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A lifestyle that would make the Jetsons jealous

In 2013, the IDC estimated there to be 9.1 billion units connected to the Internet. That’s a big number. But just how big is it? Well, also in 2013, there were 7.16 billion people in the world. That’s about 1.3 Internet-connected devices per person. With smartphones and computers, that makes sense, right? Well, yes, but not in the way that you might think.

What about children or entire populations of underdeveloped countries that don’t have internet access? And when you take a look at the numbers, there aren’t as many, smartphones, tablets or computers in the world as you might have guessed. You see, in 2013, planet Earth was home to…

  • 1.4 billion smartphones (source
  • 1.5 billion PCs connected to the internet (source)
  • 300 million tablets connected to the internet (source)

Together, these devices made up about 3.2 billion of the world’s Internet-connected devices. So what about the other 6 billion units connected to the Internet? Would you believe the vast majority of them are things? Not fancy gadgets like Google Glass or smartwatches, but unassuming objects like door locks, thermostats, light switches and smoke detectors. Some of the higher-tech versions of these inconspicuous, everyday items are a part of the Internet of Things (IoT).

What is the IoT? IDC defines it as “a network of networks of uniquely identifiable endpoints (or “things”) that communicate without human interaction using IP connectivity – be it “locally” or globally.” In other words, it’s all the “things” in our lives that have the ability to communicate with each other, quite often in order to perform tasks that make our lives easier, more enjoyable or more productive.

IoT technologies are becoming more prevalent each day. In fact, Cisco predicts that in 2020, there will be a whopping 50 billion “things” connected to the Internet, ultimately topping out somewhere around 1.5 trillion.

So we understand that things are connecting to the Internet, communicating with each other and possibly taking over the world, right? While it’s true that some people are a little creeped out by this growing network of “things”. And I’ll admit that it’s a little strange to know you’re surrounded by inanimate objects that are constantly “talking” to each other. But the reality is that all these things are working together to make our lives better.

Our own Nate Norman predicted what the future could look like someday soon in his connected home. And with products like the Nest Learning Thermostat, “someday” is now. Recently purchased by Google, Nest is able to learn your living habits and program its own heating and cooling schedule. The result is an energy-efficient thermostat that you never have to mess with.

Then there’s SmartThings, a company that created a platform allowing you to manage your home from your tablet or smartphone. You can turn lights on and off, lock and unlock your doors, be alerted if someone has broken in, open and close your garage door and more – all from wherever you’re able to use your mobile device. So when your kids get locked out of the house after school, you can let them in from work. Or, if you and your family have been out all day and will be getting home after dark, you can turn the lights on from your phone and come home to a well-lit house.

Even refrigerators are a part of the IoT. LG has put an end to the sniff test to see if the food in your fridge has gone bad. The company has created a refrigerator that can read radio frequency identification (RFID) tags on food items as they’re placed inside. It references those tags on the Internet to identify the items and notifies you when they are about to expire.

Not to be outdone, Samsung has also created a smart fridge that helps you with your grocery list. It comes with a built-in tablet so you can make your grocery list while standing in the kitchen (where you’re most likely to know what items you need to buy) and send it to any mobile device through the built-in Evernote app.

Piggybacking on the CES show earlier this year in Las Vegas, SmartThings equipped a nearby home with all sorts of fun IoT applications. For example, they created a wake up routine. It’s triggered when the homeowner’s Jawbone Up24 wearable is taken out of sleep mode. This action tells SmartThings to turn on the kitchen lights, brew a pot of coffee, report the day’s weather, and turn on the user’s preferred new station on a Sonos Play1.

In another scenario, the homeowner can tell the SmartThings app that he is going to bed. The home will begin its bedtime routine, locking all the doors, turning off lights and the TV, adjusting the thermostat and more. The possibilities are truly limitless. More examples are shown in this video tour of the SmartThings CES Headquarters home: http://engt.co/1exAKGS.

So while your next car may not be able to fly, soon your house could certainly be a place where George Jetson would feel right at home. 

What’s next for the future of technology?

See what the Maestronauts predict in our Resources section.

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