What is the Internet of Things?

A new technology commonly known as the “Internet of Things” is rapidly being incorporated in industries such as energy, healthcare, agriculture, security, and more. Built on Cloud computing, it involves machine-to-machine communication, and uses sensors to gather data. This latest innovation is poised to change many aspects of life. Some possibilities include:

  1. Your alarm clock wakes you up at 6 a.m. and then tells your coffee pot to start brewing.
  2. You are on your way to a meeting; your car could have access to your calendar and already know the best route to take. If the traffic is heavy your car might send a text to the other party notifying them that you will be late.
  3. What if your office equipment knew when it was running low on supplies and was able to automatically re-ordered more?
  4. With the use of smart concrete, if there’s ice on a bridge, the sensors in the concrete will detect it and communicate the information via the wireless internet to your car. Once your car knows there’s a hazard ahead, it will instruct you, the driver, to slow down. If you don’t, then the car will slow down for you.

The Internet of Things really comes together when sensors and machines are connected via cloud-based applications capable of interpreting and transmitting data. The sensors used can detect motion, velocity, proximity, gas, and chemicals. This type of real-time monitoring alerts you the moment a problem occurs, tells you what and where it is, and can lead to serious cost savings.

According to the analyst firm Gartner, there will be over 26 billion connected devices by 2020. The Internet of Things can network together thermostats, sprinklers, lights, security cameras, coffee makers, and door locks – allowing you to control these devices with your smartphone. The Nest Thermostat, for instance, programs itself by learning when you’re home. The Honeywell Lyric system takes it one step farther and uses your smartphone’s GPS to determine when you’re nearly home, and cranks up the heat or air conditioning so your house is the perfect temperature when you arrive.

The stage has been set for tremendous growth in the popularity of connected devices. Broadband Internet is widely available; connection costs are dropping; more devices are being produced with built-in Wi-Fi and sensors; and smartphone use is growing rapidly. The Internet of Things represents a huge fundamental shift. As devices become increasingly intelligent, we’ll see many new products and services emerge.

No one knows exactly what the Internet of Things will look like in the future, but further development is expected. Already, farmers are using connected sensors to monitor their crops and livestock in order to increase production, boost efficiency, and track the health of their herds. In the healthcare field, smart pills and monitoring patches are already available. Smartwatches and fitness bands make it easy to track your steps or heartbeat while on a run. Eventually, we’ll likely see intelligent vehicles and roads; smart farms and facilities; and power grids capable of managing themselves. Connected devices will probably sneak into most businesses the same way computers and the Internet have.

The Internet of Things may be the most important technology trend we’re experiencing right now. It has the potential to create the greatest disruptions and biggest opportunities for many years to come.