When the internet revolution showed up on the scene, it changed our lives in a matter of decades. Now the Internet of Things is creating a revolution of its own by bringing the internet to all our everyday possessions.
Call it the Internet of Things, Internet of Everything, or just IoT but the concept remains simple at its core. Take an object, any object. Then stick on some sensors and the ability to communicate to a broader network. Suddenly that dumb object just got smart and became infinitely more useful. Fitbit fitness trackers, smart thermostats, and semi-automated driving modes in our cars are some of the most visible examples of IoT lending a hand to our daily lives today.
Of course, as with any new trend, some of its promise is undoubtedly outsized. And new innovations come with whole new sets of challenges. Still, IoT has already made its mark in both consumer and industrial markets and is set to change the way we live once more.
IoT is evolving industries
By and large, IoT has most profoundly impacted the manufacturing industry. So much so, that our current industrial era is now dubbed Industry 4.0. The hallmark of the current era is the “smart factory” where floors once populated with workers are now inhabited by machines that talk to a larger network. Sensors along the assembly line give any employee in the world visibility into production levels at all times. They also send diagnostic data so the employee can address and avoid potential problems that would have once brought production to a grinding halt.
IoT is also bringing some smarts to the business of growing food. We can’t just ask plants if they need more water or sunlight but we can turn to the next best thing: planting devices into the ground that can measure such cosiness factors as soil moisture, temperature, and sunlight levels. The result for agriculture include larger crop yields and tastier fruits and vegetables. If only this technology was around in time to save your last house plant.
In the transportation sector, we’re witnessing both tech companies and auto-industry behemoths in a rapid race to get self-driving technology out the door fastest. Just this year, an MIT start-up called nuTonomy brought self-driving taxis to the streets of Singapore. Meanwhile, Uber came in a close second with their own self-driving taxi test in the U.S. city of Pittsburgh a few weeks later.
And while wearable tech has yet to take flight in the same way we saw the first iPhone explode onto the market, it’s still charting interesting paths for consumers and professionals alike. Even the infamously ill-fated augmented reality headset Google Glass is getting a second chance at life as a device for medical professionals who need to stay connected while keeping their hands free to interact with patients and perform surgery.
But it’s not so rosy everywhere you look
Still, not all industries are benefiting from IoT in equivalent ways. The technology has the power to improve many parts of the healthcare industry but innovations are often bogged by concerns over data security and privacy – and rightly so. Add to that the fact that 70 percent of IoT devices today can be hacked and you don’t have a great recipe for trust in the technology. Just last year, one person successfully hacked his Amazon Echo to take control of a power wheelchair. His Youtube video is a creepy reminder of the importance of good security.
Changing how we do business in the age of IoT
Having a whole lot more connected devices means a whole slew of more data about how consumers are interacting with products and services. We should expect a boom in new insight about how businesses can better target and engage customers.
Then there’s the human factor of labour. At its best, IoT is here to take over the most repetitive aspects of our work so that we’re freed up to focus on solving ever more interesting, challenging, and creative problems. But there’s a danger that change is coming faster than the labour workforce can adapt. And while companies compete heatedly for the most talented resources, segments of the current labour market may be left completely behind without viable avenues for redeployment. It’s a tough possibility that both the private sector and government bodies will need to address in the coming years so that disruptive new technology doesn’t end up completely tearing through the fabric of society. There’s no doubt the IoT revolution is here. Now it’s our responsibility to apply some smarts as we herald in the change.