Internet of Things: Everything is Smarter than You

18 March 2016

Tommy Högström

In a world where knowledge is power, people’s urge to streamline their everyday life might have larger effects than previously imagined.

Imagine getting out of bed in the morning with your whole apartment ready to perform your morning routines better than you could yourself. You jump out of bed and your coffee maker delivers fresh coffee, your TV puts on your favourite morning show and your home automatically tells you the weather forecast, so that you can plan your outfit. Your car autonomously drives you to work, without congestion, and receives signals from the light posts, telling you where to find a parking space. Forgot to lock your door? Don’t worry, you can do it with your smartphone from work.

“The Internet of things is a tremendously large possibility and it will have large impact on people’s lives in many ways. Quality of life can potentially be taken to a higher level for individuals, if one can use the services in a “relevant” way, and the world wide resources can be used in better ways”, Lars-Åke Johansson, CEO at Alkit Communications, tells The LINK.

What exactly is IoT?
Internet of Things (IoT) is the concept of everyday devices being digitally connected to one another. Through implementing internet in products such as light bulbs, kitchen wares, your car and similar you are able to interact with your ‘things’ in a whole new way, while they communicate with each other.

Your smartphone is in many cases what enables you to program, control and get information from the ‘smart’ things you have implemented in your life, which in various ways can make your life easier. If you feel dependent on your smartphone today, imagine losing your phone when it is even smarter, when it controls and monitors your entire home.

“IoT possibilities are practically limitless as data from connected things is turned into insights that enhance our lives from smart sustainable cities to health care”, Warren Chaisatien, Director of IoT Marketing at Ericsson tells The LINK.

Your home is smarter than you
A few years ago no one would ever think that your home could do your chores, cook your food and remember to lock your door for you, but today it is a possibility and in a near future you are likely to struggle without it. So called ‘smart’ fridges can detect what food it lacks, light bulbs knows when to be lit, kettles boil water without you and the stove cooks your food without your involvement. Furthermore the concept of keys as we know them might soon be coming to an end. Nowadays you can control your lock, share rights to access and monitor your doors, all from your smartphone.

On the topic of sustainability companies such as E.ON have developed ‘smart’ energy meters, enabling your home to consume electricity during hours when demand is lower and subsequently also the price, for example running your dishwasher during the night. Even your sprinkler can predict weather in order to not waste water on rainy days.

Although ‘smart’, these products do not instantaneously know how to do that, you have to teach them through programming your needs and routines, to enable them to serve your everyday life. Nevertheless, an increasing number of us are already using IoTs in our homes. A study by Accenture found that 13% of homes already have one or more IoT devices and predicts that 69% will have an IoT device by 2019.

Send hugs across the globe
It is not only your home that can be ‘smart’, your clothes can replace you too. HugShirt has developed shirts enabling you to receive and give hugs through your phone. The shirt has sensors that register the strength, duration, heart rate and warmth of the hug, which is then recreated by the shirt on the receiving end, no matter where in the world. One can imagine that in a globalised world with increasing long distance relations, mobility innovation simulating human contact is easily adopted. Although these shirts might not be able to recreate a real hug, it suggest we are taking steps towards enabling real life contact, digitally.

Prevent catastrophes
Through incorporating long lasting sensors in bridges, on mountains and in dams these sensors can give warning before a catastrophe occurs, saving numerous lives. The same sensors incorporated in bridges can, through wireless Wi-Fi, send signals to your car when there is ice, telling your car to slow down. Stepping back and taking a broader perspective, if the cost of sensors decreases, as all technology do at some point, one might wonder how many lives could be saved in the future by monitoring mother earth.

Photo credit: Ericsson

Safety first
The Internet of Things may very well help you in terms of comfortability and security, but having complete faith in technology may not always be for the best. If your ‘smart’ tea kettle stops working your life may not fall apart, but if your security system gets hacked, that’s another story. We need to be aware of how the technology acts when it doesn’t work, not only when it does. Chaisatien explains further:

“Every new device connected represents an additional security risk to the network. In addition, IoT will inevitably involve massive amounts of personal data so privacy and security will have to be handled in the strictest fashion from the beginning, rather than as an add-on, if we want to realise IoT’s full potential.”

The world of information technologies is increasingly complex and can be hard for the majority to understand and feel safe with. The complexity, and therefore the uncertainty of using IoTs, is a force working against home security systems becoming mainstream, which is ironic since the whole idea of implementing these solutions is to increase security.

Tracking your every move
An important issue linked to the development of IoTs is the amount, and specifically the type, of data that the producers of IoTs gather from you when using their technology. It has recently been, and still is, discussed whether it is okay for companies to track our every move on the internet, enabling them to customize their marketing based on one’s search history. If you stopped buying milk and you immediately received a message asking why, would you think that was okay? This might actually become reality when using products like ‘smart’ fridges, mapping your behaviour. According to Johansson, it is important to have a deep ongoing debate about the issue of data handling in order to create guidelines and regulations limiting the misuse of IoTs.

“Many ‘objects’ and related sensors can generate large amounts of data (one part of what is called Big Data). In many cases it can be very powerful to collect and to get access to large amounts of data in order to get new knowledge of how customers really are behaving”, says Johansson.

Using IoTs gives suppliers an enormous database where they know every move you make, when you take a shower, when you cook and even when you push the gas in your car. In a world where knowledge is power, people’s urge to streamline their everyday life might have larger effects than previously imagined.

Monitoring your body
IoTs could also help detect and prevent diseases, from within your body. According to Johansson companies are now developing internet sensors that one can swallow to transfer data about your body to find and monitor for example cardiovascular diseases. The sensors could also send videos from inside your body, enabling first hand visual monitoring of your health, 24 hours a day. In the same manner, heart sensors can help detect heart arrhythmia and other heart diseases, making it possible to take action before it is too late.

“Wristbands that track our heart rates, calorie intake, exercise regimes, etc. can one day warn us of an impending illness before it strikes or even dial an ambulance when we show signs of a heart attack!”, Chaisatien tells the LINK.

These solutions can directly improve healthcare and save lives but also deliver important data for research and development, it is only a question of getting the technology out there.

Looking forward
The technology exists, to serve your every need by acting as your extended arm. However so far nothing mainstream enough has been developed to force the industry forward. According to Chaisatien an obstacle within the IoT industry is that it involves both technology actors and traditional partners such as car manufacturers, complicating the facilitation of standards to ensure interoperability and subsequently commercialisation to the mass market.

Imagine if ALL the products around you could learn, talk to each other and make decisions based on information from other products. Imagine the applications. If you think the world is connected today, the next wave of ultra-connectivity will most likely transform your perception of the reality you live in today and looking at the pace of the development, you might not have to wait that long.

“We have only just seen the beginning of the Internet of Things,” Johansson tells The LINK.

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