The internet of things

NEST is the  first company to really cash in on the "internet of things"  thanks to a $3.2 Billion buy-out from Google

NEST is the  first company to really cash in on the "internet of things"  thanks to a $3.2 Billion buy-out from Google

I’m frequently asked, “What's the next big thing?” Well, the next big thing is actually a collection of little things that has coined the phrase 'the internet of things'. In a nutshell, the 'internet of things' is a collection and connection of unrelated devices across the internet.

If you’re wondering why the phrase the 'internet of things' is suddenly appearing in the collective conscious, the folks at Google can give you 3.2 billion reasons. They just spent $3.2 billion to acquire Nest, the maker of a neat web connected thermostat and, more recently, a combination smoke/carbon monoxide detector.  People hate trying to program their thermostats, they’ve taken over the scorn once reserved for your VCR.  We all know that we can save energy and money by using a programable thermostat but the technology was so bad few of us could use it. NEST introduced an attractive thermostat with some terrific ergonomics, a great app to control it, and additional intelligence for the device to actually monitor and learn our living patterns. Perhaps most importantly, the app actually measures your monthly savings.

The buzz surrounding the Google/NEST deal fell right on top of the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show where manufacturers across a broad range of categories were showing their wares connected by apps.  In addition to thermostats there were devices for the home like locks, garage doors, appliances, and even light bulbs controlled by apps. The health and fitness category were seen as explosive growth areas with major players Fitbit and Jawbone demonstrating wristbands that track your heart rate, calories burned, and distance covered amongst a number of variables.  From the non-wearable department, Blue Anatomy had a wireless body scale that tracks not only weight but body mass index, muscle mass, fat, bone and water.

The automotive sector was also present in a big way with connected technology.  In the “here and now” category Audi and Chevrolet announced that the 2015 model year will see their cars with mobile internet connections to facilitate streaming video for backseat viewing, streaming audio, and real time traffic and weather reports. QNX, the software company acquired by Blackberry, has been developing operating systems for vehicles that enable Android apps to be installed directly in the infotainment (information/entertainment) systems for dashboard based control instead of fiddling with your phone.

BMW and Samsung have merged automative and wearable technology with the Samsung Galaxy Gear Smart watch monitoring and controlling the new BMW i3 electric car.  Need to know if your car is fully charged? Just check your watch.  The smart watch will also allow you to remotely heat seats, enter navigation information and of course lock your vehicle.

As we enter the earliest stages of "the internet of things" there are of course some concerns that need to accompany the wonders of these new technologies. Privacy and security are at the top of the list. If your NEST thermostats knows when you come and go from your home, so does Google, and presumably so does anyone that could hack their systems. As for hacking, we now have millions of devices with potential vulnerabilities.  If you are keying your credit card number into the dashboard of your Chevy to pay for your on-demand movie, are you safe from spying? With the number of security patches necessary to keep systems safe how long will manufacturers continue to support your car, fridge, watch or robot vacuum cleaner?

From a practical standpoint we are also faced with the question of compatibility.  What if I don’t want to use Rogers ATT as the mobile carrier for my new Audi and I would rather have the shiny new iWatch when it finally arrives rather than a Samsung?  From a practical standpoint its hard to say if any of these problems will ever be fully resolved but the wheels for progress will continue to turn and connected technology will permeate every aspect of our lives.

The Samsung Smart Gear Watch will  control your shiny new BMW i3.

The Samsung Smart Gear Watch will  control your shiny new BMW i3.