You may have heard of the term “Internet of Things”, but you’re probably not quite sure what it is, what it does, and how it affects modern society.
The Internet of Things simply involves internet-based communication between computing devices, motorised and digital machines with objects, animals or people through unique identifiers that enable them to send and receive data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. It employs cloud computing technology and is linked by networks of data-gathering sensors. Research service BI Intelligence predicts that there will be more than 24 billion Internet of Things devices in circulation by 2020, which translates to approximately four devices for every person on Earth.
This new technology will see an amalgamation of our daily lives with the devices that we use in a way that is unprecedented, greatly assisting humans with their everyday tasks. Technological innovations are almost, if not wholly, dependent on humans for information to function. This is inefficient, knowing the human propensity for errors and their limitations in terms of time and attention span. With the automated data-gathering capabilities of the Internet of Things, the need to personally keep track of everything is greatly reduced, leading to a higher quality of life and more efficient and cost-effective business processes.
Below are some of the areas in which the Internet of Things has made a positive impact on daily life and businesses:
1. Wearable devices
Wearable devices such as the Apple Watch, FitBit and GoPro have taken the world by storm in recent years and this love for new technology won’t be waning anytime soon. These devices help in many aspects of our daily lives such as health, travel and entertainment, and is wildly popular because of its portability and energy efficiency.
A key feature of wearable devices is its ability to collect data and information about the users through embedded sensors and software. With this data, the device generates insight into a user’s habits, health, interests, etc., and assists users in a broad spectrum of daily tasks such providing reminders and directions, and keeping track of daily schedules. To illustrate, new technology Fitbit One is a gadget that keeps track of activity levels and the number of calories burned during a workout, and identifies movements as well as your sleep quality. It allows you to wirelessly transmit the data collected to your mobile devices, helping you monitor the progress of your fitness regime.
2. Smart cities
Imagine living in a city where almost every function, building or element is automated. The simplest example of how the Internet of Things makes cities smart is in traffic management. Traffic congestion during rush hour could be a thing of a past with the use of web-based applications and intelligent sensors to direct and manage traffic. Even traffic light malfunctions can be repaired remotely without the need for human intervention.
The uses of the Internet of Things extend beyond traffic management to include energy management systems for water distribution and electricity generation. By reducing dependency on humans to manage everyday systems, many problems that plague city living such as pollution, traffic congestion and poor maintenance of amenities can be effectively eliminated. In Barcelona, several initiatives such as smart parking facilities have been implemented to enhance the lives of its dwellers. Products such as Smart Belly employ real-time data collection and alert the municipal council when trash management services are required. This greatly reduces the number of trips waste management companies need to make when doing their rounds, making the process cost-effective and efficient.
3. Smart homes
Switches for lighting and appliances, door knobs and furniture levers could soon become obsolete with the advent of the Internet of Things, because why would we need them if we can control everything over the internet, and even remotely? This new technology greatly assists us in our busy lifestyles by allowing us to access and manage home appliances such as lighting and air-conditioning remotely.
Today’s smart home technology has also improved by leaps and bounds, and we can now control all electrical appliances (e.g. refrigerators) and household fixtures (e.g. doors) with one central device, either on–site or remotely. Home ownership is a costly affair, and it makes sense to install fixtures and appliances that save you time, energy and money. For example, the Ninja Block device has sensors that will inform you if you have a burst water pipe, and a motion-detector function that will update you via email or text message in real time regardless of your location. Smart homes are the new normal, and with the proliferation of smart home technologies, this technological innovation is bound to become as ubiquitous as the smartphone!
The uses of the Internet of Things extend beyond individual fitness products to encompass general healthcare. Geriatric healthcare is commonly seen as an area that requires a high level of human resources, but this perception is changing thanks to the Internet of Things.
To illustrate, elderly individuals who are required to take their daily medication no longer need to rely on their family members or themselves to keep track of their intake. New technology such as GlowCaps, designed to fit onto prescription bottles, use a wireless chip that sends a variety of phone reminders to patients to take their daily medication, refill their medication when levels are low and attend medical appointments. There are also wearable medical devices that remotely read patients’ biometrics (heart and respiration rates, activity levels, etc.), and send their data to their appointed medical practitioner. This allows users to manage their health without making many trips to the doctor’s office.