When looking back at the biggest technological innovations of the last 25 years, it would be hard to leave the Internet of Things or ‘IoT’ off the list – or at least it would if you asked me, which somebody did, hence this blog.
IoT has become one of the most versatile technologies in existence, and the opportunities it presents only continue to grow. In 2023, the number of connected devices, or “things,” will hit 43 billion globally, tripling since 2018.
These devices encompass everything from smartwatches to connected cars, climate-monitoring greenhouses and even smart litter trays (no prizes for guessing what that’s monitoring, talk about a data dump).
Since IoT-enabled devices can connect to a wider network, their potential use cases are endless. Industry applications range from monitoring and operating manufacturing and production equipment to smart traffic management and vehicle tracking in transportation and logistics.
Sensor technology within IoT devices makes it possible to collect, share and analyse vast amounts of data extracted from a device’s usage and environment, providing valuable insights that can be used to various ends.
In banking, IoT devices can help detect fraud when combined with artificial intelligence, while smart ATMs offer enhanced capabilities beyond merely dispensing cash, such as customer service, multicurrency, intelligent depositing and transfer, and personalised interfaces. These internet-enabled ATMs essentially function as ‘microbranches,’ or ‘branches-in-a-box,’ offering services that ordinarily can only be done in-branch.
In healthcare, the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) is anticipated to revolutionise the way the medical field interacts with patients and will reach an estimated $176 billion by 2026. Already, connected medical devices can track a variety of health metrics such as glucose levels, blood pressure, heart rate, mood and depression, and even hand cleanliness.
As remote patient monitoring becomes more widely adopted, we’ll start to see the notion of the virtual hospital ward become a reality. Doctors, nurses and other healthcare practitioners will be able to oversee patient care without the need for them to be physically present, or even for patients to take their own home readings where the devices will do this for themselves in real-time.
The enhanced level of accuracy, visibility and clinical insight that devices within the IoMT provide is incredibly exciting and is expected to vastly improve patient experience, as well as deliver an overall better quality and scope of medical treatment and care.
Bringing it closer to home (quite literally in this case), IoT devices have changed the way many of us run our households. By now, we’re probably no stranger to a Ring doorbell, Nest thermostat or Amazon Echo voice controller. Smart home technology like this enables homeowners to automate and control all manner of devices and appliances, from kettles to lighting, door locks and energy usage – all through a smartphone or tablet.
As the cost of living continues to bite, there’s a case to be made for IoT-enabled home devices in a recession (granted, they are a luxury for those with capital to acquire and install them in the first place). With that said, these devices can certainly help those who do have them to cut back on bills, allowing users to monitor and control energy usage remotely. For example, heating your home for the exact time you need it or turning off that light you have a feeling you left on when you set out for work this morning.
All in all, the potential applications for IoT are tremendous, but with all that data comes an equal amount of risk. IoT presents a new frontier for cybersecurity professionals and one of their greatest challenges to date. We’ve all heard stories of the most unassuming device providing a critical point of entry for bad actors; some of the most notable include a thermometer in a casino lobby aquarium, a baby monitoring device and a Jeep SUV. But even with the question of security – which isn’t going unaddressed – IoT easily makes it into what I consider the most exciting technological innovations of the last 25 years, with plenty more to follow.