The ‘Internet of Things’ for dummies (me)

Still don’t know what a ‘cookie’ is? Curiously turn your face up to the sky at the mention of ‘the Cloud’? Yes? Weeeeell you’re about to hate me. Why? Because I’m about to throw one more piece of slippery Internet jargon your way. But trust me, I get it, and so this post is going to break things down very s-l-o-w-l-y. Here goes ….

  1. There is this curious thing called the internet… Confused?giphy  Still here? Read on …
  1. More and more people have access to it and it’s becoming faster and cheaper by the day
  2. More and more things are being built to connect to it – through wifi, sensors etc.

The Internet of things (IoT) basically is the result of all of the above coming together. It is the idea, already being realised, that any ‘thing’ or part thereof can be connected to the Internet as long as it can be switched on and off.

As you can imagine we’re talking about a lot of ‘things’ here. Think of everything you know that has an and off switch! We’re talking lights, cars, coffee machines, the milk heater in your coffee machine, fridges, freezers, TV’s, heaters, music players, washing machines, phones, computers, head phones, cooking appliances, hair straighteners, car keys, watches, electric blankets, ALL OF THE THINGS!

As Morgan from Forbes Magazine explained, this means that with everything connected the big relationships of the future will be people-people, people-things and things-things.

But what does this mean?

Well, say your alarm clock, heater, coffee machine, electric toothbrush, and car were connected, your mornings could become very efficient. I’ll explain …

Using cues from your alarm clock your heater could have turned on and warmed up by the time you woke and your coffee machine could have automatically organised your caffeine hit without you lifting a finger. Then your car heater could take cues from your toothbrush – because that is the last thing hypothetical you uses before leaving the house – to know when to turn on and heat up before you get in.

This is a very practical example. A more realistic one for uni students could be that of your calendar connecting to an online grocer and automatically pre-ordering you chocolates (and wine) around the time major assignments are due. Or, if things are getting particularly dire, your calendar could block you from Facebook until you have clicked submit on moodle (shudder).

Zooming out a little to look at the the bigger picture, IoT has a lot to offer infrastructure and the societies in which we live. The idea of Smart Cities are those which capitalise on all that IoT has to offer for financial, time, energy and general resource efficiency as well as the increased wellbeing of citizens. Which is explained well in this short video.

It all sounds pretty great hey? But like any thing there are two sides to the coin and when it comes to the Internet a big con is often privacy concerns. The IoT is no exception. How do you protect your information if everyone and everything has it? Could someone steal my identity through my hair straightener? I don’t know.

Also with so much of our information out there, our free will starts to decline because ‘things’ are influenced by what we do and what we do is influenced by ‘things’ which creates a somewhat scary cycle. Will we lose part of our autonomy? Our control over our lives? Our ability to interact with one another? These are all questions that are yet to be answered but have been speculated on by experts in the field. Read more here if you’re interested.

What do you think about a future with IoT? Scared? Excited? Do you think the benefits will outweigh the costs?

Hopefully whatever your thoughts (I’m keen to hear them) you now understand the IoT a little better.

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7 thoughts on “The ‘Internet of Things’ for dummies (me)

  1. Loved the post! There definitely is two sides to the coin, as you stated! I think I really like the initial idea of the smart city, it could really benefit society in many ways- not just for easing traffic congestion. However I really fear for our privacy if everything is connected. You raised some excellent questions, will we lose part of our autonomy? I think we will somewhat, and that doesn’t sit well with me. I feel the IoT would really hinder our interaction with others, for example if the alarm clock turned on the coffee machine it can take out the joy of your morning coffee ritual, the independence of making a cup for yourself and perhaps another person initiating conversation. That example may not seem like a big deal, but all these little things we think may be more convenient if done for us wouldn’t leave us with much to do or much control and independence over our lives. For me, the cons outweigh the pros! 🙂

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    • Hi Nicole, thanks for the comment. I could not agree with you more! It’s the little things that really make up life sometimes, like making your morning coffee or having a surprising conversation. It would be a shame to lose these little things in a bid to be ever faster and more efficient (or lazy). Why do we always need to be faster and more efficient anyway? These are interesting questions. Sometimes it’s nice to take your sweet-time doing things, but that’s just my opinion. Smart cities could be great though if it results in greater efficiency say in terms of resource and electricity use.

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  2. Hi Mon, interesting blog post!
    You made some great points but also raised some good questions too.

    I personally feel that IoT, just like other forms of technology used in the right way, can assist in everyday life. The benefits it offers can far outweigh the costs if utilised correctly. Obviously if we become too reliant on it, it will become problematic, just like oither types of technology.

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    • Thanks for your comment Yianni! It’s definitely a very exciting prospect. I think too often though, especially in marketing, people end up with a warped, and somewhat biased, perspective on what something is going to be like. Often this is a somewhat utopian view point and so it’s nice to consider all aspects of what could happen in respect of IoT from my perspective. Definitely a lot of pros though 🙂

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  3. A very helpful blog in gaining an understanding of the topic IOT! The 2 minute video you showed was also very useful in understanding how IOT actually works!
    Thinking about the potential of IOT and how it could improve our own personal lives, is a lot of fun! An example I thought would be of high importance to me was that as soon as my alarm goes off in the morning to wake me up – it signals to the coffee machine to start brewing coffee :):) (have a look at http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/05/14/internet-of-things/ for more examples)!! Despite this, I am quite nervous for the fact that that IOT could certainly be a threat to our own security and privacy. The speed in which IOT is occurring makes me even ponder whether it would even be worth developing legal processes in place to protect ourselves from the potential adverse effects (like people accessing my own private details) that can occur from this quick progression! Further research has even shown me that public figures like Bill Gates and Stephen Hawkins are actually quite nervous over the lack of control over machines (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-barrat/hawking-gates-artificial-intelligence_b_7008706.html?ir=Australia)l!
    I guess it is just important to remember that even despite the great opportunities and improvements IOT can bring; continued research and new approaches to ensuring our safety, security and privacy must be occurring!

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    • Thanks for your comment, and really great article attachments 🙂 I would definitely have to agree with you as far as developing code law to surround the development of IOT. It is just developing too fast for relevant laws to be developed, as soon as they would get passed they will be outdated or redundant. Even the internet, which has been around for a long time now, still has very unclear laws regarding it’s use, partly owing to the world wide (www) aspect of it and the difficulty in agreeing on and enforcing laws that span international borders where language, culture and religion vary so widely. However, I would also agree that if my alarm clock could organise my coffee I would be a much happier person in the mornings 🙂

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      • If we can develop the whole system at a speed where the introduction of IOT can be relaxed into, then potentially these regulations wont need to be considered. However the fact that IOT is occurring so rapidly, issues (like privacy as well as people becoming disenfranchised to the world that don’t have the money to keep up with the latest inventions) are going to occur… and thus we must find ways to regulate its impact early!!

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