IoT – Fact or Fiction?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a revolution that will change the world – everyone has heard the hype and seen the constant press musings but just how real is this today and what will it actually do for you in the future to make life better?

IoT is the industry’s latest acronym and promises to optimise the way businesses and consumers collect, manage and control information. Well it certainly helps spread the word but maybe that is all the IoT is really about education - and in our view that’s no bad thing.

We are constantly generating data, receiving information, and in real-time communication with our devices and each other – from anywhere, at any time. A world of connectivity, smart phones, tablets, smart homes, online living all of these things are super if they help us save time, manage our lives and the energy we use more efficiently but they are on the cusp of real change. The Internet of Things is changing simple homes into smart homes, where everything from your lights to your locks can be controlled from your smartphone. Every day, various aspects of our lives are becoming easier — and more connected — through the Internet of Things and smart home technology. Consumers can now buy connected versions of nearly every household appliance imaginable

This industry has been around years and commercially available for 8 but it is really only in the last 3 years that things have moved at fibre optic speed.  Now, with an abundant amount of information on user activity, preferences and goals at their fingertips, IoT companies are turning this data into notifications to give users as many options as possible.

What is changing now, and the IoT gusto is helping, means interconnectivity between different devices and this is the really exciting part. Previously you needed to pick a system, buy the hardware and install or, preferably, use a qualified electrician to do this for you. Then you operated it and probably got bored quickly. Because of their infancy the public was rightly worried about buying equipment that would quickly become obsolete and take up was for the early adopters who were a small group of tech fanatics. However, the demographic of smart home users is vastly expanding beyond just 30 to 40-year-olds in single family homes.

The idea of turning your lamps on from an iPad is great, what’s better is setting timers so it does it automatically and you don’t have to interact with it. Turning a switch on an iPad is no different to a switch on the wall. It’s often the software and capability that limits many systems, but the software is changing and protocols that operate them are the key. ZigBee, Z wave Lightwave RF are all protocols in their own right and right now for the first time with the advent of super gateways (the heart of the system) you can now use another manufacturers products via different protocols making it truly universal.

This is an exciting time and has harnessed the energy of the innovators to make product the key, however, connectivity and the IoT infrastructure is important. You have to decide early to install data cabling in your house or look at wireless upgrades.  Hopefully in time new builds will have data cable so we can plug in new 4K TV’s and stream more music.

Getting those bits right means it’s much easier for the installer to scale up your own home and connect the things you want to improve life. Data monitoring and sharing is great, what we need is to learn from this data and then react to it, or let our data providers – the energy company for instance, take control and move our tariffs for us based on real usage? Would you be happy with this or would you, think this is a step too far?

The reality is, this next phase is important, as it will shape phase 3 and that’s the learning phase where the systems get clever. So for now, connect your home, read about all the new devices, lighting, heating, power and security features that are available to you, safe in the knowledge that you will probably have one app to run all of them before long and that in the next 3 years you won’t be throwing them away to get new ones,. Who knows, maybe in the future, in the “Really Smart Home”, all of these applications will operate under the same communication standard and will be integrated, linking their intelligence to create the real Smart Home that no longer needs on going human intervention.

We’ve only just begun to see the possibilities of the IoT and smart home industries. And as we look into the future, between streamlined alerts, software integrations, improved security measures and product refinements and extensions –smart homes are only going to become more insightful and more connected than ever. Forget about the energy saving, convenience, and safety aspects; the tech coolness alone makes us want a smart home tomorrow.

It's not quite artificial intelligence yet but we do hope our devices can learn or be trained to remember some of our habits to help us more in the future.