Where next for the Internet of Things?18th February 2015
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a subject that is relevant to pretty much anyone at the moment. With the potential to connect any device to the internet, there is no profession that will not be affected.
However, because it is such a broad concept, encompassing exactly what IoT can do for you and the overall changes that it could make is a very difficult task indeed. It could affect everything from your daily commute, to how to heat your home or cook a meal.
In essence, the focus is on bringing the internet out of your computer or tablet and manifesting it inside practical jobs – meaning that they can perform their roles in a more efficient and optimised way.
We keep reading stats thrown out all the time by tech giants, making proclamations like 'all cars will be connected to the IoT by 2013' or 'in 2045, you will be able to remotely cook a meal', but in reality these are all unsubstantiated hypotheses.
What we will try to do in this feature is bring up some of the developments that could be catalysed by IoT which might not have immediately come to mind, as well as looking at how IoT as an industry might progress over the coming months and years.
Security is key
At the moment, commentators on IoT are working very much on the projections of what it could do in the future, with everyone wanting to take the crown of 'the one who saw it coming'. But given our modern culture of bombarding people with reams of online content every single hour, it is fair to say that a great deal of this gets lost in the ether.
What those who are keeping tabs on the IoT should keep in mind is an issue that has also been getting more and more column inches in recent years – privacy. We've all heard about Facebook being told to tighten up its privacy policies and Google being criticised for storing infinite amounts of data that it has access to on individual users – and this has all arisen because of computer and tablet use.
However, if every appliance in our home has an internet connection, then this may well just amplify the amount of risk that is posed by a lack of online privacy. Service providers could find themselves able to track what users eat, how long they shower for, the temperature they like their house and even more.
The need for government guidelines
What's worse is that without proper monitoring, users might not even know that these huge companies have access to such a wealth of sensitive information. The most likely outcome is that this would simply be used to target adverts at internet users rather than anything more sinister than that, but are strict controls needed before the IoT really takes off?
The obvious solution would be to put the government in charge of forming regulations for all internet providers and smart device manufacturers to abide by. But the internet is a global phenomenon – and getting all the authorities on the planet to agree on one common approach would likely be very difficult indeed.
Establishing a common operating system
The way technology industries often work right now is that there are a handful of companies who lead the way, meaning it is easy to figure out which components will work with your device and which will not. For example, there is no point buying an Apple dock for a Samsung product.
But IoT brings so many more potential pitfalls into play. To get the the best out of it, will we essentially have to agree to be loyal to one firm to provide the basis for most of our daily routine?
The race for monopoly
The reality here is that whoever can gain the strongest foothold in terms of an operating system will become the universal provider, basically instantly putting its competitors out of the running. Manufacturers of smart devices are constantly concerned about making their products compatible with the most popular system, as this essentially opens up a wider market.
With that in mind, rather than jumping forward to space-age kitchen appliances and cars with a mind of their own, the next step over the coming years could well be a host of companies going head to head to establish themselves as the frontrunner.