There has been much speculation about the Internet of Things (IoT): is it secure, feasible, or even likely? Will our homes and businesses one day be ultra-connected the same way we are? Without spoiling the surprise, they kind of already are – or at least, they can be.
Not to the extent that is envisaged by IoT proponents, certainly, but some of the technologies that the term ‘smart home’ brings to mind already exist. Nest is a company that specialises in connected home devices such as thermostats and smoke detectors. The thermostat, for example, can be linked to your smartphone, allowing you to control your heating while you’re at the office. It will learn your schedule and heat the house accordingly, providing you with statistics about energy usage via a web app. Other companies such as Sonos provide more niche home technology, such as hi-fi that syncs to play the same music in every room.
If that all sounds a little too specific for you then there’s always the DIY option. LittleBit is a company that produces modular electronics, which can be assembled without any special equipment. With modules such as temperature sensors, LCD displays and MP3 players – as well as, of course, a module that can connect to the Cloud – the company’s Smart Home Kit allows those with a creative streak to make their very own smart home. Fridge door open? Find out by putting the temperature monitor in the fridge and getting it to text you if the temperature gets too high. Or have the sound monitor alert you if the dog is barking and wants to be let out.
The IoT is still very much in its infancy, especially within our home environments. An ultra-connected world is nothing new these days, but security concerns are, as ever, a severe hindrance in technology adoption, and no one wants to compromise their home. In a piece of speculative fiction that is equal parts amusing and unnerving, Sara M. Watson explores how The Internet of Paternalistic Things might function in the future, beginning with ‘my stupid refrigerator thinks I’m pregnant.’
Ultimately, like much of the innovation of the modern day, whether the IoT takes off will depend on its consumer appeal – on whether, to put it bluntly, it is something people will pay for. A smart home might one day be the norm, but not until a balance is found between personal privacy and big data, and that’s something we’re still working on.
Banner image courtesy of Mikhail Golub