By 2020, more than 200 billion objects will be connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) – a 99-fold increase over 2006 levels. As we continue to embed sensors into everyday objects, we’re transforming established systems from health care to education, as well as emerging tech categories, from drones to driverless cars. And with the right software platform and open lines of communication, these IoT-enabled devices will change the way we live, work and communicate.
While we still find ourselves primarily in an analog world, 200 billion connected objects by 2020 translates to more than 25 connected objects for each person on earth. Our mobile devices have become the conduits for the IoT — enabling us to control our thermostats, our locks, our cars and so much more.
In many ways, our smartphones have become the viewfinder into our digital lives. Tech companies are developing entirely new technologies and connecting existing ones to completely rewire our lives as a result of our drive into this new world that is the IoT.
The future we have long envisioned is the reality before us. Everything about our daily lives is changing. Our dishwashers and washing machines are connecting to sensors in our home to determine if we are away and making corresponding adjustments. These machines are also using embedded sensors to monitor use and connect to retail services in order to order detergent autonomously when we are running low.
Things that weren’t easily measured 10 years ago are increasingly measurable through sensors and cloud services — the heart of the IoT. We are using sensors together with cloud services to determine things such as what food we have on our plate, and in turn, help us track calories and manage our diet.
The Consumer Technology Association (CTA)TM projects emerging tech categories led by the IoT are poised for substantial growth in 2016 and the years to follow. A handful of products, such as wearable devices, 3D printers, 4K Ultra HDTV and smartwatches, are now generating mainstream interest. And since 2013, sales of other emerging products, such as consumer drones, smart eyewear, health and fitness tech and virtual-reality headsets, has been staggering.
These devices were imagined not long ago in science-fiction movies, but are now meaningful additions to our current world. These are all categories that will expand in 2016 as the Internet penetrates other aspects of our lives and informs the myriad decisions we make each day.
Look for the IoT to expand further as use-case scenarios become more well-defined, new opportunities emerge and the IoT spills over into other devices and services.
As good as things are for the consumer tech sector, it’s inevitable that we wonder: Will tech products get better – and how? Thanks to the changing viabilities of markets, a handful of promising possibilities loom on the horizon. The only question remains how quickly they will become part of our everyday lives.
Perhaps no innovation is poised to more fundamentally change our daily routines than when the IoT meets our daily commute and the errands that we run in the form of driverless cars. And while we’re still a few years away from mass adoption, assisted-driving technology is making great strides.
We can expect considerable experimentation and testing over the next several years in driverless-car technology, including sensors with new applications, multimodal human-computer interaction, the continued rise in cumulative learning systems and the subsequent system-informed recommendations.
The consumer technology industry remains robust, vital and more indispensable than ever to our daily lives. We have every reason to celebrate the ways innovation acts as a catalyst for the economy, bolsters communication and learning, and generally improves our world in myriad ways. I look forward to as-yet-unimagined technologies likely to be topics of discussion — and perhaps obsession — in the years ahead.
Around the world, the IoT is the tie that binds all of these amazing innovations in consumer technology. And while the debate still rages over how much money the IoT will ultimately generate, how much time and energy it will save us, or what, exactly, it encompasses, the key concept involves the way it’s rapidly becoming possible to connect just about anything to the Internet. The future is smart and connected.