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The Future of the Web: Part Three – The Internet of Things

Caffeine powers activate!

Somebody once said that “a developer is a device for turning coffee into code”. While not true of every developer, and personally I don’t think you can ever fully trust those guys who only have one cup of tea a day, in my case it’s become almost my maxim.

That may be why I’ve been on the verge of purchasing a new toy for quite a while now. There is an automatic coffee maker that you can hook up to an app on your smart phone, and start a brew from your bed, on your way home or wherever you happen to be. An internet connected caffeine delivery system is just a genius idea and I want one.

Of course, fresh brewed coffee as I walk in the door of an evening, or emerge grumbling from a night’s slumber, isn’t particularly important in the grand scheme of things (to anyone who isn’t me) but it’s indicative of a growing trend of internet connected devices, buildings and indeed vehicles that are becoming more and more prevalent.

I’m fairly sure my fridge has its own twitter.

Despite the “Internet of Things” being conceived and coined in the late 90s, the availability of improved internet speeds and wireless coverage have led to a boom in internet connected household objects that, even just a few years ago, would have never been envisaged.

But it’s more than just slapping a sensor on a device and connecting it to your phone so you can check up on things, it’s about enhancing the abilities of the item beyond its original intent.

Some examples that already exist are already quite impressive. Having a refrigerator that knows when you’re about to run out of milk, and automatically adds more to your online shopping list. A home security system that can detect motion outside your house and connect you remotely to a live feed so you can, hopefully, scare off the squirrel in your bird feeder. A device you can leave in your car so that you can track where it is with an app on your phone, ostensibly in case of theft, but also very handy if you can’t remember where you parked!

Factor in sensors, actuators and other systems and the market expands even further. For example, solar panels that can report their usage to the electric company remotely so you can sell your excess energy back to them were one of the early internet connected home improvements. And in fact, with the surge in popularity of renewable energy, they are now commonplace.

Probably not Luton.

The next logical expansion of the Internet of Things rests in something like a project we worked on recently for Bhartiya, a smart city in Bangalore.

Smart cities are being planned and built right now that allow a dedicated team of users to remotely manage the entire city’s heat, electricity, lighting and even traffic and public transport.

While they’re doing that, the inhabitants of the city can remotely connect to everything. A centralised app can provide them the ability to call a plumber, a taxi, a pizza or book a tennis court – all from one quick, familiar interface.

While that may sound like a flight of fancy, the reality is that this form of nuclear functionality is already rolling out and soon entire cities will be “connected”. New cities are being built with the technology considered from the ground up, and existing cities are being gradually retrofitted to encompass the impressive array of available tech.

With vital services under 24/7 control and the capacity to organise your entire schedule from the touch of a button, the only thing you’ll need to worry about is what to do when the power goes out!

 - Kingsland Linassi

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