The Internet of Things: Looking beyond a buzzword to find real meaning

A lot of people reading this will groan and roll their eyes at yet another blog about one of IT’s favourite buzz words of the minute, but the “Internet of Things” (the first and last time I put it in quotation marks, promise!) is poised to make inroads into everyday life. And that’s the everyday life of us average Joe’s not just the rich and famous.

I think the problem for a lot of people at the minute is it’s a catch all term for a vague (words doesn’t come much more vague than ‘things’) grouping of functionality that has one common trait; connectivity. The point is, the only thing every day consumers – who regardless of how promising the economic outlook is, still feel the pinch in living standards – will invest in emotionally and therefore physically, are those products they can see themselves using to improve everyday life.

So where might they be? Well, connected cars are increasingly prevalent, although there’s still a long way before their full potential is realised (and dependant on industry standards being agreed as much as anything). And if you’re a fitness freak tracking every km you run/cycle/swim or calorie you burn, you’re probably experiencing the single biggest example of where the internet of things has infiltrated our lives without us even knowing it.

The connected home is probably still a little way off from being the norm, but a washing machine that sends alerts to your smartphone telling you it’s finished a load may not be beyond the reach of the average family looking to replace existing household appliances. The reason is, every major player in the game is now looking to get a product to market that does this. Once it becomes a feature in top of the range, products, it will only be a matter of time before chip costs come down and the technology improves to see it integrated into lower end models making the IoT accessible to more and more people.

Hive Active Heating, allowing you to control your heating and hot water from your mobile is one example of a relatively affordable solution that is now being pushed in a big way to make your home more connected. I’ve had snail mail about it from British Gas, seen adverts on the telly and a massive billboard at Waterloo station, all since the New Year, so the makers have obviously decided that 2014 is the year the internet of things comes to the masses.

Is this kind of technology essential? No. We’ve managed for thousands of years. But then we managed without mobile phones and their now ‘essential. But it does make life easier and potentially more affordable for people who live busy lives and have a fluid schedule. I don’t always get home at the same time, so it’s not always appropriate for my heating to go on at 7:00. Likewise, it’s easy enough for me to set a delay on my washing machine so clothes aren’t sitting damp in the machine for hours if I go out to work. But as a twenty-something commuter working in London, it doesn’t take much to entice me to stay in town for a few drinks at the drop of a hat, so that delay isn’t going to be long enough. Ideally, I want the cycle to conclude just as I walk in the front door; a lot easier to achieve if you can control it remotely.

Buzzwords come and go but connected devices and appliance are very much her to stay. Although that’s not to say you need to connect everything; and the internet of everything, is probably still a fairly long way off.

And as I wrap up this blog, I’m seriously considering getting Hive installed. No, they are not a client; I promise this is not just a shameless plug! Although if they would like to be, I’ve got some great ideas for their next campaign… 🙂


In the case of the iBrush, some things are best left unconnected…

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