In many ways, it already is all around us, even if you’ve never heard of it. A term coined by British technology pioneer Kevin Ashton in 1999, the “Internet of things” refers to networked physical devices, vehicles, items, and locations that are built with embedded technology, sensors, or some form of network connectivity that allows these “things” to communicate their surrounding data or to change behavior based on received data.
This is a fairly complex way to explain some modern innovations that are already beginning to seem ordinary to us, like connected thermostats.
For a more simplified explanation, who better to explain this stuff you should know about the Internet of Things than the famous podcasters Josh and Chuck from their podcast Stuff You Should Know? “If you use a smartphone, you’re already using the Internet of things,” says Josh. “It’s taking dumb things and making them smart by giving them the ability to sense their surroundings and communicate that data to a central server where that’s analyzed and then the proper people are alerted.”
A bathroom cabinet that alerts you when you’re out of toilet paper is one such example. A store’s shelf that can alert its managers to buy more raspberry-flavored lip-gloss when supply is running low is another. As you can see in both scenarios, the Internet of Things is not only an example of connectivity creeping into aspects of our lives that were previously analog, it is also a means of saving a tremendous amount of money at the corporate level, and an extreme convenience at the personal level.
In 2014, Deloitte’s Global Consumer Survey asked smartphone owners where they hoped the Internet of Things would improve their home and automobile experience. Overwhelmingly, the desire for the home was both home control and home surveillance (Ring is a great example of the Internet of Things allowing your doorbell to become a connected part of your life). For their cars, most smartphone users said they would find the most use from traffic/weather integration, navigation, and maintenance. We already have a crude version of maintenance alerts with analog integration in the form a “check engine” light, however having your car alert your mechanic or AAA immediately after a blowout without you having to do anything is a tantalizing example of what the future Internet of Things has to offer.
It isn’t all just convenience, profits, and neat-for-the-sake-of-neat though.
“Seniors and others could benefit from smart medicine cabinets that track meds, order refills, and even alert physicians if something’s amiss,” writes Digitaltrends reporter Geoff Duncan.
Technology has come a very long way in the past century, and the internet itself has perhaps had the most impact of any single invention. Saying the internet is everywhere might soon be basically true, seeing as how, at this rate, the internet might one day be tied to everything.