Things ain’t what they used to be
It’s phrase you’ll have come across again and again: the Internet of things. But what is it, what’s in it for you… and what are the potential peaks and pitfalls?
Put simply, the Internet of Things is a system where the Internet is connected to the real world by sensors. These sensors can be any device that gathers data and sends it to a computer: for example a thermostat, a barcode reader, a weather station or a GPS transmitter.
The best-known example of the Internet of Things in action has been suggested so many times it’s almost a joke: the Internet Fridge which tells you when you’re running out of milk. But we’re already starting to see how the Internet of things is starting to happen in more interesting ways: lighting solutions you control from your smartphone, thermostats you can set and turn on and off remotely, and shopping bags that scan your groceries instantly, with no need to put everything on the conveyor belt.
Making cities smarter
Cities around the world are thinking even bigger, and showing us how the Internet of Things can work on a much wider scale. In Toronto, for example, the city is using smart traffic sensors and signals to cut travel times by up to 26%. In Singapore, flexibly priced tolls and a system that monitors individual vehicles to inform drivers direct in real time about congestion means the country has one of the least congested major city centres – and some of the fastest urban traffic speeds – in the world.
And when the Internet of Things meets the cloud, things can get really interesting. Always-on reporting from all your networked ‘things’ means you can monitor everything all the time, no matter how distributed your business. With smart controls and better reporting, you’re always in the best place to optimize your supply chain in real time… Wherever you are.
This is just the start
The true potential of the Internet of Things isn’t yet clear. But it’s sure to be fundamental. In healthcare, huge amounts of data from personal trackers and meters will give doctors more information than ever to help them keep us feeling good. And the same principle applies to machines: a constant stream of data will allow on the fly adjustments to ensure maximum efficiency, all the time. Cars won’t just drive themselves; they’ll talk to each other too, meaning fewer crashes, fewer traffic jams, fewer crashes… and less stress for drivers.
Of course all this is new, and as with many new technologies, there are signs that security hasn’t yet caught up fully with the technology – especially in the consumer area, where there are new categories of connected ‘things’ arriving almost daily. There’s work to be done making sure everyone’s data is safe.
But one thing is for sure: The Internet of Things is real, and we are only just beginning to see its possibilities. But the revolution starts here.