We've all been hearing about this new phenomenon called "Internet of Things" and we believe that we are still at an early stage of yet another technology revolution. A lot of confusion surrounds this concept as many people mistakenly think it is simply connecting an object to the internet. A toaster with a display screen that lets you read email while making toast and a built-in camera that takes a picture of the toast to post on Twitter would qualify. However, this completely misses the point.
The Internet of Things is really about connectivity, automation and instant gratification. These elements help transform our lives in a seamless and highly transparent manner while eliminating the mundane.
Connectivity: These devices are constantly connected. Not just to the internet but there are also rising usage of GPS networks and Bluetooth. Staying connected allows the device to not only understand your behavior but also adapt. Your smart phone is always connected and constantly getting a stream of notifications and updates. As technology evolves, more and more devices will achieve this level of connectivity. Many TV's, game consoles and set top boxes are already there. Nest is one of the top brands that brought the Internet of Things to the forefront. There are even sprinkler systems that can actively monitor the weather and adjust accordingly. Heck, a tech company could literally identify the myriad of frustrating tedious tasks one experiences throughout the day and be bold enough to "disrupt" the status quo. The sky is the limit to what can benefit from being "connected." In addition to pure functional connectivity, there will be a whole genre of social connectivity devices. Badges for energy efficiency, social sharing of media consumption, collaborative learning based on social behavior, etc. Some of the things we are seeing benefiting from connectivity include: thermostats, suitcases, lighting, outlets, cars, medical devices, inverters, chargers, smart batteries, TV's, appliances and much more.
Automation: It is not enough to just be connected and gather data but these devices need to simplify our lives and remove frustration. A Nest thermostat automatically learns and adjusts the thermostat that maximizes comfort level and also saves money. That is a pretty solid value proposition. A connected sprinkler system anticipates rain and turns off for the day or increases the watering time on a sloped zone because the soil is slightly dryer. Today, this automation is paired with high levels of user control but as time evolves and trust grows, we will learn to trust these devices more and more. Imagine a future where an embedded insulin monitor can actively advise you through your phone your live insulin levels and suggest dietary needs. Or, an entire home of automated lighting with automated time scheduling and color temperature settings. Couple this automation with user friendly technology like Amazon's Alexa for when you want to make manual adjustments and you have a future that is nearly entirely automated. Heck, your light bulb may actually order it's own replacement when it is about to go out.
Instant Gratification: This is a constantly evolving phrase that keeps increasing with each generation. Not sure how many people today actually know how to use a Dewey Decimal system or even set foot in a library. It seems like ages ago... imagine needing to know how to install something, or that actor in a movie you can't quite remember their name. Today, many people often have tablets and phones with them at all times to instantly answer these questions that come up throughout the day. However, with Internet of Things, the level of instant gratification is on steroids. And when combined with constantly connectivity and automation, we can actually start getting instant gratification before we know we want it. Some examples of this are getting into a connected car and having GPS already know that you are going to work and suggesting a new route due to congestion. Or back to the sprinkler example knowing the upcoming weather to adjust settings without you having to even look up whether it will rain or not today.
At VoltNow, we love technology. No one knows for certain how things will evolve but we know we want to be a part of it. There will be many success and failures over time. Most of the failures will be the result of leading with technology instead of the customer. Some of us remember the big push for things like Internet connected refrigerators. These companies forgot that people don't like to stand in front of their fridge for long periods of time. The most successful products and brands will use technology to help simplify customer lives and improve their lifestyle rather than trying to get them to adapt. We are not crazy about the term "Internet of Things" as it too often connotes things like our hypothetical Twitter Toaster. We would prefer something like "Automated Connected Devices" but that is not as catchy. So here is to the Internet of Things. We look forward to what is to come.