It’s a funny name isn’t it? The Internet of Things (IoT). As if the internet we all use everyday doesn’t already consist of things, places, and digital objects. But the critical word in that name is “thing”, and it addresses not what exists on the internet, but rather what is using it to communicate.
How Do “Things” Communicate?
Up until recently there has for all intents and purposes been one internet. It’s the internet that you and I use to send email, get on social networks, shop and learn about the world. It’s an internet that we, people, use to communicate and connect. It’s that human connectivity that has defined the rise of the internet, and entirely changed the way we interact as a society. In order to better understand the internet of things, it’s easiest to think of that first internet as the internet of people.
On the other hand, the internet of things doesn’t connect people at all, at least not in the traditional sense. Instead it connects the things that we use everyday, allowing them to communicate and interact. These things communicate through the passing of data and signals, and are most commonly used in the name of convenience for the user, owner or customer. By connecting and communicating they create a dynamic relationship between technology and our daily lives. At its core, the internet of things facilitates how well our technologies work together. Below is a short and sweet explainer presented by TIME.
What Will it Mean for the Real World?
The concept of the Smart Home is a great place to begin when learning about IoT and the role it plays in your day-to-day life. Thanks to IoT, it’s now possible to control aspects of your home directly from your smartphone. You can adjust the temperature and security of your home, turn on the TV or even brew a cup of coffee all without even having to be present. The remarkable thing however is that these are not one way conversations. Those “things” can also send you alerts if someone rings your doorbell or if you begin to run low on a certain food in your fridge. They can also send alerts to secure networks of their parents company if there is a malfunction. Thanks to the internet of things, objects have become intelligent enough to interact with their surroundings.
As the internet of things continues to grow and develop, the platforms and functions will become more sophisticated and universal. Already you’re seeing cities implement the internet of things in order to run more efficiently and sustainably. For example, say a bus is running late by five minutes, the internet of things can relay that information, along with other metrics, to the city’s traffic control grid, which can then extend certain greenlights to get the bus back on schedule. And that’s just one example, cities are also becoming smarter by connecting utilities, parking meters and other public services to the internet of things, all while collecting tons of informative data.
The Future of The Internet of Things
The internet of things is still in its primary growth stages, with developers and entrepreneurs still figuring out how exactly to utilize the new technology and possibilities. One hurdle they will eventually have to clear is the structure of standardization across devices and platforms. In theory the internet of things could connect all of our smart objects to create for instant and seamless access and usability in all aspects of hour life. But, in order for that to happen all the devices bust be able to communicate, and for that to happen they have to be speaking the same language. Right now Microsoft is working on a system called IoT Central that it hopes will simplify the creation of IoT networks, and make a fully integrated world that much more possible. It’s just the beginning, but it’s exciting stuff.