It’s easy to be pessimistic about how the Internet of Things (IoT) could change the world. Some people might see it as just a gimmick to sell new TVs or other devices. Others might feel that it’s more of the same old thing, or just a bunch of new mobile devices. Many people are concerned about how safe these devices are, or if they’ll usher in a big brother type world where privacy is a thing of the past.
But many people and companies are learning how to leverage new Internet-connected technologies in extremely positive ways. Here’s a few examples of how IoT devices are making life better for people all over the world.
Keep an eye on things while you’re away
Surveillance isn’t a bad thing when it’s not infringing on people’s privacy or personal space. And that’s exactly what one Australian man learned when he was able to use various smart gadgets to prevent his home from being destroyed in a bushfire.
Professor Simon Maddocks from Charles Darwin University was able to spot the fire using his Internet-connected security cameras and a smartphone. Once he saw that the fire was approaching his home, he was able to use his smartphone to activate his property’s irrigation system.
Unfortunately, he was unable to save his crops. But his livestock and house survived the fire, which makes him quite lucky compared to some of his neighbors.
Cases like these demonstrate how Internet-connected devices can help protect people. If Professor Maddocks wasn’t able to monitor his home he wouldn’t have understood the immediacy of the approaching threat – a capability F-Secure Director of Strategic Threat Research Mika Stahlberg has called the potential killer apps for smart homes.
And being able to use his irrigation system to douse his property would have been much more difficult had he not been able to do this remotely.
Information sharing made easy
Many popular IoT devices are being developed for use in smart homes. But thinking that IoT devices are limited to innovating homes is a complete misconception. Wearables are a pretty big product category for IoT devices, and features well-known items like the Apple Watch and FitBit.
One recent project, called Wearables for Good, was created with the intent to encourage companies to develop wearables that serve the needs of people in both developed and developing nations. The project was a competition that awarded two design initiatives with cash prizes, as well as support in launching the products.
One of the winners was Khushi Baby – a wearable necklace designed to store immunization data to make administering vaccinations in the field easier for health care workers. The necklace can store medical data and then share it with mobile devices via NFC transmitters. Making this information more accessible to people responsible for administering vaccines will help them make informed decisions while they’re in the field, and make vaccinating large groups of people much easier and safer.
The designers behind Khushi Baby are currently using the product in Northern India to prevent fatalities due to vaccine-preventable diseases.
Monitoring the health of people that count on you
People now have access to technologies that can help them keep track of their own daily activities, and make improvements like getting more exercise, monitoring sleeping habits, etc. And while this is a great way for people to keep themselves healthy, other manufacturers are now beginning to focus on how to use these technologies to monitor people that have trouble staying healthy without a little extra help.
For example, a Boston-based company has developed a “wearable baby monitor” that allows parents to monitor things such as their baby’s breathing, heart rate, movements, etc. This gives them a more complete picture of their baby’s health so that they can take better care of newborns.
Another company has developed a series of activity monitors that can be placed around the home to help monitor older adults that are living alone. These monitors can be placed throughout the home and monitor activities, and then make this data accessible online.
The caveat of these home monitoring technologies is that they collect, store and exchange massive amounts of data – data that can easily be repurposed by hackers or criminals. Hacking has already been proven to be a serious risk for Internet-connected baby monitors.
So everyone has a reason to be excited about what IoT devices can do, but remember to take steps to secure your new smart devices, and the data they collect and share online.
[Image by Al404 | Flickr]