We’ve all heard tell of the coming golden age: refrigerators that order up groceries when we run low, thermostats that learn our temperature preferences, clothes that adjust to the weather. It’s a vision of the future in which dozens of useful, everyday objects, chat with each other through the Internet, making our lives easier, more efficient, and just plain cooler. It’s called the Internet of Things, or IoT, and there is every chance it is going to be glorious.
With this coming revolution in mind, the DC-based Application Developers Alliance has just released the first in a planned series of papers investigating the promise of and the challenges facing the Internet of Things. The whole paper is certainly worth a read. But as I perused the report, I noticed that the analysis suggests a few entities are particularly well poised to benefit from the changes to come:
- Doctors and patients: So many reports on the Internet of Things use home-based examples to illustrate the potential – and clearly we’re not innocent. The alliance paper, however, points out that doctors and patients may see some of the biggest gains from the coming changes. Wearable sensors will be able to track vital signs and alert doctors of any troublesome changes, allowing medical intervention before problems become critical. Even patients not being monitored by such sensors would benefit: More efficient doctors mean better, more timely, and potentially less costly treatment for everyone.
- Savvy entrepreneurs: Now, when this new system is still figuring out exactly what it will be, is the ideal time for enterprising entrepreneurs to stake their ground. There’s money on the table; Cisco, for example, is offering a prize of $250,000 to be split between three promising new IoT start-ups. And there’s opportunity; as the Internet makes the leap from computer and phones to toasters and cars, suddenly our whole lives are ripe for new innovation.
- The Earth: The Internet of Things is all about making things run more smoothly. And this kind of efficiency will lead to better resource management and increased sustainability. Driverless cars communicating with other vehicles will keep to fuel-efficient speeds and calculate the shortest routes. Smart homes will never let a light bulb burn too long or keep the heat running when everyone’s out of the house.
The main obstacle to achieving these gains is the ongoing struggle for standardization (more detail in the paper. Seriously, just go read it.). Neither businesses nor consumers will want to dive in if they think they will need different sets of equipment or software for every new function they want. And no entrepreneur wants to be the one to bet big on the IoT equivalent of Betamax.
But these problems are already on the way to resolution, and the Internet of Things is coming soon to a toaster near you. What applications are you eager to see in your home? Your doctor’s office? Your school? Your office? How do you want the IoT to change your life?