A new trend has been emerging with the arrival of smart phones. Smart devices are coming up in the news, such as self-driving cars, smart solar batteries and so on.

Another term has been appearing in the news lately: the Internet of Things. This is the term used to describe the point in time where almost every device in our household will have access to the Internet.

But why is the Internet of Things becoming such an important topic? It’s linked to a new business trend, but is it really that important? And why should we care?

So What Is The Internet Of Things?

As mentioned earlier, the Internet of Things is the idea that every device in your house can be connected to the Internet.

But when I say “device”, I don’t mean just your smart phone, television and computer.

I mean EVERY device, like your washing machine, stovetop, thermostat, lights and so on.

This also encompasses tools that weren’t originally fitted with electrical components, such as your toothbrush.

The idea of the Internet of Things is that when you enter a room, your lights turn on, the thermostat lowers the temperature to your preferred temperature and your television switches to your favourite channel.

It sounds like a scene out of a science fiction movie, but it’s a scene that’s becoming more and more of a possibility. Technology is advancing at a fast rate, and devices are now connecting to the Internet to provide more utility and be “smart” like our phones have become.

It’s not uncommon to hear in the news that we have “smart lights” or a “smart kitchen” because the Internet will be connected to devices and even rooms to learn our preferences and act on them.

That Sounds Really Convenient!

Which is the entire basis that the Internet of Things, and the creators of smart technology, are putting forward as the main reason for its presence.

We have all come home to a place that’s dark, doesn’t know we are home, and we have to stumble around trying to get everything going.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could come home to a place that already knows what we want? Everything would be done for us and it would be nice.

All we have to do is set our devices to the settings we want (say bright lights when the door opens) and repeat this a few times until our device knows when we want bright lights.

Some devices take this to another level, such as fitness trackers. Smart fitness trackers not only track your weight, but also your heart rate and body temperature. Eventually it might know if something is wrong with your body and what you can do about it.

It’s like putting your life into what actually feels like the future.

Why Aren’t We Making This Come Sooner?

Apart from technological limitations, having the Internet of Things has a big issue that people are concerned about.

In order for the Internet of Things to actually work, it needs data.

Without data, there really is no point in having lights that turn on by themselves. It would just be a nice feature (and sometimes be scary).

You would need to tell your device your habits, input certain information and give it time to work out any issues.

Now for things like lights or your kitchen, this probably isn’t a big deal.

But when we get to the topic of, say your bathroom and shower, things get a little tricky.

How much information do you want to be giving your toothbrush, for example? Or your shower?

But Why Does It Matter What I Tell My Toothbrush?

Here’s where the Internet of Things runs into a big problem.

Every piece of technology is made by a company who wants to learn more about its customers. In order to do that, they have to get data from somewhere.

What better place to get it than a person’s household?

It’s easy when everything connects to the Internet. How many times they shower, use the vacuum cleaner, when they use a different kind of detergent in the dishwasher, how much weight their bed is supporting.

All that information can be gathered and sent to companies through the Internet.

As I said, this may not be too much of a problem for people when it concerns everyday things like how many times the door is opened or how often the mixer is used.

But people are concerned that companies will now be able to get data that people don’t want to share. Others are more concerned with any data going out at all.

Since privacy is a concern everywhere around the world, it clashes with the promises that the Internet of Things provides.

If you keep information to yourself, how can you expect devices to know what you want, when you want it?

But at the same time, there’s no point in technology advancements if there’s no information at all. If we don’t know what problems we can solve or what we can improve on, nothing can change.

How Does This Impact Me As A Business?

At the moment, it probably won’t.

There aren’t enough smart devices out right now that are touting the benefits that the Internet of Things claims to offer.

Any devices that are supposed to be making our life better are just conceptual ideas, being worked on and developed, but are not yet items that appear in our society.

But as a business, this potential gold mine of data will impact a lot of your operations.

With all this information about how people are carrying out their daily lives, aren’t you interested in how you can use that data?

Yes, there are certainly privacy laws in place and you have to respect those.

But when you can learn more about your customers’ behaviour, it’s difficult to believe that there isn’t much to use.

By knowing what your customers are doing with your products (and for how long), you can tailor your future products and services to fit unseen needs and/or problems.

It may not be apparent to every industry right now, but knowing what people are doing is a big benefit and a big risk to businesses.

What Should I Be Doing?

Keep an eye out for the latest technology news. You never know what new device might be coming out in the future.

Self-driving cars used to be a silly idea, but they are now being made and tested by both Google and Tesla.

Touchscreen technology was considered to be ridiculous, but now we tap away at our smartphones and tablets as if it was an everyday occurrence.

The next device could be a business opportunity or a challenge to overcome. It’s up to you to decide how you want to approach it.

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