Whether you know it or not, you’re connected to the internet of things (IoT). This network of “smart” devices intersects so many areas of life and business, it’s just about impossible to go through a day without encountering at least one example of IoT technology.
What does the growth of this network mean for the future? From innovative possibilities to very real security concerns, news about the IoT is causing a buzz across industries and transforming the way people perform their daily activities.
A Portrait of the IoT Life
You probably don’t even think about how often you use IoT technology. A typical morning may include scrolling through top news stories on your smartphone, going out for a run with a fitness tracker strapped to your wrist or waking at the last minute to grab a cup of coffee brewed fresh by your coffee maker a few minutes earlier. As you drive to work, your car alerts you to the need for maintenance, so you use a Bluetooth connection to make a quick call to your mechanic for an appointment.
Arriving at work, you send a message to your “smart” thermostat to turn off the air conditioning until you return at night. You check the data from your morning run against the calorie tracker in your health app and decide to order a light salad for lunch. Before you reach your desk, you’ve made the order from a local restaurant and are ready to tackle the rest of the day using the connected systems your company installed to make work more efficient.
You get home in the evening and are greeted by a house at just the right temperature. Feeling hungry because of your light lunch, you ask your personal home assistant to order a pizza. The evening is spent in front of the TV, watching a movie rented online and accessed through a streaming media player. Without consciously realizing it, you spent the entire day relying on the IoT.
Connectivity Reaches a New Level
These basic actions represent just a fraction of the possibilities IoT technology offers. In a world where devices constantly “talk” to each other, individuals and businesses are discovering new ways to automate time-consuming tasks, improve productivity and enhance leisure time. There will be 4.9 billion connected “things” in the IoT by the end of 2017, and their use will span cultures, age groups and industries.
Even if you don’t own any smart devices, you still bump up against IoT technology every day. When you go shopping, you could be pulling products off of “smart shelves” designed to track inventory information. A visit to the doctor may involve a test in which data from sensors is recorded in your digital health record. The very same data could save your life if an unforeseen illness or accident results in hospitalization. Even the food you eat may have been grown using digital monitoring systems to track and manage crop yields.
Predictions for the IoT Future
IoT buffs with their fingers on the pulse of current trends are watching the drama of connectivity unfold and making predictions about an even bolder future for the underlying technology. One of these is Jason Hope, an entrepreneur based in Scottsdale, Arizona. Billing himself as a “futurist,” Hope is fascinated by IoT and sees many new possibilities on the horizon.
According to Hope, the IoT will change as:
- New and innovative devices are introduced
- Businesses undertake wider adoption of IoT technology
- Market competition for app use heats up
- The need to provide value in apps increases
When coupled with the predictions of Forbes, including greater availability of smart clothing, an increase in the number of self-driving cars and expansion of connectivity into new device types, these speculations paint a picture of a time in which life and technology are inextricably intertwined.
Hope believes entrepreneurs and their ideas are the driving forces behind the future of technology, including the IoT. Entrepreneurs were responsible for many of the current innovations on which we currently rely, so it’s no surprise Hope has his eye on these creative thinkers as the ones to transform an already disruptive industry.
More by Jason Hope: The IoT Revolution is Being Led by Visionaries like Jason Hope
Are Connected Devices Safe?
One area of the IoT where Jason Hope and others see cause for concern is data security. The amount of data being collected by and sent between devices is larger than ever before, and constant connectivity gives hackers new ways to access information across “smart” networks.
In The Security Risks of the Internet of Things, Hope advises IoT users to be cautious about implementing smart devices in their homes and businesses. Although his interests lie in supporting the development of “devices that embrace connectivity and the power of technology to improve the human condition,” Hope wants those investing in the IoT to recognize the potential risks of connecting every part of their lives.
The Icontrol State of the Smart Home study in 2015 revealed 44 percent of Americans were “very concerned” about the potential for data compromise in smart homes. However, there are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of your devices being hacked:
- Read the fine print regarding how device manufacturers share your information
- Ensure regular updates to firmware are available for all devices
- Check how frequently companies provide patches for known vulnerabilities
- Find out what, if any, intrusion detection is used
Growth is the future of IoT technology. As more devices are released and the connective potential of existing devices is realized, smart technology is likely to become the undercurrent powering most of life and the framework on which every industry is built.
There may come a time when you can’t imagine a TV without the ability to connect to the internet, a refrigerator lacking an inventory tracking system or a trip to the gym without a fitness tracker. Getting started with IoT devices now connects you to a network with the potential to change the way you live, work and interact with the world.