The Internet of Things (IoT), the network of physical objects embedded with technology that allows them to collect and exchange data, unquestionably makes us a “smarter” society, but, aside from its inherent geeky coolness, the way the IoT enables us to improve our lives is what is catapulting it into mainstream usage.
On a larger, corporate level, the technology – which relies on electronics, software, sensors and network connectivity – is being used for smart grids, intelligent transportation, smart environments, and even smart cities (officials use it to monitor things like availability of parking, vibrations under bridges, and levels of trash in city containers.)
But on an individual level, it can help us become more efficient (saving us time), more frugal (saving us money) and even more fit (saving us from illness).
Early adopters of this sort of technology may be using it, in fact, without even knowing it’s a part of the IoT. Take, for example, Waze, billed as “the world’s largest community based traffic and navigation app.” Users join with other drivers in their area, who share real-time info – such as traffic jams, accidents or police activity – which helps the collective community better decide which route to take, saving them time (and even gas money or a traffic ticket!), and easing what could be considerable frustration.
If saving money is important to you, the IoT offers myriad apps and programs to help you better manage the costs associated with heating/cooling/lighting your house or apartment. Even though we’ve had the capability to program home thermostats to call for heating (or cooling) at predetermined times (like just before you get home from work), you were still stuck heating an empty home – and wasting money – if your after-work plans changed. IoT technology enabling home automation changes that paradigm, allowing you to change the thermostat settings on the fly, right from your smart device. Over a year or two, that can save you hundreds of dollars.
But perhaps the most widespread adoption of IoT technology so far is in the area of fitness. The market is already glutted with gadgets and apps that help track – and transcribe – our activity, diet and exercise, enabling that collected data to serve as personal coaches of sorts, offering both instruction and motivation. There’s even Smart sportswear, which can turn body data into training advice, and an app in the works that allows you to log caloric and nutritional information of a meal simply by taking a picture of it. All this technology, if used correctly, has the potential to lengthen our lives and help us avoid illness.
With the world moving at a faster pace, (thanks, technology!) more is demanded of us every day. But with these new tools at our disposal, we have the opportunity, and the information we need, to make better decisions and to reduce wasted time, wasted energy and wasted effort. The IoT literally puts a wealth of information at our fingertips; it’s up to us to use it to improve our lives and manage our resources.