As of this year, there are 13.8 billion units of connected internet of things devices.
That number is projected to grow to 50 billion units by the end of 2030, and to keep growing as people trade in their old ‘dumb’ appliances for smart TVs, fridges, lightbulbs, and everything else that can be connected to the internet and run remotely from anywhere else. In the forward march of progress, internet of things devices are somewhere at the front, leading consumer purchases into a future where everything is located within the cloud and operable through an app.
It’s understandable – internet of things devices are the closest thing we can get to the Starship Enterprise, and everyone wants to feel like they’re living in a future plucked right from the top billing at AMC Orange 30. We do, too.
But with modern technology come modern responsibilities, so let’s talk about what the internet of things industry can do for you.
Internet of things (IoT) devices are internet-connected physical devices that operate through a range of sensors, programming, and technology to communicate and transfer data over the internet. Think lightbulbs, thermostats, smart watches, medical sensors, security systems – anything that can have a chip put in it to transfer data can most likely be an IoT device, with a laundry list of applications ranging from the mundane to the specialised.
Caveat: the initial IoT cost is going to be high. The technology to produce at scale and retrofit most houses with that tech will run you a pretty penny, but overall IoT devices can help manage your house to reduce the sinkhole that is energy spending. Have a tendency to walk out of a room and leave the lights on? Forget the heating and head to work and only remember when you’re bumper to bumper on the I-405? A smart house can tell when a room is empty and switch things off or send an alert to warn you.
You own your own place, and you pay your own bills, but how do you know what you’re paying for? IoT devices can help you see where the bulk of your cash is going to, whether it’s because you let the water run a little too long when you’re washing the dishes or because you have a tendency to leave all your electronics on and it’s actually sapping a lot of electricity which then means it’s sapping a lot of cash.
With IoT devices, you get to see where all of that energy is going, exactly what it’s costing you, and how you can reduce the amount you’re paying. Good for the wallet, good for the environment, and really good for you: we’re a fan.
As for businesses, all that data can help you keep an eye on where your biggest expenses are coming from and help you see where you can cut down on costs.
This goes without saying, but don’t rely just on your favourite wearable IoT in terms of health – it’s not a substitute for a proper medical consultation. However, if you’re not in the habit of going to the doctor when you feel sick, a smart watch can at least keep an eye out for you and let you know how you’re doing. If there’s cause for concern, it can highlight what you need to talk to the doctor about and push you to make an appointment – and, better yet, since most devices will record those things for you, your doctor can have a look at what’s worrying you.
IoTs can also streamline the healthcare industry, allowing for a greater analysis into patient care.
IoT devices can help level the playing field for people who need the extra help at home and allow them to maintain their independence without the need for a lot of outside help. From ordering groceries to monitoring for falls or seizures to making sure that you don’t run into something if you can’t see it, internet of things devices are excellent for the elderly and the differently abled, letting them live their lives without the need for much caretaking.
With great power – well, you know how that goes. Internet of Things devices can be an amazing addition for both personal and business needs, however there’s a big glaring point that needs to be made about them before you dive headfirst into the world of internet-enabled devices, and that’s security.
Internet of Things devices are technically secure, created to provide benefits without the inherent risk of getting hacked. In reality, nothing that uses the internet is ever 100% secure, and with IoT devices being so new and the technology still so untested, IoT devices are prone to weaknesses that haven’t yet been discovered.
As a result, IoT devices are weak to cybersecurity threats, and while the regulations and patches exist to make them slightly safer, the technology is still not as refined as it should be to make them totally unhackable.
Then there’s the privacy concern. Automatically publishing where you’ve been – in the case of smart watches – or when you’re home – in the case of smart locks – makes is easy for stalkers and thieves to keep an eye on you.
The risk to businesses is a little more serious, as it could lead to client confidentiality issues, but home owners with IoT devices should also be wary of what they enable.
All IoT devices serve a different purpose, are made by different companies, and have different standards. What this means is that it’s nearly impossible to have a standard version of the software or hardware that’s used for IoT, meaning that developing an app to service all your IoT devices at once is about as likely as finding Tahoe Tessie.
Additionally, the different software and hardware requirements also vary between editions of IoT devices, so that new security patch that deals with a prominent bug in your IoT device might not actually apply to you; it’s all defined by the edition you have.
If IoT apps are prone to bugs, then relying on them foresees wide-ranging problems, especially when those IoT devices are involved in controlling things such as smart locks, power outlets, and doors. As we’ve stated before, the technology for IoT devices is new, and it’s prone, the same as any other new technology, to bugs – unfortunately, unlike a new operating system update, a bug for an IoT device could mean anything from unlocking the door and leaving it unlocked throughout the night to turning off the heating when it’s below freezing.
Logically, IoT devices can help with cutting down on consumption for electricity and heating, which means a better overall environmental impact for your house. In a perfect world, that’s all you really need to know, and this section could be in the benefits instead – but IoT devices are not the answer to environmental concerns. First of all, they are nearly impossible to recycle, since their electronic components will end up in regular landfills; secondly, the impact of having so many connected devices consuming power from batteries and from the electronic grid will have massive impacts on energy consumption.
Companies are working to reduce this or divert the energy into wind or renewable solar, but for now, IoT devices are not a friend to the environment.
There’s one big glaring problem with internet-connected devices: the manufacturer owns it, even if you’ve paid for it, even if it’s ‘yours’ and in your house. Companies who make IoT devices aren’t beholden to the same tricky laws that govern the rest of technology, so there is every possibility that your item will – sooner or later – brick itself when you opt out of keeping up the expensive subscription.
And there’s no way to override these rules. IoT devices rely on the manufacturer and the company’s internal infrastructure. There’s no way around it, no way to hack it, and no way to fight back if the product doesn’t work the way you want it to.
That question depends on you. As always, our guiding principle is this: is it going to make your life better? IoT devices are excellent for people who want to maintain their independence – if they’re elderly, if they’re disabled, if they need constant and careful monitoring. In these circumstances, IoT devices, even with their risks, can be invaluable.
In other cases, it’s a matter of perspective. Do you really need them, or do you want them? Is it going to make your life easier or more convenient; does the IoT device fit with your morals and your principles? Are they going to be worth the risk of hacking? Will it be easier to just get dumb appliances instead? Will it be cheaper?
Once you’ve answered those questions, you’ll have your answer – tailored to you, to what you need. If you’ve got any more questions about IoT, we’ll be happy to give you a little bit more information; just let us know.