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East End Tech: The Internet of Things? What?

The “Internet of Things” has set the tech world ablaze.

The Internet of Things, or “IoT,” is the idea that “things”—essentially any things that connect to the internet without input from a user—will be able to communicate with one another, transmitting data back and forth in a way that requires little human intervention, creating the ability to automate aspects of our daily lives in many arenas.

While the concept of IoT has been around for well over a decade, it’s only recently that the proliferation of smartphones and intelligent devices has come close to making this concept a reality. It seems like there are new devices being released daily that are able to connect themselves to the internet in a bid to make our lives easier. Technologists with Gartner, Inc. are estimating that by the year 2020, there will be 26 billion “things” connected to the internet, up from a mere 900 million right now. How these things will make our home lives easier has the tech world abuzz.

As it stands, there are a number of smart devices for the home. The Nest Thermostat and the Philips Hue light bulb are devices that can be controlled via an app on your phone. The Internet of Things concept would take this one step further—instead of needing direct control, sensors on the outside of your house would communicate with your lightbulb, adjusting the brightness and hue depending on the time of day and weather conditions.

Your phone can probably already sense when you are about to go to work, and let you know about the traffic conditions on your commute. Thanks to the Internet of Things, it’s very likely that in the near future, you’ll be able to leave your home in the city, and—with no effort on your part—your phone will alert your home on the East End, turning on your air conditioning, drawing the curtains, doing any number of things that can be easily automated. As you approach your house, and your phone is able to connect to your Wi-Fi network, the doors automatically unlock, the burglar alarm is deactivated, and the lights automatically go on.

As this technology evolves, it may even be possible for your house to detect who is in what room, and tailor the environment to that person’s desires, not unlike the seat positions and radio presets that a luxury car remembers based on who is driving it. Refrigerators and cupboards with sensors in them could automatically add milk and eggs to your grocery list, a “smart” medicine cabinet could let you know that you forgot to take your medicine. The applications for technology like this in the home are nearly endless, and there are almost certainly ways to apply IoT technology that we simply cannot fathom yet.

Both Apple and Google are jumping on board with this concept. Google recently acquired Nest and is looking to purchase Dropcam, an internet-based home-security company. Apple is expected to make a major announcement regarding semi-automated “smart home” devices very soon. Given that both companies are tech powerhouses with a stable of devices and software that are already well established, it makes perfect sense that they would want to build a smart home ecosystem around their existing products.

This doesn’t just stop at the home. Technology of this sort has been used in the medical and industrial fields for some time now, and as more and more devices gain IoT capabilities, expansion into other fields is an inevitability. A vineyard, for instance, with moisture monitors in the soil and computer-controlled irrigation, could ensure that the grapes being grown receive just the right amount of water to guarantee peak sugar levels automatically. Essentially, IoT technology will allow us to apply computer precision to many, many more aspects of life than we have been able to previously.

Ultimately, “smart home” technology based around the Internet of Things may provide the “home of the future” we’ve been waiting for. When companies roll out Rosie the Robot, the picture may well be complete.

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