You, the consumer, are at the center of a disruptive digital revolution that is being led by technology. It started with social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc.), got charged by mobility and smartphones (Mobile apps), and now awaits the next frontier with Internet of Things, 3D printing, wearable techs and sharing economy.
What is Internet of Things?
Over the years consumer electronics have become digital instead of mechanical. Cars have microchips controlling their engines, refrigerators have digital inverters, TVs are just another computer, air conditioners have chips, and so on so forth. Any digital device like a chip is capable of storing a software program that controls the device and potentially data like user preference, factory settings etc. Think of these devices as microcomputers like your laptop or desktop. Most recently, technology has sky rocketed with smartphones and smart devices that have a lot more capability and logic. To put things in perspective, just like you send an email, post something on Facebook or Twitter, these devices are capable of transmitting information. If we were to read all such transmissions and let the devices interact with each other in a digital space, we have an “Internet of Things” .
Cisco is forecasting that by 2020 there will be 50 billion connected devices or things creating the second largest interconnected network besides the universe. (Image source: Economist)
You, the Consumer
Whether you realize it or not, you are living in the Internet of Things. Check for yourself how many of the following questions you answer with ‘Yes’. I have posted mine below.
Do you own the following?
- Fitness band? No.
- Smartphone like iPhone, Android? Yes
- Health tracking app? Yes
- Electronic thermostat like Nest or Honeywell? Yes
- Smart refrigerator? No
- Amazon Dash? No
- Car with mobile app to lock/ unlock? No
- Medical device to record your health? No
- Home automation for lights etc? Yes
- Smart TV connected on Wi-Fi? Yes
- Mobile app based garage opener? No
The more Yes’ you have, the more you are a part of IoT.
Should this worry you?
Yes and No.
No, because corporates all over the world are now trying to leverage the information to provide better services and products that are tailored to your lifestyle. Gone will be the days where everyone had to buy what companies sold. IoT is forcing companies to learn about you, your habits, likes and dislikes, and in turn offer a personalized experience. Consumer is King (or Queen) again!
Yes, it is scary because it exposes your personal life and information to companies who may become overly aggressive in their targeted advertising. It also increases the risk of being hacked since Internet of Things is part of cyberspace just like computers and servers. Hackers can take control of these devices and plan new crimes. Although, there is a strong push already amongst big corporates to ensure IoT security is not undermined, your responsibility when buying such devices is to ask the seller about security standards and protocols.
New Social Era with IoT
Overall I am excited that the world is changing as we speak. All the futuristic movies we have seen and the cool concepts they imagined, a lot of those concepts will be “live” in our lifetime (next 2-3 decades). Driverless cars from Google, Drones from Amazon, smart watches, flurry of wearable techs and more will continue to redefine user experience.
While convenience and wow factors are feeding the innovation, implications for improving human life are tremendous. Medical devices that can alert doctors, smart algorithms that can predict diseases like cancer, AIDS etc, machines/pods that can reach out to the remotest areas, smart channels to improve irrigation, devices that can predict and lower pollution levels, technology to increase arable land, devices that could function as human organs…the possibilities are truly limitless.
Our predecessors witnessed the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century. It changed the world forever. We are blessed to be witnessing a Digital Revolution which will change the world as we know today. Good things always come with some Bad things. So will be the case with IoT. People will hack, people will develop new weapons of destruction, digital crimes may increase. However, it will once again come down to human responsibility to make the best use of Internet of Things. While governments and global authorities will have to define new rules and new norms, corporate responsibility will increase to ensure safety of consumer and society. But a lot will depend on You – how well you embrace the change, how well you will use it and how socially responsible you will be!
Welcome to the new world of Internet of Things!