Jan 072014

internet of things
The tech savvy out there will have been hearing more and more a buzz phrase of “The Internet of Things” or IoT. The Oxford Dictionary defines it quite dryly as – “a proposed development of the Internet in which everyday objects have network connectivity, allowing them to send and receive data:”. Wahooo! I hear you say, but what does that exactly mean to everyday life. So let me explain it a different way, or in my way anyway.

We are all pretty much use to the Internet and what it delivers today, but that internet predominately for us starts and finishes on a screen. What I mean by that is our everyday interaction with the Internet is totally virtual whether we are reading emails, shopping, doing our bit in social media or streaming Eastenders on iPlayer. Regardless it never gets any further than the computer monitor, the tablet screen or our smartphones.

So what does IoT do to change that? Well it connects everyday physical objects to the internet to extend or improve their functionality by allowing communication via the internet either to other physical objects or to virtual systems. The outcome of that communication to my mind is then also a physical event. Let me give you an example – Hive Active Heating – the link takes you to details of a system British Gas are selling which connects your home central heating system to the internet. With the appropriate app on your smartphone you can then control the heating remotely. Not a mind blowing example of the potential for IoT, but nevertheless an example. Your central heating is connected to the internet and by communicating over such you can change the physical state of the heating in your house.

Now I see IoT in the same vein as the good old “The Cloud” hype of a few years ago. We all now live in “The Cloud” in one way or the other, and in the corporate world the actuality of cloud  based solutions is well established. However when “The Cloud” first cast a shadow over the IT industry it was hype waiting for technology to catch up.

IoT is just the same, the potential is there, but the technology and the uptake of that technology is yet to happen in sufficient amounts to see it as an everyday occurrence. One thing that might hamper that uptake is a resistance by the general populous to accept further integration into cyberspace. This is usually borne out of fear that ranges from the paranoia of a real life SkyNet occurrence to a more sensible fear of the erosion of our normal social interaction and an ever increasing dependency on technology. I for one don’t have any of those fears, although I still think Arnie is a cyborg from the future!! I embrace such advancements and see them as bringing the benefits that we have all accepted from such technology.

You only have to look at the advancements in communications that led ultimately to the likes of the internet and widespread use of smartphones. We evolved from telegraph through to telephone, then onto mobile phones, then texting, then aligned with the evolving internet we had mobile data and then the smartphone was born embracing all technologies. At each stage society had elements of fear of each technology, we’ve all had those conversations about how mobile phones were destroying social interaction, and later on the same argument for texting killing the art of conversation. However I see it as exactly opposite, as the human race is adept at evolving with the use of technology. I see my own daughter holding frequent face to face conversations with her friends, but that can be actually face to face or over via Apple’s facetime. It extends her capability of social interaction not diminishes! Used correctly and sensibly and yes with the right security controls all these technologies enhance our lives.

However on to the Internet of Kerchings, all these technologies only succeed because there’s a successful commercial imperative at play. The same will be true of IoT, it will need that initial push from commercial income, and that is starting to happen.

CES is one of the biggest shows each year for consumer technology companies to show off their wares and normally announce what’s going to be big that year. So where else better to see what is coming for the Internet of Things to turn it into Kerchings! Samsung are a great example of what to expect with their announcements of a Connected Home . Of course initially their solution will be specific to Samsung devices locking you into their ecosystem, but they are offering control of your home from anywhere straight to your Samsung Galaxy Gear watch. Samsung are keen to increase revenue from an increasing saturated smartphone and tablet market, and what better way than locking you into proprietary systems. Of course all these toys will have to play nice together one day, so you can control your various devices from any manufacturer. However until then expect the leading technology companies to be looking for your cash from buying into the Internet of Kerchings!

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