Our lives, summed up, are devoted to the internet. From entertainment platforms to our cloud-based work efforts, without a steady WiFi connection and a functioning device, our modern approach to life comes to a drastic halt.
Now whether you think that this 21st century dilemma is a blessing or a curse, is a whole other discussion, but the crux of the matter is that the internet, and morse specifically the Internet of Things (IoT) is what drives us into the most effective and well-managed facets of our livelihood.
There’s a lot of technical jargon connected to IoT, and in a world where the layman accesses smart devices, a Google search bar and even something as simple as an App Store, making sure this term is understood by the general public could be a challenge… but we’re here to break it down for you and help you understand what the Internet of Things actually means and how it can benefit your daily life.
What is IoT?
Simply put, the Internet of Things is the ability and possibility of connecting all things to an internet connection.
OK, but what does that even mean?
It’s sometimes hard to understand something that we take for granted so easily, that we depend on and use so effortlessly and at times robotically. Modern commodities such as electricity, free running water and packaged goods could be compared as an example of the ease at which we live our lives.
The ways in which we connect our desktop computers, smart TVs, smartphones, tablets is probably the most acceptable and easily translated use of IoT, across so many generations even – the harder pill to swallow is probably when the IoT branches out to other ‘devices’.
Take your doorbell for instance. We’ve all witnessed the creation of smart doorbells, ones that can be accessed through your phone to check in on who’s knocking at your door while you’re in an intense meeting, or possibly even out for dinner on a Friday evening. When you’re not home or tied up, it’s physically impossible to open your front door, and neither would you want to – but you may need to pass on some instructions to a delivery person, or maybe politely, if you wish, ask a pushy salesperson to take a hike. Whether for avoidance or practicality, a smart doorbell serves huge benefit to our sometimes sporadic lives.
The same can be said for a smart fridge, a home pod, WiFi controlled lighting or blinds and now, even the heating in your car. But why does any of this matter?
Why does IoT matter?
The Internet of Things matters so much in our life, primarily because we’ve grown to depend on it. Even unwillingly perhaps. But to all the non-believers out there, technology is here to stay and it’s here to bring simplicity to our hectic lives. Embracing its functionality is a natural reaction of moving on with the times, while fighting it and restricting it could make our daily habits a whole lot more old-school – but also uselessly tedious.
When a device is connected to the internet, communication takes place. This communication comes in the form of messages being delivered to and from an inexhaustible source of information, right back to your smart device that simply reads a bunch of 1s and 0s to deliver a task – exactly the way you want it done.
Let’s take Spotify as an example. If you’re old enough, you’ll remember the good old days when you’d open a Torrents browser, and take a crack at downloading, albeit questionably unethical and in some cases illegal, all the programmes, music, movies and TV series you could ever imagine.
This is how anyone born in the 80s, 90s, and even 00s sought out ‘free’ entertainment, and we were happy with it. The frustration of downloading the wrong file was part of the job, we just typed in those keywords and started again. This task was often followed by hours of iPod syncing through iTunes, which could last all night. This was a fact, and we embraced it.
Now, a simple app download could give you access to every piece of music ever written, a quick search, a couple of intrusive ads later – if you’re a Free Spotify user, and you’re jamming away to your favourite music. Simple.
The same can be said for apps such as Netflix for series and movies, Blinkist or Kindle for a tonne of books, YouTube for video content and so many other platforms that we tap into on the hour. But do we actually understand how these systems work?
Simply put, the IoT functions in 3 ways – dividing itself into 3 distinct categories;
- The collection and sending of information.
- The reaction to information received.
- The combination of receiving, sending and reacting to information.
How does IoT collect and send information?
Let’s take agriculture as an example. Our ancestors worked the fields in an entirely different way to the way our current farm-folk approach it.
The introduction of tractors removed working farm animals from the equation, water pumps eliminated the manual collection of water from a designated point, seed distribution machinery allowed farmers to scatter their crop with ease and comfort. But there was still a level of human interference in this practice.
With IoT technology adapting to any industry, the relay of information – the receiving and sending of commands – can all be controlled with sensors. Yes, even in a field.
Sensors can monitor time, light source, water levels, potentially even nitrate levels in the soil to help adjust crop nourishment for a more bountiful yield at the end of the season.
This revolutionary technology reduces man-hours, gradually cuts down costs and even regularises standards to a certain extent. Here the Internet of Things can be seen as a helpful tool.
How does the Internet of Things receive and act on information?
The reaction to a command is probably one of the easiest aspects to understand in IoT. Much like we click a command on our laptops, signaling a printer to produce a physical product, the Internet of Things can be manipulated to react to other commands on demand.
Let’s tap into the world of medicine, and take a look at 3D printing. When a patient discusses the possibility of getting new dental bridges, the dental practitioner pretty much relies on a 3D printer delivering an exact translation of their patient’s set of teeth, based on their jaw shape, gumline, and any other specifics that need to be considered.
The dependency on such smart devices, connecting with the information sent from a computer, over on to the programming installed in a 3D printer will, time permitting, produce a life changing product as an end result. This acting on information is a revolutionary act in the fields of medicine, fashion, design and so many other industries.
How does the IoT receive, send and react, though?
This is where the real magic happens. This is where technology and Artificial Intelligence can revolutionise the way we function entirely. Some may find this daunting, but there are so many increased benefits to the model.
Whether it’s the device’s smart use of reacting to the weather, such as in our agriculture example, adn delaying a watering session because the morning forecast predicted rain, or the connectivity created between your smart fridge and Amazon shopping list, or even the medical contraptions that can adjust to their stats and help users live a more fulfilling life.
There’s a lot of good in this seamless connectivity and the way we adopt it into our lives could help with our work-life balance, health, home maintenance and other crucial parts of our routines.
Ultimately, the Internet of Things, IoT for short, stretches the internet’s use far beyond the general smart devices that we’ve grown accustomed to. It’s power and sophistication can help us to gain insight into the practices in our lives, both on a personal and commercial level while laying out our daily plans with ease, a few taps here and there and that supervisor-style view on the tasks and achievements we’ve tackled in a day.
The Internet of Things is powerful and ever growing – finding ways to make it work for us, is the key.