I admit I have done this slightly out of order! Last week I discussed Big Data and what it was and whether it mattered to small businesses. Whilst Big Data is already big, you ‘ain’t seen nothing yet as when the Internet of Things gets going Big Data is going to explode. So perhaps I should have explained the Internet of Things first!!
Wearables, the warm up act to the Internet of Things
Currently, in your life you could probably count the number of things that you own and attach to the internet on one hand, i.e. Desktop/Laptop, Smartphone, Tablet, TV/Set top box. The data that these machines are collecting is pretty small and currently not very dynamic, but this is going to change over the next few years, firstly with Wearables. Items such as, Google Glass, Smart Watches, Fitness Trackers and Life loggers are already on the market and form the start of the Internet of Things. All are designed to be worn, hence the term Wearable, and are collecting data about you, down to the second, throughout the day. These devices will either connect directly to, or through, your smartphone/tablets to the internet, a place where it can store and analyse all of the data being captured through out the day. Online systems will then crunch all the data collected throughout the day giving you feedback on your life (health in the case of Fitness Trackers or Moments of time with Life Loggers). So now the number of items connecting to the internet can be counted on 2 hands, still not that dramatic but its the start of the Internet of Things and a prelude to what is coming!
But it’s not just the stuff you’re wearing that will make up the Internet of Things
Ignoring the fleet of self drive cars that Google has, your average car already has more computers in it than you do in your home. These little machines are monitoring everything from your acceleration and breaking to your fuel consumption and service schedules. When you add in your sat nav it also knows where it’s been and where it’s going. Currently this data is sitting in your car waiting for the next service to be released and put to good use, but as the mobile and wifi data networks become ubiquitous this data will be taken off and analysed every minute of the day. It will be using the Internet to connect! But its not just in cars, already you have the Nest Thermostat and Smoke Alarm, the Hue Light Bulb from Philips and pretty much every thing here on the Apple website will be connecting to the internet to perform the various functions they offer, such as turning your heating or your lights on.
So whats the main show for the Internet of Things
What has held this back the main show so far are three things, Size, Cost and Power. Individually none of these are a problem, this is where we are today. We can get the electronics down to a size that will fit into a bulb (and much much smaller), we can get a complete internet connected consumer computer for £20 (Raspberry Pi) capable of monitoring external sensors and processing the data and power may shortly be sorted through technology such as Ambient Backscatter. The end goal are cheap, small internet connected devices that can be put into and onto anything we see fit, this is the Internet of Things, when everything is connected and communicating via the web. Whilst we can probably get our heads around items such as Wearables and Car computers and even applications such as Tiles (helps you find lost items world wide), the Internet of Things is not limited to the obvious stuff, everything in your house and daily life is up for connection, from the cups knowing how much and what you have drunk to the cereal boxes giving you feedback on your fibre in take.
So how is business preparing for the Internet of Things?
The big guys are starting to jostle for the Internet of Things market place. The big data guys are looking to the explosion of data that will be collected, developing and refining the tools we (as customers and businesses) are going to need. Tools that allow us to quickly sift through all the data to extract the good stuff, identify trends in our behaviour individually and as a group. Companies such as SalesForce (the online cloud based CRM company) have started to add layers to their existing CRM offering, these extensions look to connect the Internet of Things to their CRM database. Other companies, such as Evrythng, are building services around the Internet of Things from the ground up. But both know, we as businesses will need to build relationships with Things/Products as well as customers and therefore need systems to mange these relationships. Even the BBC are looking at how to interface the Internet of Things with their media streams.
How do you think the Internet of Things will affect you as a consumer and a business, are you excited to think you may be able to be in touch with your product from the cradle to the grave? To be able to anticipate your clients needs and requirements for stock or product servicing. If you are a service business and as a consumer are you anxious about letting your suppliers have that sort of access to their products and the data they may collect or do you see past the concerns seeing the benefits it can bring?
Still confused? What might your day be like in 5 years time.
Perhaps an example might help, I have tried to use examples of Things that are already available although they may not be fully connected or offering the same sort of service that I identify at present.
- Your alarm clock lets you lie in for five minutes because it knows you have a 9 o’clock meeting and the traffic is lighter than normal on the M25.
- You brush your teeth, your toothbrush suggests you book in for a routine exam as it has been 6 months and its monitored a build up of plaque, it offers you a couple of appointment times that fit with both you and your dentist, this is all displayed and acknowledged via your connected mirror.
- You get dressed, your wardrobe suggests an outfit that is suitable for the weather and type of meeting.
- In the kitchen your kettle has just boiled, you make your first cup of tea and you make a bowl of cereal.
- Your fridge sees you are nearly out of milk and places it on your shopping list.
- You put the TV on as well as showing you headlines that interest you, you are also able to check your diary for the week and catch up on your emails.
- You choose some music to listen to from the selction that is available on Spotify, as you walk around the house the music follows you.
- As you leave the mirror in the hall reminds you to take an umbrella (chance of rain later) and as the door shuts, the lights and music switches off and the alarm sets.
- As you get into the car the music starts playing from where it stopped in the house, the sat nav is already programmed with the meeting location as shown in your diary.
- On the journey you let the car drive so you can prepare for the meeting, it routes around traffic jams. Everything you need is on your tablet or available in the cloud to prepare for the meeting.
- At the client’s you walk up to reception, they know who you are and who you are there to see, your ID is waiting, they have already sent you directions to the meeting room, they (the clients computers) knew all of this as soon as you drove into the car park.
- After the meeting, back in the car the on board computer suggests you have a tyre changed as the tread appears to be low, it has checked, there is a garage on the way home which has your tyre in stock and can fit you in while you wait.
- Your phone sees you need milk and suggest the shop around the corner, as you walk in you are directed to the Milk but as you pass the various products on the shelf previous purchases are identified.
- You get back to the car, your credit card has already been debited and paperwork has already been sent by email.
- As you drive into the driveway the house lights up, even though you are home later than expected the heating has come on time to make the house warm, the kettle has just boiled.
- You make dinner, as you place plates on the table the table calculates the calories of your dinner and drink.
- You settle down for a quiet evening watching a documentary that the TV has recorded as its on a subject you find interesting. As you sit in your chair the lighting adjusts to your TV levels, whilst watching the program you pause it to find out more about a particular person being interviewed and purchase a book he recently wrote all on the TV.
- A phone call comes in, the phone checks your contacts and see its someone on your VIP list so it pauses the TV program, turns the lights on and rings the closest phone. When you hang up the phone the lights go down and the TV resumes.
- As you go to bed that evening you stand on the scales, the display in the mirror shows your weight chart, the calories consumed and burned during the day.
- As you place your phone on the bedside table your audio book starts playing, and as you fall asleep your activity monitor switches off your audio book.
Obviously there is a lot more detail I could of added and further use of the Internet of Things but hopefully you understand how big the Internet of Things will be and what it could mean for us a consumers and business managers/owners.