Not even a twinkling musical tree can escape the Internet of Things, as I learned recently.
Big words are often used to hail the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT). The digital interconnection of billions of devices has been called "today's most dynamic business opportunity." Others (see this essay in Harvard Business Review) have declared the IoT will have a bigger impact on the competitive landscape than the arrival of the Internet and deliver a new era of prosperity.
By 2020 there will be an estimated 26 billion units -- a number that excludes PCs, tablets, and smartphones -- connected to the Internet around the world. Smart devices will increasingly flood not only the business sphere but also our everyday lives.
I was reminded of the small-scale impact of this tidal wave when I pulled out a new tabletop Christmas tree that I purchased for $29 at Lowe's the other week. Expecting to plug it into the wall, I began to unwrap what I assumed was the power cord -- and found, to my surprise, a USB cable. Equipped with Bluetooth speakers, the tree was ready to rock the tune of my choosing. I turned to Pandora on my smartphone and suddenly the tree was playing Bing Crosby with impressive clarity.
The experience encapsulates the rise of connectivity, especially the explosion of wireless speakers as people stream music on their smartphones. Since 2010, Bluetooth speakers have registered a compounded annual growth rate of 453% and are poised to make scenarios we can only dream of a reality.
And as exciting as my twinkling musical tree may be, there are far more sophisticated products in the making. Just look at the following innovations brought to you by the IoT:
- Forget about keys to unlock your front door. By using Chui, a smart doorbell, your face and the faces of those you allow will be enough for the door to click open. You can even open the door to visitors using your smartphone. Every visit is time stamped, helping you or your business track who has come and gone.
- Have you gone for a run and feel like a steaming hot shower? Neura recognizes habits and behavioral patterns by connecting your devices, frequently visited places, and people close to you. The software will make sure that shower hits just the temperature that you were looking for. According to the company website, the user-centric approach makes devices cognizant of the users they serve.
- If your smartphone in the near future displays competitive pricing information of the product that you have stopped to eye in more detail, chances are you have stepped onto the SoleSensor, an intelligent floor mat by Scanalytics. The mat measures foot traffic down to each individual step. To quote the company, "SoleSensor evolves the physical world into a virtual space with predictive patterns and thresholds."
The Internet of My Things will only keep growing. Just wait for wearables and sensors to go mass market. What products powered by the IoT -- current or potential -- are you most excited about?