With 2016 being a bit of a funny old year that saw political upheaval, increased global paranoia and a popular culture Grim Reaper so cruel he couldn’t even let us enjoy December 25th without taking a Christmas icon from us in George Michael, we now look into 2017 with something of a “things can only get better attitude”. Perhaps now is a good time to be looking at how digital technology could be set to make our lives easier, more flexible and ultimately more fun.
A 2016 report from analytics firm SAS has predicted that from 2015 to 2020, the so-called ‘Internet of Things’ will contribute £81bn to the UK economy. Manufacturing alone is expected to account for nearly a third of this (£27bn), but the likes of telecommunications (£12bn) are also likely to feel its considerable impact.
Now, SAS has also found that one in five businesses are planning to adopt the Internet of Things, leading the company to speak of a need for “tailored, just-in-time services” as the business world becomes increasingly customer focused.
All of this suggests that the Internet of Things, or IoT, is far from a gimmick and is actually something you would have to be an id-IoT to ignore.
What is the ‘Internet of Things’?
The first time I heard the phrase ‘Internet of Things’, I thought it sounded ridiculously vague. A ‘thing’ is, well, anything, so what are we to make of some kind of ‘internet’ that works through ‘things’ in general?
Perhaps the reason the phrase is so general and unspecific is because the concept is very far-reaching and the only limit to it seems to be the imagination. In broad terms, it refers to bringing network connectivity to devices that traditionally function in an independent, completely offline way.
An obvious example of this could be a smart thermostat that can be controlled via a mobile phone, or even learn when a house is likely to be empty and time the heating accordingly. The automotive world is becoming increasingly cyber-related too, with Apple recently mentioning artificial intelligence and self-driving cars in a paper.
Talks at the annual SAScon conference in recent years, however, really make you realise that there’s no end to how far the digital obsessive could take this. Suggestions have been as wacky as shoes with inbuilt GPS to tell their wearer if they are going the right way, or frying pans with a screen built into them so that people can watch TV or browse the internet while they cook.
Whether there’s a market for appliances as niche as this is debatable, but the rise of such concepts as smartphone payments shows that we are embracing convenience and want to have facilities at our fingertips wherever we are, whenever we want to use them. Businesses would be mad not to take note of this.
My prediction is that by the end of this year, it will seem odd that I’ve had to explain what the term ‘Internet of Things’ means. A lot of us will be familiar with it already, but I suspect we’re all going to hear it a lot more over the coming months, to the extent where it’s a phrase almost as universal as ‘mobile internet’, or anything else that would’ve sounded a bit potty 15 years ago.
So, whatever ‘things’ you might be planning on doing today, be they offline or online, don’t be surprised if the web has wormed its way into them by the start of 2018.
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