What is it?
The Internet of things. This term is becoming quite popular in the tech community but many people might still be wondering what it means. In simplest terms, it describes the connectivity of all kinds of devices and hardware. And by “devices and hardware” I really mean anything. The Internet of Things will be connecting your lights, your thermostat, your phone and your desk chair, all through the internet. Does your desk chair really need to be connected to the internet? Perhaps not but that’s not for me to decide. Truthfully, the Internet of Things’ potential for new levels of efficiency, innovation and safety is something to be enthusiastic about.
The Internet of Things’ potential far surpasses your common smartphones or smart TV’s. More than just connecting some household electronic devices, there could soon be a world where this technology permeates its way into every aspect of human life. There is vision of smart bridges fitted with sensors to monitor stress and detect cracking. But that’s not all. These sensors could then connect to the computer in your car and prompt you to slow down if the bridge is icy. It could even slow down the car for you.
Sound a little too futuristic? Lets get practical. As a business owner today, The Internet of Things has the ability to heighten your perception of business processes by involving the use of sensors to better track inventory, quality and customer interaction.
Hopefully now you can understand the vast scope of its implementation and imagine the possibilities of interconnectivity and responsiveness that The Internet of Things promises. Tread lightly, however, new technology always means new problems.
What’s the catch?
There is one major issue that The Internet of Things is currently facing. With all the hardware and infrastructure in place, what happens when the network fails or the producer decides to stop updating or supporting the software? This is exactly what happened when Nest, a Google affiliate, stopped supporting the Revolv Hub which is used to manage other smart devices throughout the home. When Nest cut their support to the device, it could no longer connect to the internet and overnight the Revolv Hub turned into a $300 brick (read this story here). Users faced a similarly chilling issue when their smart Nest thermostats stopped working in the middle of a cold Canadian winter due to a network issue (read this story here). For now these are issues of inconvenience but with such devices as smart smoke detectors, CO detectors and other security systems, this becomes easily elevated to a safety concern.
This particularly struck a chord with me given my early years working in healthcare technology. Where The Internet of Things has and will continue to revolutionize the industry, it must also be balanced by the inherent need in healthcare to eliminate risk of system failure.
Who Owns What?
My other concern is of a more political nature and that is a concern for ownership. The truth is that most of the software you use, you don’t own. It is simply licensed to you by a manufactures. So you’ve bought a laptop, a car, maybe even a house, all interconnected and functioning via the internet but what happens when the software that runs it all stops working? What responsibility do these manufacturers owe to their customers to maintain these products? Currently it doesn’t seem like there is any.
The Next Step.
I cannot oppose any innovation with this much promise but in moving forward I urge buyers to educate themselves on manufacturers’ policy and history. I promote advocacy for consumer protection and lastly I beg companies to sympathize with their customers. Let’s not offend the innovators and early adapters who first believed in a better future through technology and The Internet of Things.