The term ‘Internet of Things’ (or IoT) has been used by technology companies for a long time, but it’s only in recent years that its usage has entered the mainstream. Whether you’re aware of it or not, there are many Internet of Things examples as to how it affects both your professional and personal lives and will continue to do so into the future.
Yet many people would struggle to provide even an Internet of Things definition, let alone explain its effect on their daily lives. In this guide we detail what exactly the Internet of Things is, how it is currently affecting our lives and what impact it could have in the future.
What is the Internet of Things?
Over the past few years Google has experienced a rise in searches for ‘What is the Internet of Things?’ Essentially, the Internet of Things is a concept and term used to describe devices that are connected to the internet and each other.
The easiest Internet of Things examples to understand (and most commonly in use) are smart meters for home energy use. These meters are connected to the internet and can be accessed remotely, usually through an app, to turn the heating on, off, up or down from a remote location. Any device that has an on and off switch can become Internet of Things devices, connected and controlled via an internet connection.
The concept is much bigger than just being used for home appliances though. Industrial Internet of Things examples include connected sensors being used to track parts and parcels when they are being delivered to monitoring crops. It even stretches as far as smart cities that are beginning to use connected traffic signals that monitor usage and smart bins that signal when they need emptying.
The Impact on our Working Lives
For most industries the IoT is already having an impact, most clearly in the manufacturing and farming sectors. Here the connection of devices has helped improve efficiency for tracking tools and machinery, while for farmers it is useful for setting up sensors to monitor crops and livestock, sending back information from out in the fields to a connected device at home, for example. Many warehouses and storage facilities rely on remote scanners to keep tabs on inventory but smart devices are now able to track inventory changes automatically, freeing up time for workers to focus on other tasks.
The Internet of Things and big data are closely connected as well, able to impact many industries. Internet of Things devices deal with and store a lot of data when they are used either by workers or consumers. For the Internet of Things and marketing, this means businesses have access to a lot of consumer data, which can track their behaviour and influence future marketing and advertising plans.
Even for office workers, security systems are becoming part of the IoT. Access cards can be used not only to get into the building but for tracking purposes and connect to other devices, such as to use the printer for example.
The Effect on a Personal Level
In our personal lives, more and more devices we use on a daily basis are becoming connected. Cars are getting smarter, to the point that those with many modern sat-navs can now use their internet connection to identify traffic jams up ahead and re-route based on this information.
Wearable devices such as smart watches are tracking and storing data about our every movement which, as consumers, helps companies develop specialised marketing and advertising targeting. Linking smart watches and phones to household appliances and devices is making our lives a lot more convenient.
Smart meters can already warm up or cool down homes remotely but there are further possibilities, such as fridges that can recognise when certain groceries are running low and send a message to your phone or watch reminding you to buy some more. Devices such as kettles and toasters could even develop to connect with alarm clocks, so when it goes off in the morning the kettle automatically starts boiling your morning brew.
Future Internet of Things Developments
There have been studies that suggest by 2020 there will be over 26 billion Internet of Things devices, with others predicting this number to be even higher. The focus by developers on IoT technology is also increasing, as it grew by 34% year-on-year to 2016. There are many potential future developments for the phenomenon including:
- Smarter cities: From intelligent, weather-adaptive lighting to monitoring of parking space availability, an increasing adoption of smart devices in cities will improve efficiency in many areas
- Business transformation: Production lines are changing to incorporate IoT devices, increasing efficiency. In some cases this could result in lower staff levels
- Homes: More devices will become Internet of Things devices, from kitchen appliances to TVs and lights, all will become connected to be controlled remotely
- Connected car: Future cars could incorporate IoT devices not only for music streaming but to improve car safety with semi-autonomous driving applications
Challenges for the Internet of Things
The main challenge facing the IoT is security. Being connected to the internet means there is always a risk of hacking and especially when a lot of big data is collected by such devices, this will remain a concern for individuals and businesses. As IoT devices develop it is hoped that security surrounding them will as well, to best protect the data they store.
For this reason, professional indemnity insurance could be even more important for any company investing in the Internet of Things and big data, to protect such information should the worst happen.The Internet of Things has already started to affect many of our personal and professional lives, with likely future developments set to have an even bigger impact in the future