Unless you’ve been living under a proverbial (or literal) rock, or your passion for Black Mirror has made you disconnect from all technology whatsoever, you’ve probably heard of the #Internet of Things (#IoT). While the IoT is still mainly utilized in the industrial sector, there are a number of IoT-ready products that have hit the mainstream market. Maybe you installed a Nest thermostat in your home, use Amazon’s Echo to help organize your life, or wear a FitBit to track your daily steps (are you up to 10,000 today?). Even if you’ve never used or heard of these products, you’re likely a part of the IOT without even realizing it thanks to the one device we all cannot live without: your phone.
IoT Collects and Shares Your Data
At its most basic, the IoT is a logical evolution of our love of technology and data. The IoT makes it possible for all of the things we use in our lives – from our refrigerators to our cars – to be connected to the Internet. And as a result, our things become capable of receiving, collecting, and sharing data. We can track how efficiently our air conditioners are working or if our new truck is running as expected, and then monitor this performance with apps.
At first glance, this may seem like some Sci-Fi fantasy. But it shouldn’t. While the application of the technology is new, the foundation of the IoT is not. In essence, the IOT is just attaching sensors to all of the things that make our modern lives possible and then rolling up the data generated by those sensors.
And this is where you come in. Most people are already a part of the IoT whether they realize it or not. And that’s thanks to your phone. Many of the apps we use on a daily basis are part of the IoT. The navigation and traffic app #Waze is a great example.
Google Invests in Waze
Every time you use it, Waze turns your phone into a sensor and as a result, you become a part of the IoT. Waze is the next evolution of navigation apps – it leverages crowdsourcing to get accurate real-time traffic updates, suggests alternative routes and even allows users to pinpoint speed traps, school zones, and a variety of other road hazards not available in most navigation apps. Google’s belief that Waze was an improvement over Google Maps (or could at the minimum enhance it) at least partially informed its purchase of Waze three years ago.
Waze is an IoT app because it’s essentially using the data your phone is already recording (like your global position) and then adding in interactive user feedback (watch out for the cop behind the bushes on Route 9!) to create a data-driven interface that presents current traffic situations. Like all parts of the IOT, Waze is about real-time information – there’s little to no lag time; as information is tracked, maps are updated. Waze even allows users to log gas prices, so that anywhere you are, everyone in the Waze network can see where the cheapest gas is available.
Things Talk in Real-Time
This real-time availability is what has so many people excited about the possibilities of the IoT. Instead of driving right into a traffic jam, you can avoid it and find a quicker route with Waze. Or using Nest, you can see sudden spikes in your home’s energy usage while you’re on vacation, alerting you to the fact that you forget to turn off your air conditioning, which you can then turn off wherever you may be. Or your smart refrigerator can alert you that the water filter on its ice machine is in need of replacement and it can even order one for you automatically.
The Upside and Downside of the IoT
No one should be blind to the trade-offs involved with the IoT, including a loss of privacy and allowing manufacturers to know far more about how and when we use their products than ever before. But, it’s also impossible to ignore the upsides. Having real-time feedback on the products and things we use can make our lives easier and improve the performance of those products. And over time, it’s inevitable that the IoT will become more and more ingrained in our lives. Our use of Waze highlights this – with the help of our smartphones, many of us are already a part of the tech revolution that is the IoT.
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