The Internet of Things (IoT), while hard to define, captures the idea of a world where everything is connected and communicating. Techopedia explains it as a computing concept where someday in the future, everyday object will connect to the Internet. These “things” will have the ability to identify themselves to other devices, making them worth more than the object by themselves, establishing an “ambient intelligence” when these objects work in unison (Janssen, 2014).
Movies such as In Time and Her, are predicting this future of an IoT world, with electronic life countdowns inserted into humans wrists and operating systems that can communicate and feel emotions. While these may be extremes that seem unlikely to exist, the Internet of Things is very present today.
Beginning as a Kickstarter project, LIFX have created Wi-Fi enabled LED light bulbs, that are controlled with your smartphone. The click is the new clap where users have the ability to change the colour of the light, dim, and turn off and on their household lights from a single device, without having to move. While these lights seem like more of a novelty than anything else, they also have the ability to naturally wake you up with the lights slowly increasing in the morning, and dimming off at night to improve the quality of your sleep (LIFX, 2014).
Another example of the Internet of Things, created by Fuseproject, is the Kernel of Life. The concept is that the wearable device allows people in developing countries to test themselves for symptoms of chronic illnesses such as Malaria. Users would test their saliva, urine, blood or breath using the device, and transfer results to doctors via a smartphone app.
Fuseproject developer Yves Behar stated, “When the nearest doctor is days away, both treatment and diagnosis can be accomplished through the cloud-based and embedded medical test that Kernel offers.” The reusable device can be worn as a necklace and can also measure the users temperature. While the technology required to make the Kernel of Life is currently too expensive and not durable enough for its intended use, Fuseproject predicts it could be perfected in five to ten years (Griffiths, 2013).
Through the rapid growth of the Internet of things, the word “product” no long applies to tangible things only. According to an article in Forbes by Dan Woods, “Product can mean a device, a service powered by software or other technology, a service provided by people, a flow of data, a software application for monitoring, automation, or analysis, or in many cases all of the above.” (2014). The LIFX and the Kernel of Life are both examples of this change. It is not just the physical product itself that is key to its use, rather its connection with the Internet.
While many fear the inevitability of the Internet of things, I find it exciting. Some argue these creative innovations might only be making us lazier because the object does all the work. This may be the case for some “things”, but certainly not all. Wired editors Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly established the term “quantified self” describing it as using technology to collect data on aspects of a persons life, such as food intake, sleeping patterns, exercise, etc. (Lupton, 2013). Designs such as the Kernel of Life support the quantified self and have the potential to improve lives and solve many issues; it would seem to be a step backwards to not embrace the Internet of things.
Griffiths, Alyn 2013, ‘Wearable device could detect disease “when the nearest doctor is days away”’, De Zeen Magazine, 28 November, viewed 24 October 2014, < http://www.dezeen.com/2013/11/28/fuseproject-designs-wearable-device-that-diagnoses-disease/>.
Jenssen, Cory 2014, Internet of Things (IoT), Techopedia, viewed 24 November 2014, <http://www.techopedia.com/definition/28247/internet-of-things-iot>.
LIFX 2014, The Lightbulb Reinvented, LIFX, viewed 24 October 2014, <http://au.lifx.co>.
Lupton, Deborah 2013, ‘Understanding the human machine’, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, vol. 32, no. 4, pp. 25-30.
Woods, Dan 2014, ‘How the “Internet of Things” Is Transforming the Meaning of Product’, Forbes, 25 June, viewed 24 October 2014, <http://www.forbes.com/sites/danwoods/2014/06/25/how-the-iot-is-transforming-the-meaning-of-product/>.