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The ‘Internet of Things’ – what does your fridge know about you?

Created: March 2017

You’re on your way home, and you get a text from your fridge. It has checked its stock and knows what food and drink items you’re short of, so it has networked with your local supermarket. Your shopping will be ready for collection by the time you get there.

Unsurprisingly, the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) is becoming widely talked about; it has the potential to alter the way we live and work in thousands of ways as yet undreamt of, leading some commentators to talk of change as profound as those we experienced at the dawn of the internet age itself.

You’re on your way home, and you get a text from your fridge. It has checked its stock and knows what food and drink items you’re short of, so it has networked with your local supermarket. Your shopping will be ready for collection by the time you get there. You have several food items that are reaching their ‘use by’ date and these are itemised for you in the text, and there’s a link to a recipe site should you need some inspiration in using them up. As your fridge is also networked to your bathroom scales, it notes that you have put on a couple of pounds over Christmas, so it provides a link to a meal plan that will help you lose weight.

Unsurprisingly, the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) is becoming widely talked about; it has the potential to alter the way we live and work in thousands of ways as yet undreamt of, leading some commentators to talk of change as profound as those we experienced at the dawn of the internet age itself.

An increasingly connected world

In simple terms, any device with an on/off switch could in theory be connected to the internet. This includes everything from kettles to dishwashers, heating and security systems, and wearable fitness devices. It can equally encompass industrial components and machines, logistics systems, jet engines, oil rigs, the list is virtually endless. Analyst firm, Gartner, anticipates that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices worldwide.

How life could change

Our smart phones will increasingly be able to control our smart home. Before long, we will all be able give more and more devices in our homes access to the internet. One thing is for sure, in the coming years expect to see chips and digital components becoming a core part of everyday objects and appliances.

In future, every home appliance, including your heating and security systems will be able to give you a status update, and what’s more, you’ll be able to log into their data from anywhere in the world.

There will be health hubs too, taking readings from your wearable devices, monitoring your exercise regime and checking your general health at regular intervals, passing on vital data to your health professional.

The potential for connectivity is seemingly endless. Expect to live in a future where your fitness tracker adjusts the heating in your bedroom to give you a better night’s sleep, where your car will sense when it’s nearing home and will activate the lighting and heating system in your house, or where your alarm clock and coffee maker are networked, meaning you wake up to the smell of fresh coffee.

A new world at work

In what many have dubbed the new Industrial Revolution, IoT connected devices are becoming a familiar feature of the workplace. Machines with sensors that send alerts when they malfunction are just the start. Security and surveillance systems with connected locks can send messages if there’s an attempted break-in or security breach. Logistics systems can track every part of the supply chain, monitoring the delivery journey of every consignment, including the amount of packaging and fuel used in its transit.

The office printer will automatically order ink and toner when it gets low. When the staff go home at night, lights and thermostats will operate autonomously to save on energy costs.

Opportunities and challenges lie ahead

We’re still in our collective infancy when it comes to grasping the full potential of IoT; expect there to be more data and analytics available, lots of it.

Whilst there will be many amazing benefits, there will be those who fear the uses to which all this data could be put, and see it as a major threat to privacy. Security of data and information systems will become a major issue worldwide.

The IoT will undoubtedly open up many opportunities and not a few challenges. It’s expanding fast and the data it produces will become increasingly important in running our homes, predicting consumer behaviour, identifying demand trends and managing resources. What is clear is that we can no longer ignore its increasing impact on our lives.