Technology of the Future: The Internet of Things

The technology field is home to an unpredictable and ever changing landscape. Something heralded as an “industry game changer” today can be reduced to little more than an afterthought in just a few years’ time. Alternatively, other tech that is brushed aside as nothing more than a novelty item can quickly bloom into a massive business. Since no one can accurately predict what will succeed, and what will fail, it’s important to keep up to date on the new technology. From a personal level, looking at “what’s next” fuels my excitement for what computers can do in our society. Professionally, being content with the status quo can mean failure for your company as the tech industry evolves and leaves your company’s mindset behind. Just a few years ago, it was cloud computing that was taking the industry by storm (pun intended). Currently, the talk is all about the “Internet of Things.”

So, what is the Internet of Things (IoT)?  IoT isn’t necessarily a new technology, but rather a paradigm shift in how we use the internet. By definition, “The Internet of Things is the interconnection of uniquely identifiable embedded computing devices within the existing Internet infrastructure, expected to usher in automation in nearly all fields, while also enabling advanced applications like a Smart Grid” (source).  The basic idea is to take common items and connect them to the internet.

For years, the only things people connected to the internet were laptops and PCs; then came the introduction of smartphones and tablets. But, that’s just the beginning. Today the floodgates are open; TVs started shipping with internet connectivity and apps. Google created Google Glass, which puts a small screen and network connectivity on eyeglass frames. Phone manufacturers are releasing a plethora of smart watches that have a digital screen which allow users to send and receive text messages and update Facebook.

A key difference of the Internet of Things movement is that it’s spreading into other industries. Traditionally non-tech companies weren’t involved...but now they are getting into the IoT.  As an avid skier, I was especially excited to see the Internet of Things come to the mountains; the Oakley Airwave is a ski & snowboard goggle with a small screen to give the wearer real-time information on their speed, altitude, and distance covered, as well as navigation to find other friends on the mountain. The U.S. Open tennis championship saw the debut of the Ralph Lauren Polo Tech Shirt, a shirt with biometric sensors woven into the fibers, providing feedback on a workout by tracking distance, calories burned, heart rate and more.

The Internet of Things isn’t so much about creating anything new, but rather redesigning existing everyday items by adding a computer chip and connecting them to the internet. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll live with the convenience of refrigerators reminding us to pick up some groceries after work. Then, your car will tell your oven that you’re almost home and it will start pre-heating for dinner.

How do you feel about the IoT rise in popularity? Do you think it’s leading to too much automation, or are you ready for those capabilities?