The Internet of Things (IoT) doesn’t just have the potential to improve our lives. It already is.
While we’re all relatively familiar with asking Alexa to turn on the lights, or telling Siri to start brewing our morning coffee, many still struggle to define what the IoT is. And yet its influence is everywhere, extending beyond the home into our commutes, the workplace, and even our healthcare systems. So, what actually is it?
Defining the IoT
Although sometimes perceived as complex technology, its definition is a relatively simple one. The IoT refers to internet connected devices on the same network that can therefore communicate with each other. Its usefulness reaches far beyond switching the lights on too. It is fundamentally changing the way we interact with the world around us. Here are five ways the IoT is improving our lives:
The smart factory
A seismic shift has taken place within the manufacturing and engineering sectors. The introduction of the IoT has enabled a new era of industrial production, dubbed Industry 4.0. It is helping factories become increasingly intelligent and productive, but it is also enabling machine intelligence. This sharing of data between devices means intelligence can be derived from that combined pool of data to allow for better decision making. For example, potential equipment malfunctions can be identified quickly, with processes then adjusted and maintenance scheduled. It may seem like a simple use case, but it is saving factories from costly downtime.
The connected car
The automotive sector is one of the heaviest investors in the IoT thus far. As a manufacturing environment the factory floor has of course become more efficient, but our cars are evolving too. No longer do our Sat Navs take us on traffic-filled routes. By utilising the IoT, the driver is given real-time insights into road traffic for a much faster journey. Advances in safety have also been a top priority. As more cities across the world invest in smart infrastructure, our increasingly intelligent cars are now able to alert drivers who are veering off the road to avoid crashing. The outlook for the future is pretty exciting too, with driverless cars already being tested.
Intelligent healthcare technology
Innovations in healthcare enabled by the IoT are, as you’d expect, wide-ranging. In care homes, IoT connected wearable devices can now automatically trigger alerts when the elderly fall. Furthermore, implanted GPS chips are alerting family members if a dementia patient wanders too far from home. But these devices aren’t just triggering alerts. They are also gathering useful healthcare data. Data which can then be used to pioneer new revolutionary treatments, or help detect the early signs of other medical conditions. The IoT isn’t just improving lives. It’s saving them.
IoT in the workplace
While you may find some repurposed smart home devices making their way into the office, the potential for technology to dramatically improve the workplace is staggering. Much is possible already. Building management systems have been utilised for some time and are controlling heating, air conditioning, and even security systems. Access control is one of those systems that is benefitting from this newfound connectivity. This is because when data is shared with other technologies, such as HR software, it is able to detect potentially dangerous scenarios that wouldn’t have been possible before. Imagine your access control system identifies an employee coming to work at 8.50am. No problem here, we expect this to happen. But then your HR system flags an alert advising said employee is supposed to be on holiday… could we have an intruder on our hands?
Smart home… more than just Alexa
And we’re back where we started with the smart home. While some of the use cases thus far could be considered slightly gimmicky, there are many options available that don’t just improve our homes, but also our planet. For example, you’ll more than likely have seen plenty of TV adverts encouraging us all to deploy smart meters. No doubt useful for the home, but they are also helping energy and utility firms manage our dwindling energy resources more efficiently. An incredibly important benefit as concerns regarding sustainability heighten.
These are just some examples of how the IoT has already changed how we interact with our world in various environments. Innovation is currently so fast-paced that it’s true potential going forward is still relatively unknown. What is certain, however, is we need a skilled workforce to continue driving us forward so we can all benefit from a safer, healthier and more sustainable world.
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