Gizmos and gadgets a-plenty, whozits and whatzits galore. Internet of Thingamabobs?
The Internet of Things (IoT) is being hailed as the next big area of growth. While the specific predictions vary, the number of electronic devices connecting to the web is anticipated to increase dramatically, with the IoT representing tens of billions of devices in just the next several years. Evident by the sheer volume of products on display at International CES, 2015 will undoubtedly be the year where we see our homes, cars, jewelry and just about everything else get smarter. As the world around us goes online, The Telegraph has highlighted the 10 technologies that will make the IoT a reality.
Energy management was one of the original focuses of Internet of Things development, with smart thermostats like Google Nest, Hive, Tado and Honeywell offering systems that allow home owners to adjust their temperature and hot water settings from a smartphone. Some of these systems are also capable of learning a user’s habits and adjusting settings to fit the inhabitant’s preferences.
Smart lighting systems like Philips Hue allow users to adjust the color and brightness of the lighting in their home from a smartphone, according to their mood. Similar lighting systems from companies like LG can also be programmed to act as an alarm clock, for example, gradually getting brighter from a chosen time in the morning, or flashing when the user receives a phone call.
Being able to control home appliances while on-the-go has become a huge area of growth for the Internet of Things. One company that has already made a big splash in 2015 is Whirlpool, whose futuristic kitchen will allow a suite of devices to communicate with one another. This includes turning on the oven, adjusting the temperature, being informed when food is about to spoil and suggesting what to make for dinner — all via smartphone. Then, there are smaller appliances like Belkin’s WeMo crockpot and Smarter’s Wi-Fi coffee machine that make prepping a meal or brewing a cup o’ joe remotely easier than ever.
Today, mobile devices are becoming increasingly popular choices for both identity management and access control. Take for example, Goji Smart Locks which bypass the need for keys, allowing users to gain access into a home with the simple tap of a smartphone or electronic fob, and get a text when the locks are activated. Or, August Smart Locks that enable homeowners to send a virtual key to anyone they choose. Meanwhile, devices like the Bluesmart suitcase not only can be unlocked from a mobile device, but automatically locks itself when its built-in proximity sensors detect it is no longer near a user’s side. Other startups gaining mainstream notoriety in this area include BeON Burglar Deterrent that can give off the impression of a lived-in home, as well as Novi Security DIY system that can sense smoke and motion, send photo notifications and monitor homes in real-time.
The IoT isn’t just about making things inside homes and adorned to wrists smarter, but those in cars as well. Google recently kickstarted consumer interest in self-driving cars, when it began testing its driverless vehicles in Silicon Valley. Since then, Mercedes, Audi and BMW have all announced their own self-driving car prototypes — many of which can be controlled using smartphone and in some cases, even smartwatches, as exhibited at CES.
Nothing’s worse than watching plants die as a result of pure forgetfulness or laziness. Luckily, the IoT is blossoming in the agricultural world. In fact, a number of brands are assisting growers care for their plants — automatically. Parrot’s Flower Power H20 autonomously waters pots using exactly the right amount of water at exactly the right time, while also dishing out some personalised advice through its companion mobile app. Meanwhile, Edyn’s smart garden system monitors and tracks environmental conditions, helping users make their mini nursery flourish.
Wearable devices are often thought of as separate from the Internet of Things, but the health and fitness data from these gadgets is increasingly being fed back into the wider network. Jawbone’s Up tracker can monitor sleep patterns and set smartphone alarms to go off at the optimal time, based on a body’s natural sleep cycle. The TomTom Runner GPS watch helps improve runs, while the Huawei TalkBand B1 combines the functionality of both a fitness tracker and Bluetooth headset in one.
Drones are also often put in a category of their own, but beyond being amusing toys, they could also form an integral part of the IoT. At CES, anti-collision UAVs demonstrated the wide-range of applications for autonomous navigation, whereas brands like Amazon and DHL have already explored the use of drones for real-time deliveries.
In order for the IoT to truly come to fruition, connectivity has to transcend well beyond just the devices we use, and instead, become integrated into the environment around us. From sensor-networked traffic lights that adjust their wait time based on congestion levels to digitally-monitored parking spaces that can fluctuate prices based on space availability, cities are becoming smarter by the day.
At its core, tomorrow’s smarter world will require intelligent networking technologies, like ZigBee and 5G, to ensure that this infrastructure will be fast yet affordable enough to support the influx of connected devices. Only when this is in place will the Internet of Things become a reality.
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