If you’ve ever started a sentence with “Alexa…”, you’re experiencing one of the many ways smart technology or Internet of Things (IoT) makes life better. If you then asked your smart speaker to “add chocolate to the shopping list”, you would soon be experiencing one of the many ways that chocolate makes life better. But for our purposes here, let’s focus on smart tech.
What is the Internet of Things?
Simply defined, IoT or smart tech is made up of everyday objects that can connect to the Internet. This ability makes them ‘smart’ and we can then control these smart devices via voice commands, applications (apps), WiFi or Bluetooth. When you see the word ‘smart’ used to explain a device like ‘smart light bulbs’ it means it connects to the Internet and can be controlled by you remotely.
How does smart tech work?
There are four main steps to how smart tech works: Device, Connectivity, Data and User. All of these steps are performed over the Internet, may only require communication between machine to machine, and sometimes can occur without humans ever needing to get involved in the process.
The best way to explain the process is to use an example so let’s use the Vodafone Curve, our smart GPS tracker fitted with the Vodafone Smart SIM. Curve is the Device, which is the physical ‘thing’ in the Internet of Things. Your family dog, Alfie, keeps finding new ways to escape from the garden. You’ve attached Curve to Alfie’s collar so you can keep track of him and make sure he doesn’t get lost.
Curve uses Global Positioning System (GPS), cellular or WiFi to track Alfie down. Once Curve has found Alfie, it stores his location. Alfie’s location is the Data. That data/information is sent by its built-in SIM card to be processed and you will then receive a notification on your app. You are the User, the fourth and final step.
Once Curve alerts you that Alfie is currently a few houses down chasing the neighbour’s cat, you can then walk over, collect Alfie, and promise for the last time that your very naughty boy will not bother them again. And that is just one example of how smart tech works and keeps you in touch with your favourite things.
What are some examples of smart devices?
The Alexa smart speaker and Curve are just two examples of smart devices. Some others include smartwatches to smart cars; smart security cameras to smart meters; smart fridges to smart door locks, and smart baby monitors to smart fitness trackers, to name a few. There are an estimated 31 billion smart devices in the world today and it’s predicted that number will jump to 75 billion by 2025. Whether in our homes, on our bodies, in our cars, in our cities or in the workplace, smart devices are connecting our physical and digital lives and making the world around us more efficient and easier to navigate.
How does smart tech make life easier?
We live in a world where smart devices are making our lives more organised and connected than ever. From smart wearables that track our steps and blood oxygen levels to smart fridges that tell us we’re out of milk. We are using smart devices to connect and run our daily life and smart tech is saving us time and money, making our homes, offices and cities more sustainable; giving us peace of mind and a sense of safety. The ways in which smart tech can make our lives easier is limitless and pretty soon trying to imagine a life without smart tech could be like trying to imagine life without the Internet, and who wants to imagine life in Covid-19 lockdown without the Internet?
How can smart technology improve the world?
While we can go on and on about everyday smart devices that help keep our lives on track, new and innovative smart tech applications are being developed to change, enhance and improve our environment and impact the world in groundbreaking ways. Here are some of those ways:
- Smart Cities – Smart technology is being applied in various ways to make our cities more efficient, sustainable and functional. In the next 20 years, smart tech could improve a city’s energy efficiency by 30% and generate £15 trillion globally in economic benefits over the coming decade. From smart traffic lights to ease the flow of traffic and prevent gridlocks to solar panelled bus stops and billboards; a smarter city favourably impacts the lives of its residents, the environment and the economy.
- Transportation – From tracking your Uber driver to the satellite navigation (satnav) voice telling you to make the next left turn, smart technology is transforming the way we move. One way smart tech is improving our driving experience is by making our cars smart so they can inform us when it’s safe to change lanes or if a part needs replacing. And imagine having your own virtual personal assistant in the car with you? Taking care of business, making that call, sending that email and ensuring you make the turn in time, because that’s what assistants do. Just some of the many ways smart tech is taking the wheel.
- Security & Safety – Our personal and professional lives have never been busier and we find ourselves turning to technology to help us stay on top of it all. Curve, Vodafone’s smart GPS tracker, works hard to make sure you have less things to worry about. From helping you find Alfie to finding your parked car after you finish your shopping, Curve uses GPS, cellular or WiFi to help you keep an eye on people and things you care about, and its built-in smart SIM keeps you connected with your loved ones and your valuables.
- Clean Air & Water – In the UK, a 2017 report found that air pollution causes around 40,000 premature deaths each year. Innovations such as pollution sensors attached to bicycle couriers are creating maps that are tracking the air quality across London in real-time. Smart tech can also help a city manage its sewage and flood levels, as well as monitoring the water supply for bacteria and chemicals.
- Agriculture – Farmers everywhere can look to smart tech to transform the way they farm by finding new ways to cut their use of water and fertilizers, whilst reducing waste and improving the quality and quantity of their products.
- Medicine – Patients, doctors and clinics are seeing the benefits of IoT-enabled devices that allow the patient to track their own physical health and have access to virtual mental health support. This enables healthcare professionals to maintain accurate medical records more efficiently, to provide remote care, and to reduce the possibility of recurring illnesses and human error.
As technology continues to define, connect and streamline our lives and world, smart tech is enhancing and fine-tuning the way in which we live our lives and impact the world around us. The nineties gave us the Internet, the noughties gave us social media and now the twenties are giving us smart technology. By the sheer scale and scope of smart technology’s growth so far, the next decade looks set to give us the Internet of Everything. Are you ready for the future?