What The Heck is… The Internet of Things? By Bernard Marr
Some say The Internet of Things will be bigger than the Internet! Let me just pause for a second and say two things: firstly, what a stupid name for such an important development, and secondly, how can something be bigger than the Internet if it is part of it? Anyway, now I have got this off my chest, let’s look at what it really is and why people are making huge claims about it.
Basically, The Internet of Things describes the fact that many everyday objects, from diapers to self-driving cars, have (or will soon have) the ability to send and receive data via the Internet. In fact, during 2008, the number of devices connected to the Internet surpassed the number of people using the Internet. Today, we have over 10 billion connected objects in the world and by 2020, this is predicted to rise to 50 billion.
So, what does that mean for us? It means that we will have more data than ever before, indeed, we will soon have data about most things on the planet. To put this into perspective, the same amount of data that was generated from the beginning of time up to 2008 will soon be generated every 10 minutes – and the rate is accelerating faster than a drag racing car on steroids.
This huge increase in data means we can use it to create a smarter world, where buildings sense and predict temperatures outside and adjust heating or air conditioning systems inside, where cars will drive themselves, where electricity and water grids self-diagnose problems, where your alarm clock monitors your sleep and wakes you up at the right time so your body doesn’t feel tired and where your baby’s diaper tweet you when it needs changing. A futuristic vision? No, all of these things are already here today.
Here are a few more very real examples of what The Internet of Things can do today:
As you can probably tell, I love all of this and see endless opportunities for business, science and governments to exploit this new data tidal wave. Just imagine what will happen when you connect all these devices in even smarter ways - when your refrigerator knows what items are past their use-by date and re-orders them for the next shop; when your smart watch makes an appointment with your doctor because it has detected some abnormalities; when buses wait for a delayed train to arrive or finally when your alarm automatically adjusts its wake-up time because your early morning appointment has been cancelled overnight.
I even like the idea of the digital diaper - not because I need a tweet to tell me that my little one has done a ‘Number Two’ but because the next generation of these diapers will automatically analyze the urine and alert me to the onset of any infections even before any physical symptoms appear.
I hope this article has made the often fuzzy concept of The Internet of Things clearer. Please let me know what you think - what smart appliances or applications would you like to see?