When most people hear the term Internet of Things (IoT), they usually scratch their heads or shrug their shoulders. That’s because most people have never heard the term, though they do know something about it. They know that they carry around a computer that makes phone calls, video conferences with family members and colleagues, pays their bills, gives them directions, and adjusts the thermostat in their house.
What they don’t know is how much more there is to IoT and the impact it’s about to make in their lives in the coming years. IoT, a distributed ecosystem of interconnected, “smart” machines, devices, products, services, people and wireless networks, is shaping one of the defining trends of the modern age–the physical-digital convergence.
And, this ecosystem is no longer an idea only found in sci-fi. Today, “intelligent” meters and appliances, connected cars, radio-frequency identification tags (RFID) and wearables are in constant communication with each other, without you ever having to step in.
What’s more, these various Internet-connected devices—mechanical or digital—with unique IDs are sending, receiving, and transferring unprecedented volumes of data around various aspects of your daily life.
There are already more than 2 billion Web-enabled mobile phones. In our homes and businesses, there will be 13 billion home appliances and electronics instruments–including refrigerators, freezers, televisions, thermostats, security cameras, lights and smoke detectors–connected to the Internet.
In our cities, another 9.7 billion devices will be linked into the network, monitoring and controlling street lights, parking meters and traffic lights. In some cities, IoT sensors embedded in water pipes will help prevent another Flint water crisis. Meanwhile, pollution monitors will warn residents of ozone and smog alerts when the air becomes unsafe.
Parking will get a lot easier when “smart” lots send alerts to your car, recommending available parking spots before you even pull into the lot. It’ll be a part of the estimated 3.5 billion devices connected across the auto industry that will deliver traffic-related alerts, configure the most optimal route, and facilitate on-demand access to in-vehicle infotainment.
Similarly, IoT will mine the real-time risk information generated by your “smart” cars and homes to customize your insurance premiums. So, your auto insurer will offer you a usage-based insurance (UBI) model wherein premium discounts will be linked to how safely you drive.
Even health care, the way we know it, will be transformed. Hospitals will likely adopt some 646 million IoT-enabled devices, as heart rate monitors, body implants and blood pressure monitors get connected to give us the most accurate and latest information on our bodies and health. Sensors will even be put on pill bottles, so we get an alert if we miss a dose and the pharmacy can be notified if a refill is required.
And don’t forget the 411 million wearables that are expected to steer the growth of the fitness industry, in the form of glasses, wristbands, watches and athletic shoes, clothing and socks. Warming vests and jackets are already hitting the market, but right now they’re controlled with a built-in controller. In a few years, you won’t have to use a controller. Sensors will read your body temperature while comparing it to the current weather, and adjust the heat accordingly.
The way you shop will also be reimagined. In-store beacons and “smart” cameras embedded with sensors will track real-time location data sourced from smartphone apps to send you personalized digital coupons as you enter the store.
In short, IoT will transform virtually every facet of your life in the next few years, by connecting our physical and digital worlds in ways we can barely imagine now. And, we are only in the first or second innings of this baseball game, as IoT innovation continues to evolve!
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