Better Connected: The Internet of Things
2016 has been heralded as the year of the connected… everything.
Innovations in technology are every day striving to make our lives easier, more comfortable, and more efficient; and all through a connection known as the ‘Internet of Things’. Technology recently revealed by Bosch, for example, enables you to connect your smartphone directly to your home, giving you the power to wirelessly turn on lights and kick your thermostat into action from your mobile, so you can arrive home to ready-made comfort and luxury. And, not to be overlooked, your white goods also have the chance to become connected, with Samsung introducing the Family Hub Refrigerator. The cutting edge appliance comes in the shape of a colossal four-door fridge, complete with a wifi-enabled touchscreen that can order your groceries, furnish you with news and weather updates alongside your morning juice, and even stream your favourite entertainment right to your kitchen.
In a time where seemingly everyone can connect to everything, technology researchers Gartner Inc. estimate that throughout 2016, more than five and a half million new devices will connect to the Internet of Things every day, while the International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts that we will see almost 30 billion connected devices by 2020. But what even is the Internet of Things, and why is it taking over the world?
The phrase ‘Internet of Things’ was first coined by British technology pioneer, Kevin Ashton back in 1999, and refers to the evolution of connected computers over the last two decades. Computers started out as machines wholly dependent on human beings for information on how to run. Almost all of the information available to us over the internet has, at some point, been input by people; typed, coded, recorded and uploaded by millions across the world on a daily basis. But what if computers could do this data collection on their own, without any additional help from their human counterparts? This is exactly the problem that the Internet of Things hopes to address.
By empowering computers to gather their own data, Ashton suggests that humans can become more efficient, and more sustainable in our day to day lives. Making use of radio frequency identification (RFID) and a battery of sensor technologies, gadgets can be made to see, smell and hear the world around them, gathering their own data, and even, to some extent, ‘thinking’ for themselves. To highlight a universally practical use of the IoT, American tech company Qualcomm have harnessed connectivity to take healthcare to the next level. By utilising biometric data that can be easily captured through a variety of cheap and accessible sensors, Qualcomm Life is able to facilitate remote and personalised care, delivered on a wide scale to patients; an affordable solution in countries where subsidised healthcare is not available.
It is evident that connected devices are making their mark on the commercial stage, with wearable technology and the Internet of Things prevailing at electronics and technology shows across the world, highlighting what has previously been hailed as a new era in consumer technology. But aside from expediting the weekly shop, or remotely controlling your home environment from your mobile phone, the practical and creative applications for the Internet of Things are endless; while the technology takes off primarily in the latest, state of the art devices and gadgets, it is being honed ever finer to deliver life-changing services on a much wider scale.
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