What Is the Internet of Things and How Will It Impact the Future?

Submitted by on Tue, 02/14/17

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The fourth industrial revolution may very well be taking shape.

Perhaps that’s a bold statement, but a variety of experts say it’s arriving thanks to the rapid progress of the Internet of Things (IoT).

The first three industrial revolutions were triggered by steam, electricity and then wired computers, notes The Globe and Mail, each of which had transformational impacts on people’s way of life and on manufacturing.

Now, the Internet of Things is on the verge of creating a world that as recently as a few years ago, might not have seemed possible.

According to Business Insider, it’s a world that will include smart mirrors that allow people to digitally try on clothes, and assembly line sensors that can identify decreases in efficiency, providing alerts when equipment needs replacing. On the farm and in the fields, there will likely be GPS-guided agricultural equipment that can plant, fertilize, and harvest crops without human operators. And for the broader masses – it’s a world that could include fitness trackers that allow users to transmit data directly to their physicians and other health care providers.

Are you up to speed on the many ways that the Internet of Things has already changed the world? And more importantly, how much do you know about the myriad of ways it stands poised to further alter life as we know it in the years to come?

What is the Internet of Things?
Business Insider defines the Internet of Things as “a network of internet-connected objects able to collect and exchange data using embedded sensors.”

As The Next Web (TNW) notes, if you use a smart thermostat to monitor the temperature in your home, or a smart doorbell to increase your feeling of security, you are already a user of IoT devices. As this space continues to develop, so to will the number and variety of devices being connected to the Internet.

Here’s a snapshot of what the future holds:

  • By 2020, IoT devices will triple from 10 billion to 34 billion
  • An anticipated $6 trillion will be spent over the next 5 years on IoT solutions
  • Businesses, IoT’s biggest adopter, will use these solutions to lower costs, increase productivity, and grow markets and offerings
  • Governments will become the second biggest IoT adopter (Business Insider)

It’s an exciting time, according to many experts, and one that will only continue to grow more interesting.

IoT Developments on the Horizon
A 2016, TNW highlighted what experts in the field see as some of the biggest and most exciting IoT developments on the horizon.

One of the most significant, according to the article, is driverless technology, which will completely disrupt the daily commute and travel in general.

One expert predicted that driverless technology, once fully adopted, will make the world a much more productive and safe place. Think for instance about the hundreds of thousands of people commuting in New York City each day (or in any city), many of whom drive cars.

Now reimagine those same people utilizing driverless cars. In such a world, instead of focusing on driving, commuters could safely focus on other tasks, like making phone calls or checking work emails, thus improving daily productivity.

Another exciting IoT opportunity TNW observed is predictive maintenance rather than preventative maintenance. Preventative maintenance is routinely completed to replace parts in equipment such as vehicles and manufacturing lines before they break; however, it’s a costly process and well…unpredictable. But combining IoT and machine learning allows for the prediction of machine breakdowns before they happen—it doesn’t simply depend on the age of the equipment. Some of the pioneers working on this front include IBM for manufacturing lines and start-ups like Preteckt, in long-haul trucking.

These are just a few examples. Many, many well-known companies are experimenting with IoT – names we are all familiar with. Among the players are Amazon, Google, GE, Intel, Microsoft, Apple and Samsung.

The Future
Intelligent machines are already beginning to alter industries as diverse as health care, manufacturing, city planning, transportation and power generation.

We are living in an exciting present and the future will be even more fascinating on this front. By one estimate, Business Insider predicts, at least 16 separate sectors of the economy stand to be transformed over the next 20 years by this emerging technology.

Government grants are already flowing toward smart transportation and smart cities, which may hold some of the most significant benefits for the public.

Wearable technology, meanwhile is also being touted as one of the greatest applications of the Internet of Things in the years to come. Activity trackers like Fitbits and smart watches like the Apple Watch have gained popularity in the consumer market. Business Insider’s BI Intelligence expects the wearables market to grow to 162.9 million units by the end of 2020.

Again, all of this is just a small snapshot of the future. Ultimately the idea is to put a computer into everything, make it automated, and sit back. Or as one article, in Postscapes, so accurately stated:

“The Internet of Things is transforming every corner of life: the home, the office, city streets and beyond. IoT products give us greater control over door locks, lights and appliances; offer insights into resource consumption habits; streamline business processes; and better connect us to the people, systems and environments that shape our daily lives. “

Are you ready for the fourth industrial revolution?

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