The internet of things

The internet of things is the basic premise that rather than just having your phone or computer connected to the internet in fact you have a whole wealth of dedicated devices which are connected to the internet and provide a specific service.

Your online fridge
The classic (and very bad) example is the fridge. If it was connected to the internet, in theory, it could tell, or you could tell it by scanning a barcode, that you have run out of milk so next morning the milkman drops off a fresh bottle as it was automatically added to his online delivery list.

With the cost and size of manufacturing the relevant chips and sensors decreasing it is on the verge of becoming a widespread reality. The Parrot Flower sensor is a prime example of this. It is a wireless sensor which you put in a plant pot and it measures sunlight, soil moisture, temperature and fertiliser. This enables the plant to basically alert you when it needs some attention.

Examples of success already
There is sure to be lots and lots of gimmicky / pointless applications but I’m really excited about the potential. One of the first success stories is in health/fitness. Big names like Nike and their FuelBand are good examples. How long before Health providers / doctors will start using this data to service customers? So called Big Data is about to get a whole lot bigger! There is then the gamification side of things, just by being able see how active you are on a daily basis is an astonishing motivator, add in the ability to compare yourself to your family or friends and the result are amazing.

Use your imagination
Beyond that your imagination is your only limit as to where this could go. Literally think of any physical possession you have and what it could mean about being connected to the net. Any electric / physical item could be controlled remotely e.g. run a bath, put the oven on for when you get home, which it knows to delay if it can see you are running late or get stuck in traffic. Like the plant example though, it doesn’t have to be limited to man-made devices. Heck put a GPS sensor on your cat if you can’t work out why he’s putting on some much weight.

Battery / power is a limiter at the moment but with wireless power processing in it’s development it is likely that this limiter will be removed as well in the future.

So there is two very big opportunities for individuals and organisations

  1. Creating a widget or connection service which people want and gives them something new or makes life easier for them
  2. Those that then use the data / insight these new devices will bring. E.g marketing, insurance, health, economics, governments, etc etc

Certainly the former will attract the immediate attention and initial headlines but I’ve got a feeling the real winners will be those that can leverage the later.