According to Wired, 87 percent of Americans have no idea what the “Internet of Things” is. They have simply never heard the term. And considering that most people do not have a working knowledge of how electronic communications operate, it is not that hard to understand why.
For some, the concept of Machine to Machine (M2M) autonomous communications is still the stuff of Sci-Fi movies. The truth is that we’re much closer to the fantastic future of Asimov’s I, Robot than most people even realize. For many of us, the wi-fi router in our home constitutes a very simple relationship to the data world.
A wire comes in from the wall, connected to the greater web by either the phone company or the cable company. That wire plugs into a plastic enclosure, which houses sensitive electronics that sends and receives information from a computer or tablet, and that’s about where the relationship ends. Perhaps, if we’re a touch more tech savvy, we may have a smart TV or even a virtual assistant, like an Amazon Echo, connected to the network.
Many of us assume that all the interactions and connections ultimately are initiated and terminated by human interaction. What most people do not understand is that the Internet of Things (IoT) is already an integrated part of our lives.
From the moment we wake up to the sound of our smartphone chiming and or our Google calendar, our lives are being touched by the IoT. In the kitchen, we throw the last K-cup in the coffee maker, then hit the dash button and instantly reorder coffee from Amazon. These kinds of connections are a combination of M2M interaction and human to machine interaction, a mix of controlled and autonomous activity designed to improve daily life.
Once in the car, our phones instantly connect to the Bluetooth system on the entertainment system. We may tune into satellite radio, put the car into gear and see the navigation system come into view. Our route is tracked via global positioning satellite, along with traffic updates and an alternate route. These are the somewhat obvious connections to the IoT, but the Internet of Things goes much deeper that will impact our lives in less obvious ways.
With costs no longer prohibitive, sensors can now be integrated into construction materials. Concrete can literally be mixed with sensor capability, providing real-time data to the IoT. Factors like internal temperature and pressure, rebar movement and vibration can initiate active communication with the IoT.
In the case of building bridges and infrastructure, this means the creation of self-monitoring projects. Now, there can be sensors implanted in the concrete that can report issues to engineers before conditions become dangerous. Road surfaces can communicate weather hazards like ice to the Department of Transportation, giving road crews the opportunity to make the road conditions safer for driver. The safety ramifications are limitless.
Lost and Found
Suitcases are now being made with active communications systems that connect your bags to tracking systems that can locate them. Soon, the days of the lost luggage counter at the airport will be gone. Customers are already starting to be able to tell baggage handlers where their lost luggage might be or if their bags have been opened and by whom.
Wearable technology is being developed that can monitor health concerns and record them to the Internet of Things. Blood pressure, blood sugar, allergic reactions and even seizures can be detected and prevented through smartphone apps. Patients, doctors and health care facilities can coordinate care, with medical records now universally accessible. The technology is becoming smaller and more affordable at a quick pace. Apple Watches and Fitbits could soon become semi-permanent smart tattoos that are applied directly to the skin.
What is clear is that Machine to Machine connectivity is quickly becoming the norm rather than the exception. The human factor is no longer needed to facilitate this communication. The autonomy of machines is gaining traction to the benefit of humans. The life-enhancing automation from the Internet of Things is helping to increase human efficiency every day.
About the author
Kate Began serves as the Sales and Marketing Manager for Polycase. She oversees the customer service representatives, assists with product development and leads the marketing efforts from the Avon, Ohio headquarters.