The Connected World – And, What’s To Come

Everyone, it seems, is “connected” these days: By virtue of smartphones, laptops, tablets… and all of the associated enablements – business systems, Facebook, Twitter, chats, texts, pings, pokes, and updates…

But soon, everything will be connected. Already, there are washers and dryers that can apprise you for the status of their cycle via mobile app. Same for coffeemakers and such… why provide a litany? Research firm Gartner, Inc. estimates that by 2020, as many as 26 billion such devices will be connected to the internet – compare that with today’s mere 3 billion. Frankly, 26 billion seems a very conservative estimate.

Consider: You’ll soon be able to, if not already, remotely lock or unlock your home; turn on or off the heat – same for A/C; and control virtually any appliance by virtue of “smart” outlets – every electrical outlet in your home and business can be controlled via app, whether to turn it on or off, or establish a schedule of “power duration; auto on/off cycles” etc.

But further: Imagine technology so affordable that milk cartons have a chip that communicates with your mobile app for food safety and expiration dates. Even better: Wondering how long ago you bought that fruit in the ‘fridge, and whether those apples will still be crisp when you get home from work? Wonder no more… every day’s bags at the grocery store have a barcoded “today’s date” on them. When you put that bag of apples in the ‘fridge, the barcode gets scanned (by one of a number of readers on shelves, in drawers, on doors, etc.), the apples are dated, and you – in your chair at work – get a Reminder that the apples are reaching the end of their window for consumption. Inside the house, the ‘fridge has its own display panel on the outside of the door, with an itemized list showing expiration dates – sort by chronology, or alphabetically.

This can get a little scary. Some utility companies are already employing a measure of Smart Meters on homes that can discretionize energy consumption by type of use. In other words, they can apportion your consumption by percentage dedicated to environment (air/heat); entertainment (HDTV), and so forth. In fact, in the near future, there will be homes with smart outlets that operate in cooperation with appliances – appliances will do a “handshake” identification – virtually, “Hello energy meter; I’m a coffeemaker on Outlet #5.” Future electric bills will very likely include a breakdown by exactly how much power is being consumed by each individual item/category in the home, and by room.

What does this mean for business? Business will have the same discretionized bills – and you may use your own imagination as to how business can examine and tune their energy consumption.

Of course, there is a commercial/privacy tradeoff involved in all of this. For example: Chicago’s streetlights are monitoring its citizens: A bit of seemingly Big Brother oversight that has privacy concerns for some folks. This is not our focus here, and we’ll leave that for others to examine – but it has to be mentioned as an area for valid attention.

Meantime… I wonder if I locked my front door this morning?