On the Internet of Things, More Devices are Becoming Smart and Connected – What’s That Mean?

When dealing with transformative technologies, it’s often difficult to separate the help from the hype. While ads and media are often filled with breathless predictions about massive future impact, it can be hard to identify real transformation—and assess real risks and opportunities.

Because of rapidly evolving technology, expanding use cases and the number of devices involved, it can be tough to get a handle on the Internet of Things (IoT). Here is a quick overview of IoT’s massive growth potential and how it’s making the world smarter and more connected.

IoT is a “system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction,” according to TechTarget.

That’s a lot of information, but a definition that includes humans and even animals tagged with unique identifiers helps show the broad impact of IoT. It’s not just interconnected gizmos and gadgets—IoT is all of us. The versatility of IoT is impressive, and so is the growing number of global IoT-connected devices, which are expected to top 75 billion by 2025.

 

Internet of Things - Smart Devices

 

Smart Devices include almost anything that uses power today. They have microprocessors and can be programmed to automate specific tasks without human interaction. A good example is a  thermostat that can be programmed to maintain a specific temperature range for your home. Smart devices are increasingly becoming connected devices to expand their capabilities, as shown by the Google’s purchase of the Nest thermostat, which is now part of a suite that includes cameras, doorbells, locks and alarm systems. Other fast-growing consumer smart device categories include phones, tablets, watches, bands, keychains, and speakers.

 

Tech products U.S. households penetration rate

 

Connected Devices can be defined as smart devices that have communication capability. This may be achieved through physical cables, but more often it’s managed wirelessly through a technology such as WiFi or Bluetooth. The number of smart devices becoming connected is growing every day. Connected devices are often controlled through mobile apps, such as an oven with sensors that can be controlled from your cell phone. It’s important that the communication is two-way so that you could remotely set a start time and also receive an alert from your oven when dinner’s ready.

Congratulations—it’s digital twins!

One of the key IoT trends driving this remarkable growth is digital twin technology, which combines digital assets, physical assets, and predictive analytics to join the physical and virtual worlds.

The idea of a digital twin isn’t new. If you have seen the movie “Apollo 13,” you are already familiar with the concept of twin systems. By using parts and equipment that were identical to those on board the damaged spacecraft, earthbound crews were able to help troubleshoot and direct in-flight repairs that enabled the astronauts’ safe return.

Digital twins have been used in industrial contexts for years, and now they are making their way into consumer products. For example, automakers are working on digital twins for self-driving vehicles to allow them to closely monitor the cars’ systems and safety performance. The physical sensors in the vehicles collect information that’s shared with a digital twin to provide a constantly updated model of each vehicle’s status.

The result? Cars that are able to maintain and repair themselves. It may not be long until you receive a text alert on your phone—from your car, reporting that it was able to diagnose a potential mechanical issue, request a software patch, download it from the manufacturer, and repair itself. All without the need for human intervention.

Coming soon: smarter, more humanized products

In addition to IoT sensors, our computers, mobile devices, and voice assistants provide a wealth of data for product designers to understand our uniquely human behaviors and preferences. As more of our everyday lives are recorded by IoT devices, designers will have more data on how people actually interact with products in addition to their self-reported interactions.

By learning from these human interactions and incorporating improvements, product designs will become safer, more effective, and more customizable. This wealth of actionable data will likely result in faster product development cycles than ever before. Stay tuned for products that are more in tune with the way you think and act.

It’s challenging to gauge the future impact of IoT, particularly because of its rapid growth and use cases where IoT is combined with other exponential technologies like AI and blockchain.

What is certain is that IoT and related technologies are rapidly transforming our personal and professional lives. As these technologies enter their exponential growth phase, these transformations may happen much more quickly than any of us expect.