So, you’ve got the hang of the internet of webpages, right? You know your way around Wikipedia, Google, Youtube and Facebook.
Well, prepare for your mind to be blown. Let’s take a trip to the next level of internet connectivity, full to the brim of flying robot cars, wearable gadgets, interactive suit jackets, and smart door knobs. It’s the Internet of Things.
What we’re really talking about are new devices that allow consumers and other organisations to connect to the internet
Do you remember SkyNet, the self-aware computer network that conquered our planet in the Terminator movies? Yeah, pretty much that. Minus the evil killing cyborgs.
Who better to transport us to this brave new digital frontier than techno music god and self-professed tech geek Will.i.am. Last year, he said this:
“Everywhere that we go in the world, the things that we come across aren’t intelligent. Like this wall that I’m looking at, it’s just separating the room from the other side. In actuality, that wall should be intelligent.”
“What’s going to come is the Internet of Things,” Will.i.am predicted, saying the next decade will be “nuts” because of it.
Wait, what? Smart walls? The Internet of Things? Let’s bring in technology futurist Shara Evans, CEO of Market Clarity, to help explain just what Mr i.am is on about.
“When we start talking about the Internet of Things, what we’re really talking about are new devices that allow consumers and other organisations to connect to the internet,” Ms Evans says.
Think about your smartphone. Not that long ago, all mobiles were “dumb” – they couldn’t connect to the web. Now they do. Apply that same leap forward to pretty much everything you own, and you’ll be getting the general idea.
Here’s a cool video from Cisco to help you get your head around it:
And this one:
Futurist Mark Pesce, who is Honorary Associate in the University of Sydney’s Digital Cultures program, says all of our devices will talk to each other, and be controlled from various ‘hubs’, such as your computer, smartphone and car.
“Almost everything that takes mains power or has batteries will be plugged in, will be connected, and will be both listening and responding to the world around it,” he says.
Except these devices won’t literally be ‘plugged in’. They’ll connect to the internet by WiFi and the 3G or 4G mobile networks.
The average home will have between 100 and 200 devices connected to WiFi in the next few years, Mr Pesce predicts.
Luke Dawson is solutions architect at LX Group in Sydney, which markets itself as an Internet of Things (IoT) specialist, and is partnered with global IoT companies like Electric Imp, openPicus, and ioBridge.
In the last 18 months, LX Group has been inundated with enquiries to design and develop electronics, software, apps and the communications channels that will enable our ‘Things’ to talk to each other.
“We’re seeing it be a hot topic now just because the tools are so readily available,” Mr Dawson says.
Here are some examples are the ‘Things’ you can expect, as predicted by Luke Dawson, Shara Evans and Mark Pesce.
We may soon be able to get real time updates on road conditions, hazards and construction zones.
Essentially, our cars, roads and traffic authorities will all be synced up, making road travel smarter and safer.
Your pets will soon be online as well. Mattel already sells Puppy Tweets, an internet-enabled dog tag that tweets your pet’s movements.
“We’re seeing a lot of applications for GPS tracking, motion activity, applications where you can actually communicate with your pet if you are on holidays. That’s a real trend at the moment, which people are interested in,” Mr Dawson says.
Home automation is one of the simplest forms of IoT. In fact, it’s already here.
Air conditioning and heating will adjust to body temperature, fridges and pantries will tell our computer what groceries need to be bought, and appliances will switch off automatically when we leave the house.
Aros, the smart air conditioner
Moving on from smart roads, cars will drive themselves and talk to each other to direct traffic, avoid crashes and find the most direct route.
According to Shara Evans, the forecast is that driverless cars will start appearing on masse on our roads by 2020, and that by 2050 almost every new vehicle sold will be driverless.
The long-awaited Apple Smart Watch is rumoured to be released this year. Smart watches could be the new ‘hub’ for controlling your IoT world, as well as feeding back information about your body, like its temperature and heart beat.