An alarm clock that tells your coffee machine to make coffee 10 minutes prior to waking you up. A self-driving car that could track your office arrival time and send updates to work calendars. A refrigerator that will make sure that you never run out of milk. The seemingly fictitious world with all its ‘James Bond’ish gadgets are moving at a good clip to reality. And it comes with a name – the Internet of Things (IoT).
Coined by technologist Kevin Ashton in 1999, when he suggested a world of physical devices connected to the network/Internet, from our toaster to cell phone to industrial machines. The idea was excessively advanced for that time and received cold shoulders. However, the advancement in technology like RFID and low power sensors has fuelled the idea over the last few years. Today, the rapid maturity of technology has poised IoT at a position that could handle multi dimensional facets of life. With the predicted number of things connected to the internet at one trillion by 2025, it will be pretty much the ‘Internet of Everything’.
The application of IoT in businesses will also be immense. Companies like GE, Cisco and Intel have already recognised this potential and have started looking into it. Last year Mark M. Little, G.E.’s SVP for Global Research said, “These technologies are really there now, in a way that is practical and economic.” He was talking about smarter machines that can alert their human handlers when they need maintenance, before a breakdown. G.E.’s new software centre in the East Bay of San Francisco, with its $1 billion investment and hundreds of newly recruited engineers and researchers, is the company’s attempt to dig deep into what it calls the ‘industrial Internet’. The company previously undertook a smart hospital room project. The smart rooms monitor in and out movements of doctors and nurses, like alerting them if they have forgotten to wash their hands before and after touching patients. It also analyzes the facial expressions of patients detecting severe pain, the onset of delirium or other hints of distress, and sends an electronic alert to a nearby nurse.
‘Internet of Things’ has remained in the last decade as more of a marketing term fabricated around a series of not-yet-ready-for-prime time technologies and its implementation does come with challenges. When the concept breeds new pastures, there will be a need to route, capture, analyse and act upon huge volumes of data. A billion and half is the number of smartphones in the market and this is growing at breakneck pace. Therefore, the existing IT infrastructure needs to mature to a much advanced level before we start seeing the tremendous difference created by IoT. Nevertheless, the change has already begun. Many companies have started adapting IoT to make its infrastructure and maintenance a cakewalk. From the looks of things, it is only fair to say that this is only the tip of the iceberg.
There are recurring concerns on home truths such as the manipulation of this fascinating technological feat in the future, when IoT becomes an integral part of human life. And then there are the most beautiful dreams about making life overwhelmingly easier with it. All these just add up to the concept which is still at its infancy. It may not influence you at a level that you notice now. But a couple of years from now, when your refrigerator never runs out of milk and your clothes constantly alert you about its outdated fashion, you will know.