In a few years time, we will have new and modified ways of interacting with the physical world. A large number of machines will have a mind of their own. They will be ‘smart’. Smart enough to collect information, based on own activities and turn that information into actions, in line with our demands. Can we really imagine the amount of increase in our productivity that IoT might bring? Or the magnitude of the information we will be giving out to the machines? So far, we have only scratched the surface of IoT but we are eagerly anticipating amazing ‘things’ to take over our lives already!
Who cannot want a coffee machine that not only makes coffee for you but also bring it to your bed, or couch, or wherever you are! Some estimates say that within the next few years, smart devices will outnumber humans. In terms of technical and social progress, the prospects are bewildering. But then why has IoT not gained the momentum that it should have by now? There are not many but a few powerful reasons.
IoT: The Next Industrial/Technical Revolution?
Many believe that IoT is the next big technological revolution. It is understandable as the demand for more and more connected and smart devices rise. If the manufacturers and suppliers of Internet of Things devices and services, start to match the frequency of the demands, the newly formed connections would generate a humongous amount of data. Cloud-based data storage services will multiply and boom. Companies already providing storage services will have to upgrade and modify to accommodate the towering waves of ever incoming data. New providers popping up might become the next major Internet of Things trend.
Cloud services are not the only ones to expand. With automation in about everything, industries will change the way they work. Smart machines will replace labor and human resources. So it is not only a technical revolution we are talking about but also an industrial one. Efficiency and productivity can be doubled with the use of IoT. Harley Davidson, the classic bike company, has upgraded its plants and reaped the benefits of IoT. They now produce a bike every 86 seconds.
This trend will not be limited to machines only. We will be able to monitor humans as well. The wearable devices may gain popularity rapidly in workplaces and offices. This, while making it easier to measure your productivity, may also cause trouble, due to the amount of personal information that you give away. But no matter which way it goes, there sure will be a rising demand for smart devices and services as the new consumers come in.
Smart Life Choices
‘Smart’ is the new black! Things we use to call futuristic are now household items. Even though it will still take a few years for this transition to complete, it has already captured our imagination and set our hopes on it. We already have smart refrigerators, home entertainment systems, toasters and lights. IoT applications can transform the way we drive, work, travel, play, or just about anything. For instance, pet collar tags are becoming popular. The imbedded sensors in the tags monitor your pet’s activity level, fitness, and find their location. Interactive dog/cat cameras are also in the market, so that you can check on them without actually being present at the location.
IoT can have a great impact on the health industry. Fitness bands that monitor your pulse, sleep patterns, diet and exercise, blood pressure, vitals, and glucose levels, are already popular. These advancements will reshape the traditional doctor patient relationship. Your doctor will be able to monitor health and share prescriptions with you over smart devices.
Cities are also getting smarter. In San Diego, 3000 streetlamps were replaced by new sensor equipped streetlights. They turn on when a pedestrian or a vehicle approaches. Soon we will be finding parking spaces through IoT. Cars and trucks are also getting in the mix.
The IoT Potential
It’s hard to think of anything that cannot be modified for the better with the help of IoT’s technology. Once fully applied, it will change our ecosystem, environment, even the course of our evolution. Even the nature can be manipulated. Farmers are using bands for their animals to keep a check on their health and activity. This is just one of the many smart agriculture solutions they have. With IoT devices and applications, there will be less manual work and increased production, which means better and cheaper organic food.
Disaster management can be infinitely more helpful with IoT implications. With motion sensitive sensor imbedded devices, we can predict landslides, storms, floods, and road blocks beforehand, that could save many precious lives. Roads and bridges can be built with smart cement. Door locks can be more dependable. There is no end to these examples!
So why, even with its life-altering immense potential, IoT is still not gaining the momentum that it should have by now?
There are very serious security and privacy concerns, as well as complicated legal implications.
Security, Privacy and legal concerns
Security and privacy of personal data and information is not only the biggest consumer concern, but it is also the most troubling matter for the companies involved in IoT solutions and services. A breach in your toaster’s security can disrupt your whole life. Companies and providers will have to come up with foolproof encryption and well defined security protocols.
Hackers and intruders are always a threat. Someone hacking into your computer is scary enough. Imagine someone hacking into your smart car. Especially if you are already getting late for work! Similarly, a hacker messing with your smart lights is okay, but what if someone gains access to your credit cards and bank accounts?
There will also be the matter concerning the ownership and privacy of the data accumulating in the cloud. We are not even happy with Facebook claiming a right on our posts and photos. What if our information becomes a shared property between us and the service provider, as soon as it enters the cloud? The protection of our very detailed and personal information is what will make us think twice before we adopt the brave new world! On a larger scale, this could even be a threat to cities and organizations.
New laws and standards concerning cyber security and crimes will have to be contemplated and formed. Though it is a long and complicated process, IoT enthusiasts will have to come up with a solution to this problem soon, before the hype fades away. Many Internet of Things startups are claiming to have solved this problem with advanced encryption methods. But more testing is needed.
We are almost ready to enter the Brave New World. But the possibility that it may end up owning us, in ways we can’t yet imagine, is what stops us from jumping in headfirst. As much as we want to integrate the ease that IoT brings into our lives, we will never be ready to put our privacy at stake.