Internet of Things: An Evolution

Everything that can be automated, will be automated.

- Shoshana Zuboff, Rtd. Prof. HBS

The aliens are coming. Well, they are already here.

Sounds absurd, but we are no less alien to what we were a decade ago. And our near future self will be much more alien to what we are today.

"With the IoT, we're headed to a world where things aren't liable to break catastrophically – or at least we'll have a hell of a heads' up. We're headed to a world where our doors unlock when they sense us nearby." Scott Weiss, Venture Capitalist, Andreessen Horowitz

Changing Dynamics

Imagine a scenario where we are granted access to offices, boardrooms, cafeterias, gymnasiums, theaters and our own homes by the flick of a wrist. Where we can control the temperature and humidity of our rooms, or set the kitchen apparatus to prepare our favorite delicacy from miles away.

Where we can pay our bills and buy stuff without carrying cash or cards. Where our car knows how to pay for its fuel, our refrigerator knows what to order, our garden waters itself, the music we hear continues playing in different locations as we move from our home to the car, to the office or to wherever we are headed.

Or while on vacation, our smartphones being alerted of smoke emanating from our kitchen and the firemen having arrived to take care of any exigency scenario. Our home insurance company being informed about the damages due to fire, and being presented a check or a direct transfer note on arrival back home by the insurance company.

Where insurance companies will provide a reduced premium based on our lifestyle, making more money available for other spends.

Where the utility companies are updated by our scheduling systems, wherein they can estimate the usage of power, water, telephone, the internet and similar consumables, and calibrate their systems to supply as much leading to optimum supply and reduced wastage, thereby increasing operational and distributional efficiencies.

All these scenarios have a great impact on how technology will change our lives for good. The transparency and efficiency will allow the human mind to focus on higher and creative objectives. Finances will improve with better utilization of resources and wealth. Here are some of the examples that will soon, if not already, bear out the resemblance to what was once thought to be alien:

  • A company in Sweden is implanting a chip – the size of a grain of rice – in the wrists of its workers. This will allow the workers to open doors, authenticate on photocopy machines, pay for coffee, access public utilities without having to carry any access card or a credit card.
  • Turbines, motors and other machinery in power generating or manufacturing plants will be able to communicate their wear and tear parameters by themselves to the engineers/maintenance staff, thereby reducing the need for engineers to collect this data manually.
  • Connected and driverless cars will give rise to an entirely new industry that will disrupt many of the existing established industries.
  • The banking experience is about to be revamped with the innovative use of IoT.
  • IoT enabling the management of hospitals. The entire hospital, with its beds, operation theaters, emergency areas, etc., are all IoT-enabled, allowing live data feeds to a Wall of Analytics that GE has created at the Johns Hopkins Command Center.

When things are automated, more time will be available to us humans as a society. This additional time can be spent in creative pursuits, and returning to living as we are supposed to while the worldly tasks are taken care of by automation. It is not very difficult to imagine the future of the world we live in, making our passage through the world an awesome experience.

The IoT moment is similar to the moment when the Internet hit us. Today, it is almost impossible to envision a world without the use of the internet. IoT will be the same in the coming decade, if not years. It looks like a one-way passage and hence, needs careful consideration before we tread on it wholeheartedly. Learning from our recent internet experience, standards can be evolved to ensure we do not go down a rabbit hole in our fantasy of a near-perfect world.

Challenges and Impediments

To make IoT adoption a reality we still have to overcome challenges that might make our progress slower. Listed below are some impediments to the fast adoption of IOT:

  • Change is always difficult to accept.
  • We have a plethora of legacy systems, devices, machinery and mindsets that needs to be upgraded to the IOT-enabled state.
  • As we delegate our work to machines, accidents are likely before we perfect the art.
  • Security and impersonation are aspects that need to be thought through with more clarity, so as to not invade privacy.
  • Questions like What will humans do when everything is automated? need to be addressed, philosophically as well as emotionally.

Given the fast advancement in our recent times, the time is not far when these questions will have satisfactory, if not perfect, answers. And then it is over to the aliens within humanity to forever change the way life was lived over millennia.

Hail the Internet Of Things!