Leonardo DiCaprio’s 2010 movie, Inception, was about a thief who steals corporate secrets by using dream-sharing technology and was given the task of planting an idea into the mind of a CEO. The time is not far when life is going to imitate sci-fi movies. For example, your Google ad words just pitched you a fire extinguisher. Does that mean your fire alarm is about to conk off?!
If we thought that, in the last two decades, the internet has changed the way we live, we just have to see how the Internet of Things (IOT) is going to transform our lives. And the way and the speed at which innovation is happening, “transform” can be an understatement.
This is the first in a set of four articles on IOT, in which I will cover how it is affecting our lives, the domains in which it is operating, the challenges it will face and the things that organisations/companies need to be aware of to overcome these barriers. This article covers covers the first of these topics: how the Internet of Things is improving our lives at individual and home level.
Simply put, in IOT, all the objects are interconnected in a network. There is a collection of data and exchange of information happens through sensors. The IOT can be broadly classified into three different realms – the individual level, the community level and the cities level.
At the individual level, we have smartphones and wearable devices. Examples include Fitbit, and financial transaction devices such as Visapaywave, MasterCard Paypass, etc. Moving on to the community level, we have connected cars, health devices and smart homes. At the cities level, the applications can be centred around societies and cities.
Wearable devices such as fitness trackers and watches are the best examples of IOT at the individual level. Interestingly, quite a lot of innovation is happening and we are seeing convergence around different devices as watches, phones and homes are getting connected.
Did you have sound sleep? Well, we have the information. From babies to adults and elderly persons, technology is helping us take care of ourselves and our near and dear ones. A company called Mimo has come up with sleep trackers (a kind of smart, washable crib sheet), which keeps an eye on little ones. It gives parents an insight into their babies’ sleep and can also develop plans to improve sleep patterns. The sensor also sends an alert if no movement has been detected after a certain time.
Another example where IOT is helping us is in the area of health. One of the things which impacts people is that at times they tend to forget to take prescribed medicine. Non-adherence can increase over a period of time, leading to complications, not to mention an increase in healthcare costs.
Some companies in the IOT space such as GlowCap have come out with solution in the form of a smart cap and bottle. By way of automated visuals and audible alerts during scheduled dosage windows, it signals to the user the time to take his or her medications. Not only that, this adherence information can also be shared with doctors and with family members and friends.
IOT is also helping in the remote monitoring of the patients. With the devices which are fitted with sensors, the hospital can get to know if there are sudden changes in the vital functions of the person and can reach out proactively. This can be a big advantage to people who are living alone. Here also, if there is a sudden interruption in the daily activity of the person, alerts can go to family members/doctors and much needed help can be provided in a short span of time. When I look around, I find most of my colleagues who work in Gurgaon have parents living in other cities. This can be a great help to them;it will connect not just families, but also hearts!
In the above cases, the information collected over a period of time on the cloud can also help doctors in arriving at the correct solution as they have more data points analyze.
Almost every day, we look for our remotes and keys in our home. There are some devices which use short-range signals like Bluetooth to digitally tether critical items to our smartphone. We can get an instant alert if we just start to leave something behind. The mobile app can guide us back towards that. One can start the tea/coffee machine from the comfort of one’s bed in the morning, and run the dishwasher while struck in Gurgaon or Bangalore traffic!