ELI5: The Internet of Things – Part 4

ELI5 Internet of Things Series – Part 4

Where is the future of IoT heading?

If the latest and greatest technological advances fly right over your head, never fear – we’re here to help you get up to speed. The Internet of Things (IoT) isn’t nearly as daunting as it sounds. In fact, it’s pretty awesome to see what we can look forward to in the coming decade.

The Future of IoT

Get ready for science fiction to become as normal as making toast. By 2020, there will be an estimated 21 billion devices connected all over the world – and that’s just scratching the surface.

IoT will benefit us in numerous ways. It makes our lives easier and allows us to be more productive, as automation relieves us of many mundane daily activities. We’ll be able to focus more of our attention on the things that really matter to us. IoT will also help improve our healthcare system, education and general quality of life.

Let’s have a look at a few examples of how IoT will change our world.

IoT in the Healthcare Industry

Advances in the healthcare industry results in many people living well into their 80s. However, lots of these people live alone. In a few years, an estimated 40 million adults over 65 will be living alone in the United States of America (USA) and Canada. IoT will allow their health to be monitored constantly. Sensors can pick up a change in vital stats and send a signal to emergency services to dispatch an ambulance to the person’s house. IoT will allow older people to enjoy their independence, with the peace of mind that they won’t be stranded in an emergency.

IoT in an Educational Environment

The average American student spends 1025 hours a year in a classroom but a whopping 308 of those hours are wasted. Interruptions such as distributing class materials, class transitions and beginning lessons take up valuable chunks of time. IoT will lessen these interruptions as teachers can use technology to distribute material and then spend precious time on the students and their needs.

In the future, students’ brain activity could be measured. When they get distracted, they can be gently refocused on their tasks using haptic vibrations. IoT can also help remove barriers to learning such as language, location and economic standing.

IoT and SMART Cities

Smart cities will improve the general quality of life in urban areas. IoT will help to bring down the cost of living, and make cities more liveable and environmentally friendly. Cities will collect data and automate various aspects of our lives, including video surveillance, visitor kiosks and even public transport.

The Canadian government is using technology to improve living conditions in cities, using an extensive network of sensors. These sensors will monitor living conditions, including people’s activities, noise levels and the air quality in the city.

Self-driving cars will become a mainstream reality. You’ll be able to sip on a cappuccino and read the news, while your car navigates the peak-hour traffic. An interconnected road system, where traffic lights are used to monitor traffic patterns and congestion, will update your car which will immediately alter its course to avoid delays. That’s the magic of IoT.

“The plan calls for all vehicles to be autonomous and shared. Robots will roam underground doing menial chores like delivering the mail. Sidewalk Labs says it will open access to the software and systems it’s creating so other companies can build services on top of them, much as people build apps for mobile phones,” writes Technology Review. The project is due to commence in 2019 – so watch this space!

IoT will have a profound impact on both our personal and work lives. You can refer back to our previous episode on The Business of IoT to find out more about how IoT will continue to change the way we work.

Challenges Facing the Future of IoT

While we’re unlikely to see scenes from The Terminator come to life, there is the very real threat of millions of people losing their jobs to automation. The Industrial Revolution in the 1800’s saw huge scientific advancements in industry, with the automation of factories. However, these advances came with massive social changes – some good, others not so good (such as loss of jobs and overpopulation of cities). IoT may cause history to repeat itself.

There’s also the issue of privacy and security. Cyber hackers would have access to billions of interconnected devices, giving them the power to bring entire cities or countries to a standstill. But, that’s a whole new blog post on its own.

Tune in to our next instalment of ELI5: Security, Privacy and the Internet of Things. Here you’ll learn why legislation like the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are vital as we move toward the future of IoT.

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