Kevin Ashton originally coined the term “Internet of Things” (IoT) in 1999, a theory that has since gained huge traction and interest within the technology world.
Broadly speaking, the IoT describes everything connected to the internet, although it has been increasingly used to define objects that “talk” to each other. The IoT allows internet-connected devices to communicate with each other, bringing individual machines and products into the same network.
The concept is built on the perception that we have limited time and resources to dedicate to the operation and management of technology, as it becomes more integrated within our everyday lives. In line with this, being able to automate and ‘hand over’ certain aspects of control to non-sentient products, may prove very useful moving forwards.
The IoT revolution has already started, but only a small scale. The real promise of the IoT technology – when every single thing has sensors embedded in them allowing them to “talk” to one another – is at present only a theoretical fantasy.
The IoT revolution will require massive infrastructure and wireless network improvements to be addressed before its development can begin. Not only will all our conventional “things” (cars, lighting systems, roads, water pipes, etc) need to be fitted with some type of wireless sensor, we will require a new high-speed wireless data network to allow said ‘things’ to talk to one another. Our current networks, like 4G, do not have the capacity to support this.
Early examples of IoT technology that are in use today are wireless smart food scales, smart lighting, smart thermostats, smart pet feeders, smart cars and many other products that boast the ‘smart’ tag.
One application of this technology is the Lively Personal Emergency Response System, a tool for helping seniors live more independent lives. The first part of the systems is a smartwatch device that tracks an individual’s activity (like a Fitbit), whilst also providing a one-touch button to a highly trained mobile team. In the event of this being used, the central hub that connects to the watch will also designate family members that the wearer might need help.
Other features such as medication reminders and alerts for things like missed meals or decreased physical activity, can also be monitored with passive sensors placed around the home. The app even lets monitoring continue when the wearer is away from the central-hub, allowing the wearer to get on with their day uninhibited.
A very different application of the IoT technology has been developing within the entertainment field. IoT is transforming how we play. It is not just about efficiency, it is about fun! From virtual games to physical games, casinos to amusement parks, gaming devices and hardware are increasingly becoming more IoT friendly.
A prime example is Sifteo cubes. These unique devices contain a clickable LCD display, motion sensors and USB radio connectivity, combined with an SDK and store platform.
Where the interest for gamers comes in, is that Sifteo cubes offer a new, digitalised twist on tabletop gaming, bringing to life a more interactive and socially-focused experience. The most interesting feature, that is currently being explored, is the potential to embody the connectivity that is at the heart of IoT, offering users the opportunity to directly engage with other objects and applications, tied into the games.
IoT is a fascinating field and when you start connecting things with things, humans with humans, and humans with things, the opportunities are practically endless.
With the technologies above, and with new research and announcements seeming to be made daily, we are moving closer to an exhilarating future where devices are smarter, we are in greater control, and we will be able to steer technology to create a higher quality of life for ourselves.
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