What You Need to Know About The Internet of Things (IoT) in 2021
For many years, futurists and technologists have told us that the “Internet of Things” (IoT) would change every aspect of our lives. The “Internet of Things,” or IoT, for those unfamiliar with the term, is the system of internet-connected objects that can collect and transfer data online, without the need for human interaction.
A prime example of this is the Apple watch: it’s a watch--it tells the time--but it’s so much more: it tracks your fitness information, your location, and whatever other data comes to your phone, so you can use it to check email, take part in social media, and speak to friends via text or voice. It also shares this information with Apple, and with anyone else Apple feels could benefit from being privy to such data. In other words, it’s a thing, which brings the full might and data capability of the internet to its functionality and usefulness.
Now, extend this scale of capability out from a wearable watch to every other possible application: home security, hospital equipment, cars, busses, trains, entire cities, etc., and you’ll start to understand the potential -- and eventual pervasiveness -- of the Internet of Things.
The History of the IoT
The term “Internet of Things” was coined by Procter & Gamble supply chain engineer Kevin Aston in 1999. He first used the term in describing his work with RFID, Radio-Frequency Identification, the use of electromagnetic fields attached to objects to identify and track them. When he used the term, the Internet itself was still a buzzword, and the concept of its extension outside of computers and into the everyday household and industrial items was merely a vague notion.
But fifteen years later, in 2014, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas made the IoT its primary theme, and Google shocked the world by making big moves into the world of IoT with the $3.2 billion purchase of Nest (a “smart home” product that connects your thermostat to your Wi-Fi, so you can control the temperature of your home and more with an app).
In a decade and a half, this “vague notion” had become a “big deal.” The year before, in 2013, IDC published a report stating that the Internet of Things would be an $8.9 trillion market by 2020.
And was that true? Did it come to pass? Yes and no.
In 2020 alone, 22.6 million smartwatch devices were purchased by consumers. And by the end of 2017, experts estimate that the IoT industry had reached a value of between $100 billion and $2 trillion for the first time, representing 8.6 billion individual devices in use. While IoT hasn’t quite reached the levels IDC expected seven years ago, it doesn't mean that growth hasn’t been steady, and it doesn’t mean that growth won’t continue to speed up over the next few years.
Where we go throughout 2021 and beyond, remains to be seen.
What Developers and Companies Can Do About IoT
The first step to understanding “what’s next” in the Internet of Things, is to get a handle on what already is. For years, we’ve been hearing about Smart Cities -- the ultimate extension of SmartWatches and Smart Cars: a city that collects data autonomously and makes improvements in infrastructure and lives based on this continual everyday data. As of now, many cities are beginning to introduce internet-related infrastructure (Wi-Fi in city parks, autonomous bus lines that accept internet payment), but there are no fully functioning Smart Cities as-of-yet.
That said, with the huge changes seen across the world of medicine and government in 2020, 2021 might be the year we begin to see some true investment in such IoT infrastructure. The best way to stay on this trend, is to remember: whatever comes next will be an extension of what’s come before. Where IoT infrastructure or software has been enacted to make citizens’ lives better or improve city services will likely be expanded.
A second way that companies and developers can stay on top of what’s next for the Internet of Things, is to focus on the user interface. Because IoT devices tend to replace and enhance everyday experiences for consumers (like shopping for food, checking the time, or taking your medicine), a smooth and simple UI design and user experience are important for ensuring the Internet of Things doesn’t get in the way of non-tech savvy users completing important life tasks but instead enhances their experiences. Without usability, it’s unlikely that the Internet of Things will be adapted at the rate that it could -- if even at all.
No matter how marvelous technology can be, its impact is only defined by the degree it is used. Developers should be aware of this, and ensure they are skilled in the realistic application of what they build, not only the ideals. And companies should seek out and hire developers trained both in writing effective code, strong UX and UI and in engaging in usability studies to help build products that are easy to use.
The Internet of Things is poised to continue on its trajectory to be the Internet of our Future. Developers, those who work with them, and those who benefit from their work (hint: everyone) should keep an eye on how IoT continues to change the world--in 2021 and beyond.
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Santiago Mino, VP of Strategy at Jobsity, has been working in Business Development for several years now helping companies and institutions achieve their goals. He holds a degree in Industrial Design, with an extensive and diverse background. Working for the Tourism Board of Ecuador, he created a strategy that facilitated a viable and internationally competitive sports tourism industry, which maximized Ecuador’s economic and social well being. As a designer, he played an essential role in research and development as well as a liaison between his company and International clients that build concept stores in Ecuador and shipped them around the world. Now he spearheads the sales department for Jobsity.com in the Greater Denver Area. He is currently working on developing a strategy for outsourcing best practices and gender equality.
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