Few things have the power to transform our world as rapidly and radically as digital. At the hub of this transformation is the Internet of Things (IoT): a giant, global network of devices and machines that are connected, communicating, and exchanging data.
The Internet of Things is Growing Exponentially
The growth of the IoT is fueled by advances in mobile technology and the affordability of sensors. As the price of sensors continues to drop, everything could become part of the IoT, giving rise to the “Internet of Everything”.
While we might not feel the immediate impact of the IoT, soon it will help us live healthier lives. Advances in IoT-connected biotechnology will take healthcare to the next level, with around-the-clock monitoring, targeted treatment, and even automated doses of medication.
It will also help us lead safer lives. In smart cities, when everything is connected to the IoT grid, autonomous vehicles will eliminate 94 percent of car crashes (caused by human error) to save more than one million lives annually and make our roads safer for both passengers and pedestrians. We will live longer lives as a result (more on that in a later post).
The workplace will also become safer.
In 2015, there were more than 2.9 million injuries and 4,800 work-related deaths in the U.S. alone. Machines in an IoT-enabled factory could sense that a worker is in harm’s way and shut the equipment down automatically. Embedded sensors in wearable equipment could notify workers about hazardous conditions.
IoT-enabled environments are not only safer, they are also more efficient. Connecting the global supply chain from end-to-end makes pervasive visibility, proactive replenishment, and predictive maintenance possible. So if a part on an airplane, for example, was to sustain minor damage mid-flight, sensors would be able to predict whether or not the part should be replaced when the plane lands. In the manufacturing industry, this kind of predictive maintenance will drastically reduce asset downtime and significantly cut costs.
With the IoT, data-driven decision making will become standard in all industries. Retailers, for example, will be able to track and optimize routes for smart transportation. Automated pallets of inventory will sort themselves based on real-time demand. And prices could be tailored based on product proximity. All of which will culminate in smart stores that blend virtual and physical shopping to better serve highly connected customers.
Based on the blending of these worlds, humankind will have to adapt to these new, IoT-enabled environments in which humans and robots coexist. In these integrated workforces, robots, like their human counterparts, will have “employee files” that capture not only HR data (such as make and model, date deployed, etc.) but also activity logs. Should an incident occur and a human injured by a robot, the robot’s file could be pulled for insight into what went wrong or to be used as defensible evidence.
While the IoT is rich in opportunity, it is not without risk.
With so many devices, systems, and people connected to the IoT, information privacy and cybersecurity become the predominant concerns. In terms of privacy, studies have found that 10,000 households can generate 150 million discrete data points every day, or approximately ten data points a minute. This creates more entry points for hackers and leaves a breadcrumb trail of private information. Quantum computing is being considered based on its ability to create an environment that is impervious to outside threats. Along with security, establishing technology standards and usage guidelines will be important next steps in the future of the IoT.
Perhaps the greatest impact of the IoT will be to help us live longer, healthier lives. In my next post in this series, I will explore how technologies like the IoT make living to 150 a reality.