You own the coolest Internet of Things device but just don’t know it yet
Read time 3 min
You probably own one or two Internet of things (IoT) gadgets or sensors. The most obvious one is your mobile phone: it utilizes sensors in its camera, gyroscope, and microphone, and it is constantly connected to the internet, sending information to various online services for further analysis.
These features are enough for any ordinary IoT accessory. But your phone has one feature that makes it even more special: a connection to space. Every time you open your maps application, your phone receives a positioning signal from the 33 active Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites around the globe. But since the maps feature is so commonplace, you probably never think about space when you ask your phone for recommendations for nearby restaurants.
GPS navigation in a mobile phone is a perfect example of Amara’s Law: We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate its effect in the long run. When Roger Easton started experimenting with satellite tracking in 1964, nobody imagined GPS would end up in everyone’s pocket.
The short-term purpose of the system was to compete against the Soviet Union during the middle of the Cold War and the space race. While GPS became operational in the 1970s, it took another ten years for the system to be available for civilian use and another 25 years for GPS to become usable in consumer electronics.
This is exactly how Amara’s Law works. When we use apps like Google Maps , Foursquare, or Runkeeper, we think they are modern products from this century—thus over-estimating the short-term effect of technology. But these products are actually based on forty-year-old technology from the “modern” age of cassette tapes and muscle cars.
This is one reason why IoT is predicted to represent the next massive shift in technology. The cellphone in your pocket and the Fitbit wristband on your arm are equivalent to a 1970s-era GPS satellite. We have no idea what the same sensors bundled with connectivity will be able to do ten, twenty, or forty years from now.
According to TechCrunch, IoT is currently “not quite what we imagined, and not quite what we hoped.” But there are numerous examples of what we can expect. Gadgets like Nest, Amazon Echo, and Enevo can make your home seem like something from a science-fiction movie, with a perfectly adjusted environment, a voice-operated computer assistant, and optimized trash collection.
Traffic will never be the same. You may have heard about upcoming self-driving cars, but 40 million cars are already connected to the Internet, and smart roads like Snowbox are being developed. The Finnish company Nokia will be a major player in IoT since it is developing 5G networks that are essential to IoT infrastructure and investing in Withings, which the company hopes will become an essential part of how you maintain your personal well-being. Reaktor is launching IoT to space.
As you can see, the possible uses for IoT are endless. The funny part is that the technology is already here, so we should all be prepared for some amazing new products and services in the next few (or twenty) years.