The Internet of Things (IoT) is always in the news these days. The term dates back to 1999 when MIT researcher Kevin Ashton first coined it. In general, the idea is that every item will become connected in the future. IoT use cases include not just our smartphones, but also our fridges, homes, cars, and more. How IoT is changing the world is through these brief examples of IoT applications communicating with one another through the aether we know as the internet.
How IoT is changing the world as we know it
These new IoT applications will have an enormous impact on our lives. According to Business Insider, there will be 24 billion of them by 2020!
But how exactly will the IoT change the world for us? Let’s look at a few of the main areas of how IoT is changing the world.
IoT use cases in the shopping industry
How we shop will definitely change when the IoT starts to make a genuine impact. The internet has already changed shopping considerably, but more changes are on the way in the near future. The digital world is hotly competitive and demands constant innovation.
Hate queues? Then stores without checkouts will sound appealing. Amazon has already demonstrated this concept in its own shop where all the items have sensors. The system simply reads these sensors and charges the customer directly via an app when they leave the store. Could this really be the way we shop in the future?
We can also look forward to more personalized shopping. For example, sensors in stores will pick up on where shoppers are located and send details of special offers and recommendations related to items in that section.
Sounds futuristic? It’s already happening! Macy’s has already been using Bluetooth “beacons” in this way. There’s a way to go yet before it goes mainstream, but it’s easy to see how IoT is changing the world and the physical shopping experience.
Work-related IoT applications
The world of work will also change considerably when the IoT becomes more prevalent in our lives. We hear a lot about how the robots are coming for our jobs, and the IoT will certainly play a role in such.
Robots are already performing work in warehouses across the world (Amazon again!), and this will only increase as they become smarter.
The office atmosphere will change as well. In the not-too-distant-future, you might arrive at your office and have the elevator automatically arrive to pick you up, your office lights turn on when you arrive, and your coffee brewed by the time you reach your desk. When devices know where you are, they can use this information to plan ahead.
Manufacturing is going to be impacted too. Machines already do a lot of the work, but soon we will have machines with sensors that can warn the owners of problems before they become serious. We will even have machines that order new parts for themselves.
Using the IoT to manage our health
Healthcare is one of the areas that will see the most IoT use cases with the largest impact. Fitness trackers like Fitbit are already hugely popular, and they can tell us a lot of basic information about our health. This will become more advanced when the IoT kicks in.
In the near future, doctors will track the health of patients via sensors in devices that they wear. These sensors that can check for symptoms and send updates to doctors to alert them to early warning signs, and they could even have an impact on health insurance.
This is all happening to a certain extent already. Smart beds have been around for years, and they are only going to get smarter. Phillips has already created a device that dispenses pills when the patient needs to take their meds. This kind of technology will get better and better over the coming years.
How the travel industry will be affected by changing technology
Driverless cars are big news, and they are already on our roads. It is inevitable that they will soon be the norm. As well as the actual driving technology, they will also speak to each other using the IoT. Cars will know where other cars are, where people are, and more, and this will have a huge impact.
Say goodbye to traffic jams — with smart streetlights, smart cars, and even smart streets, congestion should become a thing of the past.
These IoT applications will also have a big impact on food by helping to increase the food supply. Sensors will be able to update farmers on crop conditions to help them take steps to improve how crops are grown and maximize production.
Countless everyday tasks will also be improved around the home which is just another pointer to how IoT is changing the world. We will soon all have fridges that tell us what to buy (or make orders for us on their own). We will have lights that turn on when we enter and homes that heat before we arrive.
Again, many of these are all happening already, but the IoT will take it to a whole new level.
What these examples of IoT applications mean for you
The IoT will change our lives. How we eat, travel, work, and play will all change. For businesses, the impact will be huge. From how businesses manage stock to how they employ people and how they carry out their marketing, things will never be the same.
Anyone launching a new business of any kind will be impacted in some way by the IoT over the next five to 10 years — and if you’re looking to start your own business with a small, cheap store, you’ll need to ensure that you choose a future-proof platform capable of supporting this technology down the line.
Potential Roadblocks that the IoT could unveil
Amid the excitement, it’s worth remembering that there are some hurdles to overcome first.
For example, these connected devices still all speak different languages depending on the manufacturer, from Bluetooth to Wi-Fi. We will also need to store all of the data produced, which presents a challenge.
Perhaps most importantly, there are serious security and privacy issues to consider. No one likes the thought of hackers breaking into our cars and health devices. With GDPR recently making everyone very aware of the dangers of having information accessible online, expect to see a lot of debate on the IoT in coming years.
Whatever concerns people may have about the IoT, the fact of the matter is that it is happening right now, and it’s not going to slow down. It will become increasingly prevalent in our lives, and it will inevitably change everything. Are you ready?
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Patrick Foster contributes pieces throughout the web, but mainly writes about the ever-changing world of online retail for E-commerce Tips, a blog all about providing actionable advice and keeping you apprised of what’s happening in the industry.