If you dabble at all in technological circles – or if you pay attention to TV commercials – you’ve probably heard a good deal about the “Internet of Things” in recent years. Yet, unless you have a specific interest or reason to explore it, you may not be entirely clear on what the phrase means (and no, it’s not just another term for the ordinary Internet).
To summarize the concept, the Internet of Things, or IoT, is more or less the concept of devices connecting through automated channels. With automatic connection and data recording, the hope is that devices can share information in a way that can improve everything from human health to company efficiency.
This concept in and of itself doesn’t seem so groundbreaking to us anymore in 2015. It makes plenty of sense, really, but what may surprise you is how much the IoT has already been built up and applied to our everyday lives. Here are six applications that are already in practice.
1. Sales Tracking
Businesses have always gone to great lengths to gather whatever data they can about sales: where they’re generated, who’s buying product and why, when sales peak, etc. Naturally, automating this process can go a long way in improving efficiency for companies tracking sales, and this SalesForce article about the IoT’s effect on smart marketing discusses how connected devices will change that aspect of industry. Smart devices gathering and recording sales data allow for swift adjustments and a more thorough understanding of how to improve ROI. As for the impact on average consumers, part of the shift toward IoT implementation in sales is also that we’re slowly but surely gaining more ways of providing instantaneous feedback on products and shopping experiences, which in turn feeds into the IoT.
2. Home Intelligence
The gradual transition to smart homes is one of the most significant IoT-related innovations for the average person. Basically, this idea encompasses every automated function that we’re beginning to see more frequently in homes: climate regulation, energy-saving appliances, smart security functionality, etc. The overall idea is for devices within the home to learn our habits and then work together to improve home quality and eliminate unnecessary energy use. At this stage, climate regulation is probably the most “intelligent” aspect of this concept, thanks to devices like the Nest thermostat. This particular tool only needs to be told a few times what your preferences are (for example, if you turn the temperature down before going to sleep) before it begins catering to them automatically. As similarly patterns are applied to other aspects of the home environment, our homes are gradually becoming smarter in a more comprehensive way.
3. Shipping Regulation
This is an area of the IoT with incredibly broad potential, despite the fact that the average person isn’t really involved directly. According to Networkfleet’s post on IoT implications, fleet management for industries managing shipping divisions can be drastically improved via the use of interconnected devices automatically recording data. By using vehicle WiFi and GPS technologies, the post explains that vehicle diagnostics and routing information can be exchanged automatically with company headquarters. It can then be used to spark adjustments, leading to safer and quicker fleet management.
4. Wearable Technologies
Aside from the rise of smart homes, wearable technologies are by far the most relevant early examples of the IoT to be used by the masses. We’ve already seen devices such as the Apple Watch and more exercise-specific products like FitBit tracking and recording our actions in a way that helps us to better understand our own activity levels. These devices monitor heart rates and other health data, track our exercise habits, and allow us instant connection to various modes of communication, among other functions. They collect data that is automatically integrated with computers and/or online sites for our own convenient use.
5. Social Media & Marketing
According to the aforementioned SalesForce article, predictive social media is poised to become a major sector within the IoT, with “74% of brand marketers” evidently reporting significant web traffic increases resulting from social media promotion. This means that companies using social media to expand their brand names tend to get significant boosts in recognition. By automating that process – essentially generating timely, appropriate social media publicity through systems, rather than advertisers or marketing departments – the effect can be huge.
6. Healthcare Improvement
This is one of the broadest categories of IoT applications, and to some extent I’ve already addressed it, in that wearable technology is already assisting individuals with monitoring their own health. However, on a greater scale, there are already innumerable IoT systems and practices being used in healthcare. In hospitals, gigantic amounts of data are stored and recorded, and they’ve historically constituted a bit of a maze for medical professionals. Now, improved recording and sharing methods make patient files and medical data readily available across various sectors of medicine. For example, a surgeon working with an unfamiliar patient can easily access records from that patient’s primary care physician over the web. Additionally, as revealed through a collection of IoT examples at Postscapes, there are also new tools for helping patients automatically monitor pill usage, biometrics, and other things.
At this point, these are some of the biggest areas in which we’re beginning to see the extent of the IoT’s reach and influence. However, in the near future these uses will surely expand as new industries take advantage of the trend. To put it simply, the future of IoT should be fascinating to see.