You may have heard the term “internet of things” bandied about on the old interwebs in the last few years, but I bet most people sort of just let the term wash over them and then go back to doing whatever it is people do on social media all day.
The reality is, though, that the internet of things is a quiet revolution that is sweeping the world and has the potential to change the way we live in ways far more radical than the internet itself. In fact, your life may already be quite a lot different because of it.
To understand what the internet of things is, we first need to understand a few basic facts about the internet itself and the technology that drives it. To put it simply, the internet consists of a whole lot of electronics devices that use a common language to speak with each other. This language is known as “internet protocol”. Any two things that speak internet protocol can exchange information.
Everything on the internet also has a unique name, known as an IP address. An IP address makes sure that your computer is the one that gets an email rather than your neighbor’s laptop. It’s also how law enforcement knows who was doing what in the internet.
Free For All
Until recently most of the devices that you would find connected to the internet were personal computers or internet servers. As technology has improved and computer components have gotten smaller and less power hungry, we’ve started to see more and more “smart” objects. These can be anything. A dishwasher, a pair of shoes, or a stuffed toy for example. It really doesn’t matter. As long as the object you turn into a smart object has an IP address, a processor, and some sensors it can talk to other things on the internet.
This is basically what the term “internet of things” refers to. All sorts of “things” connected to each other and talking about stuff. The experts reckon that eventually most of the communication that happens on the internet is going to be between machines talking about machine stuff and, occasionally, about all of us.
They’re In the Walls!
Well, they will be. Yes, they have already developed a concept where hundreds of internet-connected sensors are mixed into building materials like concrete so that a building can have a sort of nervous system that will know when it is damaged or about to fail.
How about smart medical implants that can alert your doctor when your heart starts beating funny or a fridge that lets the store know that the milk is almost finished. These wonders and more are promised by the internet of things.
The Automatic Home
Since this site is all about home automation I can already hear you asking what this internet of things stuff has to do with making your home all futuristic. OK, that’s a lie. I bet you’ve figured it out for yourself already. Obviously the smart components that make up an automated home are all internet of things devices and a smart home is a subset of the internet of things.
Imagine the changes that living in a smart home can make to you personally and then extend those kinds of smart conveniences and efficiencies to a city, a whole country, or even the whole planet.
The internet of things is poised to change everything. From inside our own bodies to the actual, literal planet. Think about super-accurate sensors in the oceans or in the air. We could in principle know what’s going on in almost every corner of the world and, given how fast computers are becoming, we could actually do things like predict major disasters. If every car is connected and talking to every other car, accidents will be put to an end for good. If a city knows exactly when and where to save energy it could help save the climate and make energy cheaper and more plentiful for everyone.
Join the Dark Side
Like any technology there are possible downsides as well. Mainly people are worried about things like their privacy and freedom. Do we really want smart eyes and ears everywhere so that governments and hackers can have their way with us and keep an eye on everything that we do?
The thing is, we’re already way too far into this revolution to turn back. People are sharing everything in social media like Facebook and wear fitbits and carry around smartphones that records all their movements without them even knowing. Maybe the whole way we think about privacy today will be completely different in the future and no one will really care. Who knows?
One thing that we do know is that the internet of things is coming. It is too useful to be kept under wraps, so we may as well embrace it and take advantage of all the advantages that it brings. Starting with the automation of your house is a great way to begin that process, so you have definitely come to the right place on that score.