As we look around our communities many of the futuristic devices that used to only exist in science fiction novels seem to have finally arrived in the here and now. We have the Internet of Things or “IoT” to thank for these new developments in technology. In simple terms, IoT is a network of devices that communicate with each other through wireless connections. Information in the local environment is gathered by sensors in various devices and automatically sent to connected devices or data storage areas. But what are some of the concrete examples of IoT and how they’ve brought science fiction to the present? Below are just a few examples and there are many more on their way.
1. Cars That Can Drive Themselves
If you have looked at purchasing a car in the past few years there are more sensors than ever built in standard to vehicles: rear view cameras, automatic breaking sensors to avoid a collision, lane departure warning systems for traveling on the highway and even cars that can parallel park themselves. We may not be fully there yet but from these developments a completely self-driven car is not a long ways off. As these sensors are developed and their ability to work together is streamlined some estimate that early versions will be released by 2019. With this development though also comes the need to protect our vehicles from hackers. Cars are currently outfitted with many computers that are susceptible to hacking as they connect to the Internet. Firewalls and other protective services will need to be improved before the self-driving car is consumer ready.
2. Health Monitoring and Self-Diagnosing Devices
The Star Trek “tricorder” was a device that could be used to instantly diagnose diseases and provide vitals for a patient with almost no invasive testing. This device is close to becoming a reality thanks to sensors, IoT, and the Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize competition. But for a more immediate example you may just have to look down at your wrist. Are you currently wearing a Fitbit or other fitness tracker? With close to 20.8 million devices sold as of March 2015, FitBit and other fitness tracking devices are revolutionizing the way people track their health and wellness. Fitness tracking devices are worn everyday to track how many steps or stairs you’ve walked, your heart rate throughout the day, and even monitor your sleep to help you rest better. For those of us that need that extra motivation, you can rely on your choice fitness tracking device to remind you throughout the day to get moving.
3. Smart Homes
Imagine waking up and as you walk through your house each room has the lights automatically turn on, temperature adjusted to your exact preference, and music fine-tuned to you specific tastes starts to play. As you leave for the day, you click a button on your phone that automatically locks the entire house and activates the alarm. Later, on your way home you get a text message from your fridge updating you that you are low on milk and out of onions for tonight’s dinner. This is no longer science fiction or wishful thinking. Businesses are currently investing millions to sync wearable devices with your home to allow your light, temperature, and music preferences to be communicated to each room you walk into. Almost every home security system currently offers the ability to control your locks and alarm via your smart phone. Many even allow you to turn down the temperature when no one is home to save energy consumption. And as for the smart fridge? Most are currently still in the prototype form and not available for mass consumer consumption. But a GE crowdsource group has created the ChillHub, a fridge that allows for various IoT add-ons like a scale that tells you how much milk you have left in the fridge.
What other science fiction items have you been seeing in today’s IoT modern world?