Do you still remember a time when a utility company worker came to your house to check your electric meter? For many of us already, this is in the past. Smart meters send information directly to the utility company and as a result, it knows our up-to-the-minute power usage patterns. And, while we don’t yet talk to our ovens or refrigerators through the Internet, many people routinely control thermostats from their smart phones. The emerging Internet of Things is real and we interact with it on the daily basis.
The term Internet of Things refers to devices we wouldn’t traditionally expect to be smart or connected, such as a smoke detector or other home appliance. They are being made ‘smart’ by enabling them to send data to an application. From smart meters to sensors used to track goods in a supply chain, the one thing these devices have in common is that they send data – data that can then be used to create more value by doing things better, faster, cheaper, and more conveniently.
The physical infrastructure needed for these devices to work is largely in place or being put in place quickly. We get immediate first order benefits simply by installing new equipment. For example, having a smart meter provides cost savings because there is no need for a person to come to our houses. Similarly, the ability to change settings on a thermostat remotely can lower our heating costs. However, far vaster changes and benefits are projected or are already beginning to be delivered from inter-connecting the data sent by smart devices:
- Health: Connecting vital measurements from wearable devices to the vast body of medical information will help to improve our health, fitness and, ultimately, save lives.
- Communities: Connecting information from embedded devices and sensors will enable more efficient transportation. When a sprinkler system meter understands weather data, it will use water more efficiently. Once utilities start connecting and correlating data from smart meters, they might deliver electricity more efficiently and be more proactive in handling infrastructure problems.
- Environment: Connecting readings from fields, forests, oceans, and cities about pollution levels, soil moisture, and resource extraction will allow for closer monitoring of problems.
- Goods and services: Connecting data from sensors and readers installed throughout factories and supply chains will more precisely track materials and speed up and smooth out the manufacture and distribution of goods.