The Internet of Things (IoT) is based on the idea that objects have the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring a human-to human or human–to–computer interaction. The insights enabled by this data collection from connected devices are what the Internet of Things is all about. While not a new concept, the technology industry is currently and actively transforming ordinary physical objects into smart objects. The IDC (International Data Corporation, an industry research group), predicts the IoT market to be worth more than $6.5 billion in the next three years, within Canada alone.
Currently on the market are thermostats, smoke detectors, watches, light bulbs, TV’s and medical devices that connect to the internet. And with reduced costs of components such as microchips, and sensors along with the increased capabilities of advanced software, it is only a matter of time before more cities, small to medium sized businesses (SMBs), and homes will begin to adapt an IoT strategy.
IBM has been leading the way to building smarter cities. Building a smart city can change the way cities are managed and help deliver potential that previously went untapped. With many cities trying to attract new residents, businesses, and visitors to their town, many community leaders see power in using big data and analytics to better engage their community members. Managing water, energy and transportation needs as well as anticipating public safety issues, traffic flow, and healthcare needs are all ways in which the data from smart devices can be leveraged to transform the way cities operate.
On a micro level, there has been a heavy focus on home automation. This category has an overall goal of improving day-to day functions by using the devices in your home in combination. With an expectation of growth to be faster than the growth of smartphone and tablets, it has many anticipating how these smart devices will become even more prevalent in our daily lives. Below we have highlighted some major players in the home automation market.
- Microsoft’s HomeOS
Microsoft’s HomeOS is an operating system for your home. It has been in the research and development phase for years, and with many competitors in its market space, it should be in the near future that Microsoft releases a launch date and pricing. HomeOS enables cross-device tasks via applications and gives users a management interface designed for the home. HomeOS is the core client side component of the Lab of Things (LoT). HomeOS is the platform for connecting the smart devices in your home and LoT provides the services required for monitoring, updates and storage.
Microsoft has focused its efforts on making home automation more attainable for the less tech savvy person all while remaining conscious of budget constraints. HomeOS is the software the will control all the different home automation devices already on the market. Users can add applications that work with their devices through the HomeStore. Users will also be able to access and share with other users to quickly add more behaviors to their home’s smart capabilities. It can also send alerts to your e-mail when an action has been taken, and send live feed from cameras set up in your home to monitor the activities taking place.
- Apple’s HomeKit
In 2014, Apple’s HomeKit was announced as Apple’s entrance into the home automation market. Using your iPhone/iPad and some help from apps and Siri, you will be able control each room in your house as HomeKit enables the devices within your home to be voice- recognized by pre-programmed names. It’s grouping feature will allow the user to control a series of items at once- for instance, an entire room’s worth of appliances or all the lighting on a an entire floor. Your data related to your home will be encrypted on your device and is also encrypted in transit between your apple device and the devices you are controlling.
In an effort to address the market’s compatibility concerns, HomeKit will also have a certification program. The program will guarantee that specific products will support its new features. There is also talk about its ability to “bridge” some non-HomeKit accessories (excluding accessories connecting over Wi-Fi) to be controlled using HomeKit commands on iOS devices. Apple also answers any privacy concerns and therefore will not store information about your home and your devices/accessories on their servers.
- Google’s Nest
Nest Labs is well know for its smart thermostat and smoke detectors, and with Google’s $3.2 billion acquisition of Nest, it has become a major player in the home automation market. Co-founded by former Apple engineers, it seems to stand apart from its competitors in terms of ease of use. Nest does not require the user to manually program each device, because it is always working in the background, anticipating your needs, and learning your routines. Use your Nest product with Google Voice Actions, and you will be able to control the device by speaking.
“Works with Nest” (WWN) is how Nest goes beyond offering the market a smart thermostat. WWN partners with big names in electronics, appliances, and security systems as well as offering a full line of its own products to truly transform your home into a automated system. Nest has a strong reputation for being easy to install, and requires very little configuration. Generally, you only need one Nest product and a third-party app, device or appliance to use a “Works with Nest” connection. They also have certified Nest installers to help get your home up and running should you rather leave it to the professionals.
Future of IoT Solutions
Not limited for use in your home, businesses of all sizes and in all sectors can connect their “things” and harvest their data to create powerful knowledge and awareness. IoT and smart devices have the potential to bring a competitive advantage to businesses should one choose to leverage it. Incorporating an IoT strategy into your business place can help understand and predict client and partner behaviors in ways that were previously unimaginable. By building on the infrastructure already in place, and utilizing devices and services in new ways, SMBs can begin integrating the right technology and ultimately use the data and insights to make more informed business decisions.
With the opportunities that arise from an IoT strategy come some important challenges to consider. With more data and more connected devices comes security risks and increased risk of cyber-attacks. It is also important to acknowledge privacy issues that comes with data sharing.
Even small changes can make a big impact in terms of efficiency and management of one’s assets. When tight budgets, and scarce resources are challenges that many cities, homes and SMBs face, new and innovative technologies can help turn challenges into opportunities.