CONNECTING THE WORLD WITH THE INTERNET OF THINGS
Whether we like it or not, in today’s increasingly technologically interconnected world, the Internet of Things is slowly becoming an integral part of how we manage our everyday lives. First introduced in 1989, the Internet of Things (IoT) uses embedded sensors to allow devices to connect with each other over the internet.
In that time, the Internet of Things has increasingly gained ground as a potential problem solver that will ease our living. Such is its projected potential and importance, the British government handed over £40m for research into the Internet of Things in 2015.
This hyper-connectivity gives users control of these devices through their mobile phones or other devices. The devices that can be controlled can range in size from cars, fridges, heating systems, to smaller items such as a mobile telephone, even an environmental sensor or something as small as a heart monitor. These in turn form part of a wider technological ecosystem, which includes analytics, big data and connectivity, helping us monitor and keep track of the world around us.
Amongst other uses, the Internet of Things gives us, as users, the power to keep an eye on and keep track of our lives, whether it’s:
- Monitoring the energy consumption of home appliances;
- Keeping track of maintenance and upkeep;
- Controlling lighting and heating inside the home;
- Controlling home appliances such as washing machines, ovens, HVAC systems and the like;
- Keeping tabs on when and how much our pets are fed;
- Keeping up-to-date on the latest traffic, environmental and pollution conditions;
- Tracking hospital functionality and use of healthcare assets;
- Understanding use of assets and buildings.
Provided with the right electronic and software system, sensors and network connectivity, it’s an easy way for devices and humans to communicate and collect data. This data is connected to an easy-to-use interface that gives us all the data we need, right at our fingertips. We gain better connectivity and easier access to information on how our world works, all in real-time.
Integrating the IoT into our everyday lives works to help us use our physical infrastructure in a more proactive way. So, whether it’s seeing how much traffic we’ll have to deal with on the way home, measuring air quality and pollution levels, or monitoring energy consumption, the sensors gather data at regular intervals, and send it through a web-based app.
Think of the way in which smart cities work. By simply integrating technology in a secure and easy-to-use manner, a city can manage its assets much more effectively and improve urban living. An example of this can be seen in monitoring pollution and air quality, which has become a particularly hot topic in the world’s large metropolises.
With large populations and heavy traffic, buildings guzzling fossil fuel-based energy, and other pollutants dotted around, the urban environment has become a health hazard. To keep an eye on the air we breathe, city authorities can use tracking devices and sensors situated throughout the city to measure the air quality on a regular basis. This in turn ensures the appropriate steps can be taken to reduce pollution and recurring health problems.
Bringing the IoT into the home ensures that residents can keep track of:
- How much energy they are using;
- Where the major points of consumption are around the house;
- And what needs maintenance.
This is particularly important with electronics such as thermostats, where you can use tracking devices to ensure they comply with safety standards, and keep track of their energy consumption.
There are numerous benefits to creating a world where the Internet of Things plays a big part in daily life, including:
- It provides more data, which users can easily access – ensuring they make more informed decisions. Even if it’s something as simple as your fridge telling you that you need a new bottle of milk, or food levels are running low, helps you run your life more conveniently.
- The IoT helps you track what’s going on at home, from energy consumption to keeping track of maintenance and upkeep of each technological component in your home. Whether it’s making sure your boiler complies with safety standards, or keeping track of how efficient your heating system is, you’ll get to see the main benefits really quickly.
- Instead of having to make numerous trips to the shops, or finding out at the last minute there is a problem with your home technology, you gain immediate alerts via easy to use interfaces. This means you can organize repairs or simply stop by at the shops whilst you remain on the move.
- It’s a potentially big money-saver, with technology likely to replace their human counterparts in monitoring and maintaining supplies.
There are, however, downsides to incorporating the IoT into our daily lives, including:
- There is still no standardized technology for tagging and monitoring with sensors. This could mean that you end up either being restricted to certain technologies, or you can only buy from one provider.
- If you and other members of your household or business receive the same message about replacing certain products, or notifications for maintenance, it may mean you either buy the same product twice, or double book an appointment.
- As the IoT is still in its early days, there is still the issue of how far your data is private. Encryption is the key here, so that your basic information remains inaccessible.
With these points in mind, there is huge potential for the IoT to gain real traction in our world and the way we live.