The “Internet of Things” has become a popular buzz phrase in the last few years, often mentioned in commercials for tech companies or alluded to in online discussions about where technology is heading. But despite the prevalence of the phrase, it’s not always clear exactly what the Internet of Things (or IoT) actually is. If this has been confusing you, as it did me for the better part of two years, let me loosely define the concept:
The IoT is the automatic connectivity of devices for the collection of data that you can track and manage from your phone, tablet, or computer. In other words, the various technological elements around us are increasingly able to interact with one another and report back to us with findings we can then use to optimize various aspects of our lives. Think of the IoT as “smart living,” and think of it as being everywhere.
We actually covered a somewhat surprising aspect of the IoT recently in a way you may not have noticed. The “Lovely” wearable sex tracker exemplifies the concept of smart device connectivity, measuring sexual performance and inputting data to your smartphone. This is connected to the wearable tech industry in general, which is at the forefront of consumer-facing IoT technology. More and more, we’re using various devices and systems to keep track of our health: our heart rates, calorie burning efficiency, movements, and even sleep patterns. The automatic gathering, storage, and analysis of this information is one of the main ways in which people are already taking advantage of the IoT.
Outside of personal fitness and health tracking, the number one way in which the IoT is already impacting our day-to-day lives is through intelligence in the home. This basically means the emergence of devices that can detect our presence and learn our daily routines, resulting in the creation of home environments tailored to our habits and preferences. This means when certain lights can be turned on or off, how the temperature changes according to outdoor weather and time of day, and even when the sprinkler system is activated. All of these things can be controlled via smartphones or tablets, but the systems are designed to learn from our control so as to begin functioning on their own.
But the IoT isn’t only about in-home consumer use. The concept is being broadly implemented in various industries to improve the efficiency of entire companies. To some extent this merely means similar functions to smart home concepts being used in business environments for the improvement of security and for savings on energy costs. However, we’ve also seen major companies implement IoT principles for the sake of transportation and shipping. With WiFi and IoT practices being put into fleet vehicles for industries’ shipping divisions, drivers and managers are now privy to the real-time sharing of vehicle diagnostics, as well as GPS tracking and routing information. The result is that an entire fleets’ worth of vehicles can be maintained and used more efficiently, and drivers can be managed more safely.
This sampling of IoT concepts—in the home, in personal health tracking, and in business efficiency—should help to give you some idea of just how broad the IoT already is. And really, these are only a few examples. IoT devices and practices are also helping to improve healthcare, make traffic smoother, reduce manufacturing costs, and perform any number of other functions across a huge range of industries. The time has come to recognize the phrase “Internet of Things,” not just for what it means but for where it is: truly all around us.