How the IoT will Play Out in Our Homes
Like the Old Internet, the New Internet will definitely be experienced in the home. It makes sense that the place where you spend most of your time will be the place where the Internet of Things—connected objects with sensors—will be highly operational. The Internet of Things is another step toward removing the distance and the friction between data and action. Connected objects capture and analyze the data in a quantity and at a speed that human beings could never match—and then they will act on it, removing the human element from the equation.
According to the “Digital Universe” report from International Data Corporation (IDC), “data just from embedded systems—the sensors and systems that monitor the physical universe—already accounts for 2 percent of the digital universe.” By 2020, that will rise to 10 percent. IDC estimates that the total number of “connectable things” in the world is around 200 billion. Of those, around 20 billion are actually wired and talking to the Internet now. They are able to do so through a network of around 50 billion sensors that track, monitor, and feed data to those connected things. By 2020, however, the number of “connected things” will grow by 50 percent, to 30 billion. And the network of sensors? We’re talking about a trillion or so.
So what will this new, fully-connected world look like in practice?
6:42 a.m.: Your alarm goes off. Is it strange that your alarm went off at the forty-second minute and not the fortieth minute? Not if your alarm knows your sleep cycles and wakes you during your lightest moment of sleep, a much more natural way to wake up than being shocked awake when you might be in deep REM sleep. Gently, the ambient lighting of your bedroom turns on, brightening at the same rate that your eyes can adjust. At the same moment, your shower turns on as well—adjusting the water temperature to match your personal preference, which it has learned. After you shower, your calendar matches the day’s events with options in your wardrobe, prompting you with different options and predicting your preferences among the choices presented.
7:30 a.m.: Your coffee is fresh and waiting for you, brewing based upon past behavior and sensor data from throughout your home. You arrive in the kitchen and are prompted with several breakfast choices. The option with the highest uses the last of the strawberries because your refrigerator sensed that they were about to go bad. As you eat, you glance through the day’s news on one of several screens around you, your favorite news sites arranged in the order you like to read them, with news stories chosen to match your interests. Or maybe you prefer the television in the morning, in which case the TV program delivers the news in the way you prefer: sports first, then weather, then local, and finally national and foreign. Or perhaps the stories are delivered to you in an order derived from the number of friends or colleagues who have “liked” or “recommended” them. A ding from your watch lets you know precisely when you need to leave if you’re going to make your 8:30 appointment—relying on a real-time feed from traffic monitoring systems like Waze or future systems relying on V2V and V2I… You step into the garage where your driverless car is already on, with the inside temperature adjusted perfectly to the outside weather and your personal preference. It zips away while you continue reading the news or perhaps take the time to return some emails or make some calls. You didn’t have to worry about turning off the lights, turning the thermostat up or down, or checking whether you have enough food for dinner. As devices in your home were digitized, sensorized, and connected, those tasks were turned into data, and algorithms are now automating them on your behalf.
The sensorization of everyday objects will become so commonplace that we won’t see these “connected things” as high tech. They’ll just be things. Take for example the proliferation of motion sensors in use today. We don’t give a second thought when we approach the door of a retail store and it opens as we approach it. I’m sure the first door to integrate motion sensors felt a little like magic. And that’s what technology does. It takes the magical and makes it mundane. This, in a single example, is the long march of technological progress: making the remarkable ordinary—even invisible. The world isn’t getting more high tech, the tech is meeting us down on the ground. It’s becoming commonplace, as ordinary as the hammer in your toolbox—in the great democratization of technology.