You have probably heard or read about something called the Internet of Things (IoT) but most people are confused about exactly what this buzzword actually means. Fortunately, it is not as complicated or techy as it sounds.
In this guide, you’ll learn all about what the Internet of Things is, where the technology is at right now and where it is headed, how it could change your daily life, and what you should be on the lookout for.
What Is the Internet of Things?
The concept behind the Internet of Things is not all that new. Surprisingly enough, the first example of it came out back in the 80s. So if people have already been thinking and working on it for over 30 years, what is it and why are we just now starting to really hear about it?
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Internet of Things: Definition
There are a range of definitions available on the internet but most of them try too hard or get too abstract. The Wikipedia definition defines it in the following terms:
“The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects—devices, vehicles, buildings and other times—embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity that enables these objects to collect and exchange data.”
To put it in simpler terms: the Internet of Things just means you are connecting your things to the internet. Just as your phone is “smart” because it is connected to the internet, your fridge, alarm clock, and even toothbrush can become “smart” in the same way.
Internet of Things: Applications
So what’s the point of hooking stuff up to the internet like this? What are the real world applications of the internet of things?
The answer is essentially limitless. There are so many applications in so many different sectors. Here are just a few examples:
- Smart Home: connect anything electrical or mechanical in your home to the internet so that you can control it from your phone, tablet, or PC.
- Smart Wearables: track your vitals and activity levels to monitor your health and keep a detailed record that will help your doctor make more informed diagnoses and treatment decisions.
- Connected Cars: imagine a car that parks itself, anticipates traffic, and even syncs with your calendar to immediately find the quickest route to wear you are going as soon as you get into it.
- Connected health: the healthcare sector is full of potential when it comes to the Internet of Things. It will be most beneficial for preventive care and early detection of health issues. It’s also got a lot of potential for elderly care and child care.
- Smart Farming: tracking livestock (health, movement, etc), allowing precision irrigation to cut down on wasted water, and more will all be possible to help make a farmer’s life easier and improve the efficiency of our agricultural system.
- Smart City: connecting the infrastructure of the city can allow for coordinated traffic lights, improved traffic control, improved energy efficiency, better monitoring of sewage and water, and much more.
Overall the applications of this internet of things technology has a few core benefits, no matter which internet of things products you are looking at:
- Convenience: the internet of things is intended to make your life easier. You won’t have to worry about whether or not you locked the door or turned off the stove before leaving the house because you can not only check that from your phone but do it from wherever you are at the moment.
- Environmental preservation: smart homes, smart cities, smart farming and other areas will all help decrease energy and resource waste. We will use less electricity, less fuel, less water, and less everything without having to think about it because our smart devices will regulate it all for us.
- Improved efficiency: by helping us be less wasteful, the internet of things will help extend the lives of our products. It will also improve efficiency in our daily tasks. Imagine smart traffic lights that can plot out the most efficient way to move the flow of traffic and prevent jams. Imagine a car that knows where you want to go and the best way to get there before you even get behind the wheel.
- Improved security: one of the most exciting developments in this area is internet of things security. You can secure your home with a smart alarm and surveillance system that cuts down on false alarms and notices potential threats before it’s too late.
- Integration: while it’s still early, the technology is moving in the direction of a fully integrated internet of things platform that will allow you to control all of your different smart products and systems from a single hub or a single device.
There are a lot of exciting applications for the internet of things that are only just now starting to be explored. That’s why the term has started to pop up a lot more in the last few years.
In the coming decade, our daily lives and environment will be completely transformed by the Internet of Things.
Future generations may find it difficult to imagine there was ever a time when your fridge couldn’t text you to let you know you’re out of milk. Wait. You’re telling me you had to actually get up and look inside the fridge to know what was in there?
At this early stage, however, it can be a bit difficult to imagine just how widespread this technology will become. In some cases, it can sound a little too farfetched and futuristic so it’s helpful to look at few real world internet of things examples to better understand what is possible now and what will become possible in your very near future.
How the Internet of Things Technology Could Affect Your Daily Life
There are some truly impressive products coming out in the internet of things market. They are poised to start transforming every aspect of our daily lives and the environment in general.
From smart alarm clocks to smart ovens and everything in between, your daily routine could become so much more simple from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep.
The primary goal of any smart device is to make your life easier and save you money—which often also means protecting the environment by cutting down on wasteful energy use. These devices will help you save money without you having to make a single adjustment to your routine.
In fact, they will make your daily routine easier because they automate so many of those tedious little tasks like adjusting the thermostat, turning lights on and off, locking the doors, turning your security system on and off, and so on.
These little tasks add up to waste a surprising amount of your time. You remember that book you’ve always wanted to read or that craft you’ve always wanted to learn? Now you might finally have time to do it since your home can more or less run itself.
Internet of things technology will also decrease stress. If you tend to worry whether or not you turned off the stove or whether or not the laundry is starting to gather mildew in the machine, that stress will go away.
You can check all of that and more from your smartphone. You can also control your devices from your phone no matter where you are. Tell you washing machine to keep tumbling your clothes so they won’t smell like mildew. Turn your stove or lights off from work.
You could even check live video feed to see if there are any intruders or unusual things happening in your home and deal with them before any damage is done.
There are so many different ways that they will make your life easier and less stressful. The best way to start imagining the possibilities is by checking out the various devices that are currently on the market (and knowing that there is so much room for growth in the future).
Here are a few examples of internet of thing devices that you could buy today. Start imagining how much more simplified and streamlined your daily routine could become with some of these cool devices:
This smart bed really drives home the idea that the possibilities are endless when it comes to the internet of things. The technology here senses your pressure points when you lie down and automatically adjusts the firmness or softness of the bed at each individual point to provide the perfect support from head to toe.
It will also continue to adjust as you change positions so that you have the most comfortable sleep no matter which position you are in.
Canary all-in-one security
This smart security system features real time HD video (including night vision, motion detection, audio feed, a super loud siren that you can control from your phone, and instant alerts sent to your phone when anything out of the norm is detected.
It even monitors temperature, air quality, and humidity in your home! Plus, you can store all that data in the cloud.
Eva Drop Smart Shower
This smart shower device can be connected to any regular shower head. It has a lot of cool features. For one, you can tell it your perfect temperature so that when you turn on the faucet, the shower head waits until the water has reached that temperature before it releases water.
This saves gallons of water from being wasted during those moments when you are waiting for the water to heat up. It also has sensors installed so that it can automatically adjust water pressure depending on what you are doing.
There are many more great features but the main benefit is that you get to cut down on water usage without having to give it a second thought. And you never have to step into a shower that is too cold or too hot ever again!
For decades, you could already buy glass that automatically darkens to block visible light. But it was still letting heat in. An engineer has now developed glass that can block out heat as well. It will have three features: transparent, dark, and cool. Activating the cool setting will block out heat, saving you a lot of money on cooling in the summer.
June Intelligent Oven
This is a tabletop oven but it’s large enough to fit a 12” pizza or an entire roast. It features an HD camera inside that feeds to your phone so that you can watch your food cook from the other room rather than getting up to check on it.
It is also capable of identifying the food you are cooking and suggesting how long and at what temperature you should cook it for. It continues to monitor weight and temperature throughout the cooking so that it can identify the precise moment when your meal is ready to eat.
Samsung Family Hub Smart Refrigerator
There are a lot of smart fridges on the market now but this one features a 21 ½” HD screen on the front which can display your calendar, notes, shopping lists, recipes, photos or even stream television. It even has a speaker.
Inside, it’s got 3 cameras which can send a feed directly to your phone so that you can check the fridge while you’re at the store. And if you don’t want to go to the store, you can order your groceries directly from your fridge.
Sony Smartwach 3
There are a lot of smartwatches on the market now but if you’re not ready to shell out a grand or more and still want quality, this is a great piece. It syncs with your phone but has its own GPS capability so you can leave your phone at home when you go for a run. It also can be paired with wireless headphones to listen to music.
And it displays any notifications from your phone so you can stay up to date without having to check your phone all the time. It can also give you updates on traffic or remind you what’s next in your calendar. It also has one of the best battery lives we have seen.
Smart Baby Monitors
There are a few different ones on the market but they all share the same key features. They use sensor technology to track your baby’s position, body temperature, activity level, and vitals so that you can rest assured that your little one is doing fine and you can detect potential health issues immediately, before they get serious.
Plus, they can send all this information directly to your smartphone so that you can check in no matter where you are.
Nest Learning Thermostat
This smart thermostat gets to know you by learning your habits and what temperatures you prefer. It also learns when you are home and when you leave. Eventually, you will not have to adjust the thermostat ever again because it will know exactly when to change and what temperature to set itself to. It even knows when to adjust for different seasons.
Smart Pill Bottles
This might seem a little excessive but if you’ve got a family member who needs to take medication on a regular basis, it can make a real difference. The smart bottle notifies the person (via text and phone call) when they have missed a dose.
It can also send data to their doctor so the doctor knows if the patient is taking the medication as directed. If it’s for you, it can stop you from forgetting. If it’s for a loved one, it can save you from needing to nag them about their medication all the time.
In times of water shortage, sprinklers seem like a huge waste. In truth, they usually are. Some sprinklers can be put on a timer to automatically start and stop at specific times. But what if it rains that day? The sprinklers will still run. A smart sprinkler system tracks the weather and figures out when it’s best to water your lawn and how much water it should get. You can track all this yourself from your smartphone as well.
Installing smart lighting will save you on energy costs and eliminate the annoying task of having to go from room to room to turn switches on and off. You can do all of it from your phone and some lights can even automatically detect when you are in a room and when you leave so that they turn themselves on and off. Some also feature different colors designed to help you wake up, fall asleep, or completely regular tasks.
Smart Alarm Clocks
Alarm clocks are a necessary evil for those of us who need to wake up in the morning. But waking up doesn’t have to be miserable. A smart alarm clock can track your sleeping cycles so that when it is around the time you need to wake up, it will start checking to find the ideal sleep cycle to wake you up from.
These clocks can also use different sounds and your smart lighting can adjust to create an environment that lets you wake up feeling refreshed, alert, and ready for your day. Combine that with a great night of sleep on your smart bed and you’ll wonder how you ever survived before this technology existed.
Internet of Things Platforms
There are a lot of different platforms that smart devices operate on. This is both a blessing and a curse. The biggest names in the market when it comes to IoT platforms are the following:
In the future, there will need to be a push toward more universal platforms or devices that can operate on multiple platforms. For the time being, it’s recommended that all your smart devices operate on the same platform so that they can better communicate with each other.
An Example Day in Your Life with the Internet of Things
To understand the benefits of the internet of things, let’s imagine what a normal day might look like:
Your alarm clock wakes you up in the morning at the optimal time by measuring (via a wristband) your sleep cycles and figuring out when you are ready to get up. At the same time that it wakes you up, it tells your coffee machine to start brewing so you can wake up to the pleasant smell of fresh coffee.
At the same time, your thermostat automatically adjusts the temperature to your comfortable setting. You go to the fridge where the touchscreen on front offers you breakfast recipe ideas for the ingredients you have in your fridge.
After coffee and breakfast, it’s time to take a shower. You turn on the shower and your shower head waits until it has reached your perfect temperature before starting. During the shower it senses what you are doing and automatically adjusts the water flow to perfectly suit each activity—saving you water and preventing you from needing to make constant adjustments.
As you are doing your hair and makeup in the mirror, you read news headlines and check the weather and your schedule for the day, all displayed on your mirror. As you brush your teeth, your toothbrush alerts you when you are brushing too hard or when it’s time to switch to another area of the mouth.
When you are dressed and ready to go, all you have to do is walk out of the door, slide your finger beneath your lock so that it can read your fingerprint and lock. When that happens, it triggers your thermostat to turn off the heating or cooling system to save you energy.
All the lights automatically turn off and your comprehensive security system automatically turns on. As you walk to your car, it automatically turns on and starts heating or cooling to your desired temperature.
In your car, the voice operated system informs you of any accidents or traffic on your usual route and suggests alternatives. When you arrive to work, you can check up on your house anytime you need to.
Throughout the day, your smartwatch is tracking your vitals and your activities to let you know if you need to be a little more active, take a break for lunch, or anything else concerning your basic health.
After work, you come home, unlocking the door with your fingerprint. This tells your security system that it’s you who has arrived so it doesn’t trigger a false alarm. It also tells your thermostat to automatically adjust to your favorite temperature again.
You throw a load into the washer and it automatically knows which settings are best for those clothes. It can also wait until off-peak electricity rates apply so that you can save money on your electric bill.
If you find you suddenly have to run out of the house, your washer and dryer will both gently tumble their loads every few minutes to prevent them from getting mildew or wrinkled while you are gone.
When it’s time to cook dinner, you can simply throw your meat and veggies into the oven. Your oven will weigh the food and identify what it is via a camera in order to determine exactly what temperature and how long to cook your meal.
Rather than getting up every 5 minutes to check on it, you can simply view a live feed from your oven’s camera on your smartphone to see how your meal is progressing. It will also constantly monitor the weight and temperature of your food to precisely identify when it is ready to eat.
If your meal gets your hands messy, don’t worry. Your TV can be operated with voice commands and, in some cases, even with gestures so you don’t have to deal with a remote.
Once you’re ready for bed, you lie down and your bed automatically adjusts to the perfect firmness or softness based on your position. It also adjusts throughout the night as you move position so that you get the perfect support needed for the deepest sleep.
That’s just an idea of some of the things that are possible when your products can easily and seamlessly adapt to your needs as you go. You have enough to worry so why not let your products work for you to make your life easier.
The Internet of Things and Security
There are two topics that can fall into this category. First, how can the internet of things help improve security? And secondly, what are the security risks involved in the internet of things? Let’s take a look at both.
What Potential Security Risks are There and How Can You Avoid Them?
So after all that talk about how the internet of things can help beef up your home security in a lot of really cool ways, it might seem like a contradiction to talk about how it can also put you at risk.
Fortunately, the risk is not really that big yet and there are definite steps you can take to make sure you are not threatened. First, let’s look at what kind of threats we are talking about.
One of the reasons this smart technology is able to be so smart is because it gathers and stores a lot of data about you so that it knows what your wants and needs are. This is really great and essential for having a truly smart product.
However, it also means that there is a lot of data about you stored in an IoT cloud. If a hacker were to crack your password, they would have access to this data.
This is a normal risk risk that you face any time you use the internet, whether it’s in connection with a smart product or your smart phone. So this is not a unique risk that only threatens the internet of things. It threatens all internet users.
Luckily, the internet of things is still relatively new and there aren’t really enough people using it yet to make it worth a hacker’s effort to get that data. Plus, the kind of data gathered by most products is not the sort that puts you at risk of serious loss or damage.
For example, if someone hacked into your smart fridge, the worst they could do is send you a text saying you need eggs when you don’t really need eggs. In the end, you’ll just have to bake some cakes and cookies to use up the extra eggs!
The risk comes when they gain access to private information about your finances and your identity. So to keep that data safe, practice smart security steps as you would with your home PC:
- Never share your password with anyone. Nobody. It’s not a matter of trust. It’s a matter of safety. Even if you trust someone, it’s better to keep this information to yourself.
- Do not use the same password for everything. I know it’s annoying to have so many different passwords but it’s worth it. Because if they are all the same, once one account is hacked, all the rest can be hacked in no time.
- Create strong passwords. A strong password has a mixture of uppercase and lowercase letters along with numbers and symbols. Avoid using your birthday, your name, or the names of people you know.
- Change your passwords regularly. This is not necessary for every single account you have but for the highly sensitive ones (like online banking), you can boost your security by changing your password once a month.
- Do not reply to messages, calls, or texts asking for personal information. Some scammers will pretend they are from a company and say they need to “verify your identity” by asking your personal information. This is a lie. The actual company will verify your identity without asking for your personal information.
Using common sense and following these smart habits will help keep you safe from hackers, scammers and other threats.
If you have trouble remembering passwords, consider writing them down on paper and storing that paper in a secure area (such as a lockbox). Do not store them on your computer in any way.
Developers are already finding ways to secure their internet of things products so that even people who aren’t as careful with their private information can still be safe. So in the future, you will have even less to worry about.
But for the time being, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Improving Security With the Internet of Things
After saving energy and increasing efficiency, security is one of the greatest perks of living in a “smart home.” This is one of the fast growing markets in this sector and there’s good reason for it.
Smart security has a lot of advantages over conventional security. Here are just a few:
- More effective: smart surveillance systems and alarms can notify you of any potential threats as soon as they are detected. Plus, you can check in on your home whenever you want via your smartphone, tablet, or PC so you can catch any threats that might have gone undetected.
- Fewer false alarms: smart systems can be set up to recognize your voice, fingerprint or even your face so you don’t have to worry about forgetting the code. There are also motion sensors that can tell the difference between intruders and pets so your dog won’t accidentally set off an alarm.
- Integrated security: you can integrate surveillance, door and window alarms, smoke and fire detectors, and any other security systems you need into one system so that you can access all of it with a single platform. Keeping your home safe has never been so simple.
With smart security systems, you get all the essential features of normal security systems (plus a few extra) without all the annoyance and hassle of false alarms, difficult to remember codes, and tiresome phone calls with the security company to verify your identity.
Internet of Things Security Products
It’s all well and good to talk about the benefits of smart home security in general but you probably want to know what specific kinds of products are on the market today to help beef up your security.
Here are a few of the coolest security products we’ve seen coming out in the last few years:
- Smart deadbolts: you can fit smart deadbolts to your doors and connect to them from your smartphone. Not only can you lock and unlock from your phone but you can make sure that no one is able to unlock it without your permission. And some alert you if there are attempts to unlock your door by anyone who does not have your permission.
- Smart cameras: installing smart cameras can allow for awesome features like face recognition and image sensing and memory so that your security system knows when it’s you coming home and when it’s someone unwelcome. They also allow you to check in to live video feeds from your phone, tablet, or PC.
- Smart motion sensors: internet of things sensors have the ability to not just detect motion but learn from it. Some sensors are able to tell the difference between your pets and humans so that your dog doesn’t accidentally trigger an alarm while you’re gone. Others don’t even need you to turn them on and off. They learn to tell when you are at home and when you leave so that they automatically activate on their own.
- Smart detectors: smoke alarms, fire alarms, and carbon monoxide alarms have a bad habit of going off for no reason. Not so with a smart detector. If you integrate it with a smart camera, you can even check the live feed from your phone to see exactly what triggered the detector.
- Smart audio detection: some systems are able to detect specific sounds like glass breaking, smoke alarms going off, or babies crying so that it can tell you not only that something has happened but what that something is.
There are many all-in-one security systems available that integrate all of these different devices and include extra features like two way talking so that you can communicate between rooms and recording so that you can store the video or audio feeds for later reference.
You probably expect that the kind of features and functions talked about in this article are going to be pretty expensive. And to an extent, you’re right. A smart light bulb is going to cost more than a regular light bulb.
But you have to consider that you are also getting a lot more for your money. Not only do you have a higher quality product, you have something that is more efficient, longer lasting, and capable of far more functions than a regular light bulb.
You also have to calculate the money you will be saving on your bills as well as the money you will save on not having to replace things as often. You should also factor in the time you will be saving by automating certain daily tasks.
The cost is surprisingly low considering how much you are really getting out of it. So start transforming your home, car, and other daily things into smart, efficient products that work for you and with you in ways you never thought possible!