Next time you’re in a public place, sit back and take a good look around you. Notice, if you will, all of the people who are caught up in using their tablets, smart phones, or laptops. As you do this (and hopefully not getting caught staring!), bear in mind that every single one of those people is using a wireless connection, accessing the Internet, receiving and sending information. Pretty mind-boggling, right?

Believe it or not, that’s all small potatoes. Imagine, if you will, every device, gadget, machine, vehicle, residence, even household pets, accessing the Internet, providing data; we’re talking millions, no, billions, of bits of information. There’s no need to imagine it; it’s happening today, and it’s becoming increasingly common.

Welcome To The Internet Of Things

Called IoT for the sake of brevity, the Internet of Things is where people, animals, vehicles, just about any sort of device, carry a unique identifier that allows them to send data over a network without the need of any human activity. Each “thing” has its own unique IP address, sensor, and means of accessing the Internet.

By using the IoT, every one of these things can keep track of activities and send that information to a designated company, organization, business, or whatever else. The data is then processed and in turn used for things like marketing or customer relations, for example.

An Example

You decide to order a pizza for the first time from a joint called Pizza Overlord. When they deliver it to you, your black cat, Spooky, an indoor-only cat, manages to slip out unnoticed while the door was open.

Once in the house, you realize the cat got out, and you leap into action. Fortunately, Spooky has been micro-chipped, and you pull up the tracking app on your phone and get a fix on her. You jump into your car and take off only to realize, blast it, you need gas! You pull over at the local station, put a few bucks in, then resume the chase.

Thanks to the chip, you find Spooky safe and sound, and on the way home, you celebrate by getting a coffee by taking a detour to your favorite donut shop and using the drive-through. Finally, you’re home, safe and sound. Pizza time!

Cue the Internet of Things. Spooky’s chip is just the beginning of the whole IoT adventure, the catalyst if you will (pardon the pun). The debit card transaction for the pizza is flagged by your bank as an unusual purchase because you never used Pizza Overlord before, so they send you a text query to validate the transaction. Your house’s thermostat noted the sudden sustained drop in temperature when you had the door open, and now you’re getting an email from the heating company with nifty weather-proofing tips. Your car’s GPS sensors showed you driving around the neighborhood extensively, which triggers an SMS text with some coupons from local businesses with a five mile radius. The gas pump reported your purchase, and you get an invitation to join a fuel rewards program, and the donut shop noted your coffee choice and offers a discount on the next one your order.

Oh, and Spooky’s chip activity triggers a coupon for cat food, plus a text from her vet, suggesting a quick check-up may not be out of the question, in light of her outdoor adventure.

The Rise Of IoT

The above example is not a near-future prediction. Most of those things, if not all of them, are now possible, and do in fact happen. As technology continues to advance, as security measures become more effective, and mobile communications and networking increasingly become the norm, so will the Internet of Things be more part of our everyday lives.

It doesn’t end there. With the trillions of bits of new data coming in, Big Data will probably have to be re-branded as Humongous Data. In addition, there’s the certainty that things like drones and robots will need to interface with IoT, something touched upon in the article “The Big Data of Robotics”. It’s a big world, and it’s getting more interconnected every year.

One thing is certain: the Internet of Things is just getting warmed up. Whereas much of the activity is happening quietly and with minimal fuss, this is a concept that will push itself further and further into the public eye. Check out “Big Data And the Internet Of Things” for more insights into this fast-growing phenomenon.

And if you own a rarely-used treadmill, you better beware; it is talking to your doctor.