The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things is a term that you hear a lot on science programs and in commercials from tech companies. It seems to be used as a synonym the world of the future. But just what is everybody talking about and what does that future look like?
Simply put, the Internet of Things is a world in which just about everything around us—objects, animals, people—is connected to the internet. It’s a world where everything you come in contact with has a unique identifier and is constantly sending information about itself and receiving instructions on what it should be doing.
Back in 2000, I used to joke about a toaster having an IP address (a unique address on the internet). With the Internet of Things, that’s a reality. And what good would that be? Well, let’s say my toaster comes equipped with a bunch of ordinary and inexpensive sensors that can detect temperature or smoke. I pop in my toast and go upstairs to finish getting ready for the day. I didn’t set a timer on the toaster, I don’t need to. The toaster is constantly telling the internet how hot it is, how long it’s been cooking and what the toast is smelling like. Now let’s say I have an app on my phone called Perfect Toast. It’s receiving that data over the internet and the minute the sensors on the toaster indicate my breakfast should be ready, the app tells the toaster to cough up the toast and I get a notification on my phone that it’s time to eat.
That’s a pretty mundane example but that’s precisely the point. There is no part of our lives that will not be affected by the constant and automatic communication among the sensors and the machines around us. On a larger scale, picture a city that knows where every car is and can direct people to more efficient routes. Or how about a city that cuts out the middle man and just tells the car which way it should go?
Ever wonder how Google Maps knows what the traffic is like on the freeways? It tracks the position of cell phones as they move down the freeway and calculates speed and travel times accordingly. That’s the Internet of Things.
A smart home that can tell your cell phone that the garage door is open and lets you change the settings on your thermostat from across the country is an awesome reality today. It is made possible by the Internet of Things and it is only the beginning.