The newest revolution comes in the form of a very tangible technological transition referred to as ‘the Internet of Things’ (IoT).
Coined in 1999 by Kevin Ashton, a tech guru hailing from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the phrase, particularly ‘Things’ refers to day-to-day material objects and devices that historically have not been connected to the Internet.
How Does It Work?
The Internet of Things works wirelessly. Given that wireless technology is advancing and being adopted at an incredible pace, organisations such as ABI Research estimate over five billion wireless chips will ship in 2013. In addition to the kind of wireless chips that might be used for Wi-Fi connection, other technologies are also on the rise including RFID chips, improved Bluetooth and ZigBee.
With this relatively inexpensive method of information transfer in place, the next element of the Internet of Things is sensors. IoT’s potential is indeed limitless if everything from temperature readings and the contents of the stomach to geolocation of just-about-anything and pollution levels can be measured and reported.
Is It Too Early to Start Getting Excited?
Some of the products incorporating aspects of this technology today include the Nike+ System, which records and monitors one’s workout data with sensors installed in trainers. Earlier this year, President and COO of KORE Telematics, Alex Brisbourne had, in an article published in Forbes pointed out the Internet of Things isn’t such a new concept when one considers that telemetry systems such as those used in black box airplane recorders, and homing devices have been around for a long time.
However, many respectable organisations including MIT believe 2013 will be the year of IoT. For example, while the Google Glass reality augmentation headset is being met with considerable scepticism, a story in the Washington Post suggests that the product could offer an ideal method to control, manage and interact with various IoT objects with the necessary wireless communication hardware installed.
A Day in the Life of the Internet of Things
To know the potential impact of IoT on everyday life, one might consider a scenario where a person had an early flight to catch for a two-week holiday. Their smart phone would communicate with the airport timetable and be aware of any changes to the flight times, and this information would be shared with their local IoT. They would be automatically woken up in good time to make it to the airport, and their electronic appliances that had automatically activated early would switch to energy-saving holiday mode once it was detected that they had left the house. Their vehicle navigation would determine the best route to take based on real time information from traffic and weather sensors, and would guide them to the closest or lowest cost vacant parking space on reaching the airport. While on holiday, similar interactions with their accommodation environment would ensure a comfortable, effortless and energy-efficient experience. Their return would be just as efficiently processed so that they come back to a warm and organised house.
Examples Pending Release
A digestible sensor that stays in the stomach and communicates optimal timings for consumption of prescribed medicines; A baby monitoring garment that informs people what’s going on with their toddlers in their absence; Significantly improved energy efficiency; Monitoring the successful growth of plants, both commercially and domestically; Finding parking spaces in heavily congested cities more easily.
The IoT technology may genuinely revolutionise humanity. In addition to greatly supporting reductions in energy consumption and consequently global warming, it has the potential to increase human productivity and quality of life in hundreds of ways not even thought of yet.
LX Group is an innovative contract electronics design company specialising in the design of embedded systems and wireless technologies.