to power a startup.
To get an idea of how smart cities around the world are functioning, take a look at the video below:
Smart cities like Amsterdam is already going even further by building strong infrastructures, implementing open city data and collaborating between startups, businesses and government to infuse innovations that bring real solutions to problems in the city.
Amsterdam with its pioneering initiative, IoT living Lab, is bringing all those interested (citizens, companies and universities) together to test and develop IoT applications and push the development of the IoT economy into every public and private sphere.
Connected Health Care
We have all been fascinated by this ‘wrist-band’ like wearables which we use as heart-rate monitor, movement calculator, sleep tracker, calorie counter and sometimes we just wear it as a ‘fashion statement’.
While most of us use it to self-monitor physical activities and to prevent health conditions like hypertension and stress – it also presents us with the opportunity to capture and instantly communicate a continuous stream of data about our physiology and kinesiology, to any health care provider through dedicated apps.
The data collected can then be used by health professionals, fitness experts and trainers to give a personalised analysis of an individual’s health and provide tailor-made solutions to combat illness or to train for fitness.
The video below demonstrates how IoT can interconnect and revolutionise health treatment in the years ahead:
With estimates of Internet of Things (IoT) reaching 20 billion by 2020, one can only imagine how swiftly IoT technologies will permeate every spheres of our lives.
It is the availability of real time data and the inter-connectedness of innovative devices and people - which is the key aspect of IoT that will revolutionise the way we function and live as humans in this world.
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