From fridges and thermostats to cars and cities, everything around you is getting connected. But what will it mean for your life?
1 It’s about connected computers in everything
As technology buzz-phrases go, the Internet of Things is at least plainly descriptive: it’s about putting the internet in, well, things. Fridges, smoke alarms, televisions, cars … whatever the product, it’s getting wirelessly connected to the internet and to the other items.
2 David Cameron is a big fan of the idea
The government has invested £73m in the Internet of Things, which the prime minister sees as key to a new “industrial revolution” centred on technology.
3 It’s not just the British government that is investing in it
Research firm CB Insights claimed recently that investors pumped $1.1bn (£667m) into Internet of Things technology in 2013 alone across 153 separate investment deals.
4 Google is also splashing its cash
Nest, a US firm co-founded by “father of the iPod” Tony Fadell, won critical acclaim with its connected thermostat and smoke alarm. In January 2014, Google paid $3.2bn to buy the company, with Fadell promising the deal would fuel Google’s progress towards the “conscious home”.
5 Connected cars are a big piece in the puzzle
Your car is one of the biggest “things” in your life that’s getting connected. Apple recently unveiled CarPlay, which puts your iPhone in charge of your car’s infotainment system. Google has its Open Automotive Alliance to do the same thing for Android, while Microsoft has been in cars since the late 1990s.
6 Yes, smart washing machines are still A Thing
Internet fridges and smart washing machines are being wheeled out every year, with scant proof that there’s a big demand for them. Technology firm Berg’s Cloudwash washing machine sends text alerts before starting its final cycle with buttons to buy more conditioner and detergent online.
7 We’re going to be talking to our devices
Once lots of devices are connected in our homes there’s a question of how we will interact with them. Using smartphones and tablets is one safe bet, but voice control is also likely to play a big role.
8 But will they talk to one another?
One problem yet to be solved is how all these connected devices will talk to one another if they’re not made by the same manufacturer. Research firm Gartner thinks that, by 2020, there will be 26 billion connected devices around the world, producing huge amounts of data.
9 There are privacy issues to consider
When Google bought Nest, there was some unrest among internet users about who will have access to data from their homes and what it will be used for. However, Fadell stressed publicly that “the data we collect is all about our products and improving them”.
10 Is your home going to end up more hackable?
Besides privacy, there are important security issues to consider around the Internet of Things, because every connected device is potentially vulnerable to intruders. In 2013, a hackable “smart toilet” made for comedy headlines, while the potential for cars to be attacked electronically is a more serious concern.