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How will the Internet of Things change our world?

In a world of increasingly invasive technology, the digital consumer is beginning to truly feel the impact of machines becoming more sensitive to the activities of our daily lives. In 2016, systems are going to become ever more aware of their surroundings, interacting with more devices than ever before, collecting this data and adjusting themselves accordingly. This phenomenon is known as 'The Internet of Things' (IoT) and Forbes predicts that this revolution will be the most disruptive in the history of IT.

By 2020 it is estimated that up to 100 billion devices will be connected to the internet or private networks. The data these devices send and receive will be analysed by algorithms that will become more and more accurate at determining how humans live their lives. The goal is to gather as much information as possible to optimise all the processes of our existence from health and lifestyle to simply giving us more free time to enjoy other things in life without minor hassles.

The IoT is therefore meant to be a synchronised way to move from device to device, task to task and place to place without interruption in what we are trying to accomplish. In their latest advert, Samsung recently dubbed this ideal as being 'In Sync with Life':

The 'Internet of Me' as wearable sensors are becoming known, has put the user's actions themselves at the heart of almost every digital experience and is an integral part of how the 'Internet of Things' can work as an interconnected system of objects and humans. To make this futuristic image a reality, Samsung have now launched a SmartThings Starter Kit at only £200. This easy to use kit which only takes 15 minutes to install, includes a motion sensor to monitor movement in the home, a multi sensor to know whether doors, windows or drawers are open or closed, a presence sensor to be aware of when people, pets and cars arrive or leave the home and a power outlet to control lights, electronics and appliances. The SmartThings Hub offers video monitoring of all these activities in order to access a live stream at any time and real time notifications with recordings of unexpected events within the household via the SmartThings App. But although such information is meant to be a form of security for the household, data protection  and tight network controls will become even more paramount as such sensitive data begins to be collected daily from objects all around us.

So what technology does IoT use? It's based primarily on three 'need-to-know' acronyms:

  • RFID – Radio Frequency Identification. A short range low energy device to be embedded in any object to make it 'smart' or interact with other RFID readers.
  • BLE – Bluetooth Low Energy. Data transfer capability between bluetooth enabled devices. Very energy efficient and can be run on low power batteries unlike older bluetooth devices in cars and phones.
  • NFC – Near Field Communication. A tag which a smartphone must 'tap' to register it e.g. purchasing cereal by tapping smartphone on the box or to track dosage of medicines given in hospital by whom and when.

The potential for IoT enabled objects is therefore huge as these three pieces of technology are low cost and low energy. The annual International Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas took place a few weeks ago and presented over 20,000 new devices to hit markets in the near future. Some of the previewed items on show included Adidas' SmartBall, a football loaded with sensors to provide feedback on speed, spin, trajectory and strike point and Sengled's range of 'smart' light bulbs that can turn on CCTV, boost WiFi dead areas of a house or even respond to sounds.

The increase in more IoT gadgets being developed for the 2016 market than ever before shows that IoT is considered to be a growing trend with potential that hasn't been widely tapped into yet. But as ecommerce and global smart phone usage continues to sky rocket, there is no doubt that IoT will grow and develop exponentially.

However, as Kurt Mueller of Pulse CX points out, “IoT isn't just about gadgets; it's about the way technologies talk to each other and create a connected experience”. One sector in which IoT is becoming really important is within the multi trillion dollar pharmaceutical industry. This year several partnerships have been created between life science companies and technology consultancies such as Google X, Calico, MC10 and Qualcomm. Six of the most recent science joint ventures looking to connect with the IoT inclue AbbVie, Biogen, Idec, Novartis, Roche and UCB.

It is assumed that via wearable, digestible and embeddable sensors, the Internet of Things can really enhance patient care by providing invaluable data about lifestyle and drug performance. “If something is going wrong with a new prescription, these devices can be the first alert to healthcare professionals” says Nelson Figueiredo, VP, associate director of technology, at Ogilvy CommonHealth. In this way, informed decisions can be made in real time and adjustments can be made accordingly. IoT creates a totally digitally connected life and for science and medicine, this allows for a rich source of information for further research. As  John Nosta of  NostaLab explains, “our kitchens and our bathrooms will become human labs that provide all types of data that help inform”.

Already over $1 billion in venture funding for start ups evolving wearable sensor options has been invested in targeting healthcare. According to the PwC 6th Annual Digital IQ Report, this indicates that the IoT revolution is truly underway as sensors are the crucial element in the development of the integrated network that is the Internet of Things. With the healthcare market being one of ten markets that are investing in such sensors, we can expect more innovations to be released before too long.

But with these innovations it has to be remembered that the IoT is a heavy data producing engine, churning out trillions of statistics from a range of devices about a variety of variables. This will mean that companies have to really carefully consider how they will analyse this information, with decision makers adapting to the new data intelligence that IoT can provide. This of course also means expanded roles for data analysts and strategists and consultants.

This technology is being advanced in order to enhance our lives and make them easier. Though in reality, it will simply make consumers more and more reliant on the digital economy....a fact that will permeate throughout the public and private sectors of business for decades to come. The Internet of Things is the way the future seems to be heading in the regions of the digitised world – so have a think how the business you are working on can enhance it for their purposes. There may be opportunities that haven't even been considered, or perhaps properly invented, yet!