We interact with countless things each day that support us as we sleep, eat, work and play — the bed we get out of in the morning, the shower head, your toothbrush, the car steering wheel, your watch and your lunchbox. Your stove, blender and refrigerator — you get the picture. What if these objects, on which we rarely spare a second thought, had intelligence of their own?
The Internet of Things is exactly that “what if” put into action. It is physical objects, embedded and enhanced with sensors and wireless capability, sending signals to each other and data to our phones. Importantly, it is more than just hypothetical — billions of such devices exist already, and the market is estimated to reach a value of $11 billion by 2025 according to McKinsey.
These projections may actually understate IoT’s full potential, because the commodity of “thing” is essentially unlimited, unlike other markets tied to specific goods.
What does this mean for the average person? Though their integration will almost certainly be gradual, the possibilities of IoT could touch every moment of our day, changing the way we live our lives and interact with the objects around us.
In the morning.
Most of us wake up to an alarm of some sort, or else we would sleep in and miss that important morning meeting. Alarm clocks are perfect candidates for IoT, as many of us already use our phones or electronic clocks to get the job done. The smart alarm clock Kello, as one example, tracks your routine to improve how you sleep and how you wake up. With alarms like this, waking up can become a pleasant experience after a more restful night’s sleep.
You also hop in the shower most mornings. It’s uncommon to think much about water usage or waste, but smart shower heads can help us do just that. EvaDrop uses an internal heat sensor to track when the water hits your desired temperature, then adjusts or cuts off the flow based on whether you are directly beneath it or elsewhere. Ultimately, it purports to cut water use by 50 percent.
To top off your morning routine, there are also a number of web-enabled toothbrushes that record brushing habits and provide dental hygiene tips. Tracking the time and efficacy of habits like sleeping, showering and brushing teeth can reshape how mindfully we go about our routines.
The connected car is already here, and by 2020, all new vehicles are expected to be connected to the internet. This means more intelligent vehicles that can interact with traffic lights, signs, pedestrians and other cars, and ultimately keep passengers safer. At some point soon, cars will become partially and fully automated, freeing up drivers to be more productive while commuting.
For drivers, connected cars mean less stress and frustration in the morning, making it much easier to adjust to the workday ahead. As a bonus, if you’re having coffee on the go you might use a smart thermos like Ember. This smart container keeps your beverage at the perfect temperature for up to two hours or longer, all adjustable by your smart phone.
Many workplaces are already ultra-connected, with employees operating primarily through screens, communicating by messaging services like Slack, email and cloud-based operating systems. IoT in the workplace could be as simple as implementing smart thermostats like Nest to control temperature, or as complex as smart lighting systems that track employee patterns to inform space and energy usage.
For the individual worker, sensors that track location, movement and to-dos can organize individual data and optimize your time. For example, a device could sense that you’re late for a meeting and reschedule it for you, or anticipate your order at Starbucks. While this could mean more management of devices for you, it might also create more efficiency throughout the day.
You may even want a smart lunchbox like the Prepd Pack, a Kickstarter product which comes with an app that lets users bookmark and share recipes on a social network of lunch-lubbers.
After work, your IoT can supercharge your exercise regimen — fitness wearables are one of the top forms of IoT devices available today. From connected shoes to wearable devices, there is a plethora of options that let people count their steps and track calories burnt, motivating us to increase healthy activity on a daily or weekly basis.
On your way home, you might consult your smart fridge, which will let you know what you have in stock for dinner and if you need to pick anything up from the market. Keeping track of grocery items saves time, reduces waste and lets you plan your weekly meals more accurately.
Lastly, IoT will impact your sleep cycle. As you can probably guess, mattresses can be as smart as any other object — or even just the mattress cover. The makers of the Eight sleep system believe their product can change the way people sleep by adjusting settings according to users’ lifestyles. The mattress fitting even communicates with other devices in your home, meaning it could, for example, dim your lighting in the evening and have your coffee ready in the morning.
The Internet of Things will enhance and streamline our daily routines and lives. IoT does require some maintenance and attention to security issues like other internet based devices, and presents new data you didn’t have or think you needed before. The degree to which each individual wants to integrate new devices, sensors and technology into their lives is a personal decision, but the possibilities will be almost endless.