The Internet of Things is already changing our world. Every day, more and more previously dumb devices are becoming a whole lot smarter thanks to a connection to the wider world. Many are powered by the Intel Edison, which is the subject to Intel's Internet of Things competition, in which you can win the opportunity to get Intel engineers help you turn your IoT idea into a reality.
The scope of change the IoT could bring about is huge: By using apps and services that can give us a greater insight into our data, we could change the way we live so that life becomes easier, and more sustainable too. Here’s our pick of five top Internet of Things inventions that we think are going to change the way that we live.
1) Smart Thermostats
One of the first “things” to join the smart home has been the thermostat. We particularly like Tado - which once installed will let you control your heating with an app on your phone, or through the Tado website on your computer. If you own one, you’ll end up swearing by it, as you’ll never know the feeling of waking up in a cold house again.
Better still, Tado will learn your working patterns, and and will use your phone’s GPS to figure out when you’re out and when you’re coming home - so will smartly cool down and heat up to save energy but keep you warm.
But this isn’t just about you. Imagine if everyone in the world had a smart device controlling their heating - and the subsequent savings in energy use it would create. If we can make power generation more efficient, it means less burning fossil fuels, less pollution, and not having to build as many new power stations. The IOT can help the green revolution we need come even faster.
We’ve had GPS for long enough now for it to feel like a part of everyday life… but it still doesn’t work in doors. iBeacons could be the solution. These IoT can sit on a wall and send our short-range, low-energy bluetooth signals that your phone can pick up - so that the building that you’re in can figure out exactly where you are.
With this sort of hyper-local location data, a push notification could be sent to your phone offering you specific information on what you’re looking at - or indeed, a GPS-style map for when you’re inside a large building.
There’s plenty of commercial applications. For example, shops are already using them in limited tests to send out special offers and alerts relevant to what you’re looking at, but there’s also more altruistic applications. For example, imagine a museum or art gallery using iBeacons to figure out what exhibit you’re looking at. So in addition to the single paragraph of text next to the object, your phone could receive images, videos and other information to enhance the learning experience.
Expect to see many more iBeacons over the next few years - and they could change how we interact with the wider world as they offer more contextual and relevant information, when we need it.
3) Smart Gloves
Could the Internet of Things make industry safer? The ProGlove started life as an Intel Edison project but has now evolved into a fully fledged commercial success. What it does is turn gloves from just being a dumb shield for your hands, and into a device packed with sensors that can help you work.
For example, boxes can be automatically scanned using RFID when picking them up, or tools with RFID embedded inside them can tell the user when they’ve picked up the right implement for the job. Perhaps most importantly though it can improve safety. Thanks to motion tracking and the fact the glove can check in with a central server means that they can know where in the production process the wearer is - so can offer warnings when something happens out of step.
4) Smart Medical Gear
Traditionally interaction with doctors has been rather sparse. After waiting several weeks for an appointment, you’ll have a ten minute chat with a doctor, and then hopefully you’ll get better. But thanks to the Internet of Things, we could be approaching a point where doctors have much more data, and are able to make much better decisions on our health.
We’ve already got the likes of Apple’s Health app and Fitbit monitoring our health, but this is just the start. Increasingly, we’re seeing more gadgets that can use wifi or our phones to send data back to the doctors. For example, the Kinsa Smart Thermometer can log your temperature - and send it straight to the doctor if need be. Insulin Angel is a similar device for diabetics. And even the humble Apple Watch now sits on the arms of thousands of people, monitoring their heart rate.
Google has even patented a smart teddy bear, with built in camera, speakers and other monitors which could be used as a companion for kids and the elderly - which could conceivably be used to remind them to take medication, and to monitor general well being through Siri-style natural language interactions.
5) Smarter Streets
As cities get busier, how can we stop traffic grinding to a halt? One mitigation technique is to make traffic lights and other street furniture smarter by networking them together, so that timings can be adjusted to keep traffic flowing. Perhaps unsurprisingly, super-congested London is already at the forefront of this technology, with Transport for London’s “SCOOT” system already deployed to 90 per cent of road junctions in the centre of town. TfL is also currently investigating expanding it to monitor bike traffic too.
The smart technology is important, as it can improve the quality of life for everyone, and enable more people to live and work in the same area, with less of the pain that would normally be involved.
Ultimately, the Internet of Things looks set to change the world in just as profound a way as the so-called Internet of Screens. And if you’ve got an idea for an IoT project that you’d like to make a reality, be sure to enter the competition Gizmodo UK is running with Intel.