What is the Internet of Things?

“The internet of things, or IoT, is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers ( UIDs ) and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.”

In other words, we’re going to connect everything and anything through the internet.

Here are few amazing technologies just on the horizon that have the potential to completely change our world.

Contact lenses that will analyze your tears to track your day-to-day health. Devices that monitor your blood sugar in real time, even while you sleep, wirelessly connected to the insulin pump implanted in your abdomen. Supplying the perfect amount of insulin throughout your day, the pump will connect through the IoT to your doctor’s office, where an A.I. monitoring your health will correlate your blood sugar levels with other real time data from your contact lenses. The A.I. will update your pump to optimize your health.

Perhaps you have a pacemaker or defibrillator. That device will be connected wirelessly to your doctor’s office to track your heart’s behavior and alert medical personnel if you have a problem.  It will catch problems before you have any idea that anything is happening.

There are always medical studies going on around the world, particularly for new drugs. Usually the studies involve hundreds or even thousands of test subjects that report to clinics for tests on a regular basis. Imagine what we might learn if the studies could monitor the test subjects in real time connected to the study’s AI through the IoT.

We might collect medical data in real time from millions of volunteers around the world over many years. Analysis of that data will help us correlate health problems with pollution levels, air quality, and other environmental issues. The possibilities are nearly endless.

Installing billions of IoT devices around the world to monitor weather patterns, ocean characteristics, earth tremors, and many other real time qualities and quantities will increase the accuracy of our climate models. We will have more accurate weather forecasts, improving our ability to predict hurricanes, tornados, and maybe even earthquakes. We will also be able to better identify the causes of climate change by more accurately pinpointing and correlating cause and effect around the world in the smallest of areas.

Smart Home by Andrey Suslov

Imagine being in London on vacation when your heat goes out, threatening frozen burst pipes. Your smart home system will be able to alert you and even schedule maintenance with your preferred repair service at your request. It will even let the repairmen in and monitor them through a combination of video system and smart sensors, keeping you informed of their progress and notifying you if needed. You will be able to enjoy the rest of your vacation without having to worry about coming home to a flooded house.

There are also big changes coming in the field of medicine. In several tests, expert A.I. medical diagnostic systems were better at detecting many diseases and recommending treatments than teams of human doctors. Using IoT and remote A.I. controlled testing it will be possible to treat people in the remotest of parts of the earth. Briefcase- sized clinical labs will be shipped anywhere and everywhere. The smallest villages in Africa will be connected through the IoT to powerful A.I. systems. Doctors anywhere in the world will receive diagnostic support and recommend treatment instructions almost immediately. No more wondering if it’s Ebola or not.

The da Vinci minimally invasive surgical system is being tested for remote AI controlled routine surgeries such as appendectomies. Using a robotic system, the best surgeons in the world will be able to perform delicate operations from across continents with local medical personnel assisting.

The da Vinci Surgical System. By Motionblur Studies

Experiments in remote surgery using low latency 5G technology have already been successfully performed.

My favorite IoT application is called AR, Assisted Reality. The initial technology will be contained in a set of glasses something like Google Glass. The system will provide information about your surroundings in real time.

Many of us already use Google Maps or something similar to navigate when we’re on the road. But you must be careful driving when you look away from the road to check the map. Usually people try to mount their smart phone close to their line of sight. We are continually double checking the voice directions and our estimated arrival times among other things.

AR will overlay your visual field with driving instructions and information on the local area. The text and graphics will just appear to be floating right out there in space. You’ll be able to ask for information on restaurants, hotels, historical sites, or hospitals. Once you tell the system where you want to go the directions will show up overlaid right there for you to follow. Say you need gas. You can ask the system to find the cheapest gas in the area and show you the way.

If you’re walking through a mall, for instance, AR will overlay store descriptions with available sales and bargains highlighted for each store.
Some technologists are predicting a system that will use contact lens or even eye implants to add AR to our lives in a seamless and invisible way. If you’re waiting at your doctor’s office for instance, you could be watching a movie or making a video call without anyone knowing.

It seems that everywhere you go everyone has their nose buried in a tablet, laptop, or smart phone. There doesn’t seem to be any room for connection and communication. AR does have the potential to isolate us even more. But it will also connect us in ways that we can’t even imagine.

For instance, when visiting new places, people could be connected to each other by noting similar interests. AR and IoT might be used to guide people to locations where like-minded people gather in person. You could use it to find lectures, classes, or club meetings wherever you are around the world.

Of course, there are many ethical questions about all these systems. A totally connected world doesn’t leave much room for privacy. How can we know for sure that no one is watching or recording what were doing? We already have these concerns with our smartphones and the video monitoring systems that are being installed in many public places. Much work is being done to address these issues and hopefully the same technology will provide the answers.

Ready or not, the amazing worldwide connectedness of IoT is coming soon, and there is no stopping it.

By Tim Shively, July 13, 2019

Featured Image Credit: By metamorworks/Shutterstock




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