A Crash Course on The Internet of Things

Imagine a world where everything is not just connected, but also automated. A world with a pet collar that not only lets you know where your dog is, but also lets you know through your smartphone if your furry buddy is hungry, sleeping, or sick. A world with a refrigerator that sends you a text message, saying that you’re almost out of eggs and butter.

Prescription bottles that remind patients to take their medicine, sensors that allow a patient’s biometrics to be read and captured even without the patient needing to be physically present, and electronic systems that check fire extinguishers in emergency situations.

Welcome to a world where you won’t even have to think or worry much about things – where it’s the other way around, where things do the thinking for you. Welcome to the Internet of Things (IoT), a world that is steadily taking shape around us, even as you read this… a world where things will never be the same.

Connecting the Dots

Simply put, IoT pertains to an “intelligent” network of objects (“Things”) that can interact with one another, send crucial information back and forth, and monitor every aspect of daily life – all without the need for direct human intervention. It’s a system that focuses less on how we communicate with machines and vice versa, and more on how machines communicate with each other.

The Beginnings

Some may argue that, believe it or not, the earliest threads of the IoT Web were spun the moment the electric telegraph was born in 1832.

Others may cite Jay B. Nash in Spectatoritis, where he wrote of “mechanical slaves” who “start our car; run our motors; shine our shoes, and cut our hair,” and how they “practically eliminate time and space by their very fleetness.” (Of course, Nash wasn’t really writing about machines – his book had absolutely nothing to do with them, as a matter of fact – but his words eerily echoed what the IoT would eventually bring to the table.)

As the years passed, more progenitors and building blocks of IoT began to take shape: the inception of the bar code in 1952, the first wearable computer – which was used to try to predict roulette outcomes – in 1955, the first message sent via ARPANET (essentially the grandfather of the internet) in 1969, an intelligent Coke machine at Carnegie Mellon University in 1982, a badge system that transmitted a person’s location via infrared in 1990, and so on.

Eventually, the term “Internet of Things” was coined by Auto-ID Center executive director Kevin Ashton, illustrating the concept of a global system of interconnected objects (and even people) for easier identification and management – a “standardized way for computers to understand the real world.”

The Current State of Things

Right now, however, IoT as we define it – and as innovators and tech pioneers envisioned it – has already begun to take shape, in ways we may not even be consciously aware of. With the singular aim to combine all the aspects of a person’s everyday life into measurable, useful information, more and more companies and apps are embracing the IoT approach.

On a daily basis, we use smart devices with advanced connectivity features and apps, capable of communicating machine-to-machine, transmitting user data, and automating processes to make our lives easier.

An example of such an app is StreetBump, a city-commissioned app that helps road maintenance crews monitor the streets and keep track of potholes that need to be covered up immediately.

Another unique example is the fascinating Egg Minder, a “smart egg carton” that not only checks how many eggs you have left in the fridge, but also identifies which of them is the oldest.

A third marvel is Droplet, which calculates the perfect water dosage for plants based on atmospheric conditions, soil richness, and even the plants’ genetic information.

Virtually every field and industry these days is moving towards IoT: from environmental monitoring, to energy management, to healthcare systems, to even building and home automation, everything is being prepped towards changing the way data gathering and processing are handled.

In summary, IoT is really starting to gain momentum especially after attracting so much attention at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Experts are saying that this will lead to a home full of appliances and objects with microchips – only time can tell for certain if that future will to come to pass.

Movers and Thinkers

Tech companies seem to be quite determined in making sure that it does, though. Pioneers in the various fields that seek to capitalize on the growing IoT trend are at the forefront of ensuring that everything is connected. This was made abundantly clear at the 2015 CES, where companies featured self-driving cars, smart ovens that show recipes and instructional videos for cooking, and other fascinating tech.

Here are some of them.

Emiota

Emiota is a French startup company focusing on wearable technology for health and wellness, with the mission to develop wearable accessories that can help people understand their bodies more for their wellbeing. They want to achieve this not by inventing new accessories, but also by improving the things that people currently wear.

While their team is composed of not more than 10 people, they already managed to achieve quite the success at CES 2015 when they introduced Belty, a smart belt that gathers data from its wearer based on activity, or lack thereof. It also adjusts itself according to the user’s waistline.

Snaptracs, Inc.

Snaptracs, Inc., founded in 2010, focuses on developing GPS tracking systems for a wide range of products: toys, t-shirts, coffee mugs, ball caps, and most notably wearable tracking devices for pets. It is one of the few companies whose focus is to combine pet and technology industries for better pet management and to ensure security.

At CES 2015, they introduced Tagg GPS Plus Pet Tracker, a “smart” pet collar that connects to a smartphone app.

myBrain Technologies

French startup company myBrain Technologies describes itself as a company “closely linked to the medical and research communities,” with a focus on developing “real-time evaluation tools of human mental states by measuring brain activity.” Their goal is to alleviate the mental stress people suffer from on a daily basis by means of non-invasive wearable technology.

myBrain is set to offer consumers Melomind, an EEG headset that connects to a smartphone to send biofeedback to the user and aid in relaxation.

Smarter Applications, Ltd.

Smarter Applications is a London-based tech startup whose sole purpose, at least for now, is to solve the annoyances of coffee and tea drinkers around the globe. Smarter Coffee Kettle enables its users to control the brewing process through a smartphone application.

For sure, it would not be an overstatement to claim that nearly everyone appears to be excited for the potential of IoT. Companies such as Samsung are even counting on the day when everything in your house, from your bed to your refrigerator, will automatically gather and analyze relevant data to make your tasks (and your life) easier.

More On Smart Technologies:

Thinking Ahead

Information technology research and advisory firm Gartner estimates that, come 2020, about 26 billion IoT devices will be operational across the globe.

In an article on how this emerging behemoth of technology will affect commercial and process-driven interactions, Forbes predicts that the IoT will “shake up retail in 2015,” using automated programming to handle home management, supply replenishment, and others in ways that, up until recently, were only the stuff of science fiction.

Conclusion

We are finally at a point where we can begin to embrace the full integration of technology into our every day processes. And while it is still impossible for us to predict where the road towards IoT will take us, these smarter machines were developed to improve the overall quality of modern life – is there any reason for us to stop this from happening?

FacebookTwitterInstagramPinterestLinkedInGoogle+YoutubeRedditDribbbleBehanceGithubCodePenEmail