The Internet of Things may not be that well-known amongst the public at the moment, but that is all set to change. The term, often abbreviated to IoT, refers to physical objects that are able to connect online, allowing them to send and receive information.
Looking forward, it will bring about an increase in data transfers that do not require human interaction. While the vast majority of information passing across a network is actively created by a human being either pressing a button or uploading content, the Internet of Things means countless devices will gather and process data passively.
While this definition includes smartphones, the Internet of Things is often used to describe objects that previously had no level of connectivity whatsoever. Already, companies are working on Internet-connected refrigerators, smart thermostats like those being developed by Nest and online-enabled transport infrastructure.
The difference between an IoT device and regular one can be subtle or distinct, but will likely impact on the object’s functionality in some way. An IoT light bulb, for example, allows you to control it remotely via Wi-Fi wherever you are, while the aforementioned Nest thermostat will learn when you change your home’s temperature and devise an optimal heating plan.
The Internet of Things, however, isn’t important simply for the number of gimmicky features it adds on to everyday household objects. It is expected to have a profound impact upon the way that we live our lives, in much the same way that smartphones have affected our behaviour.
Long term, IoT devices are expected to enable automation on a massive scale, affecting society in ways that go beyond employment figures. Self-driving cars and high-tech medical implants are just some of the IoT developments set to influence our lives in the not-so-distant future.
However, not all IoT changes are expected to be positive and to have a complete understanding of the Internet of Things one must also be aware of the disruptive impact it is predicted to have.
The increased number of wireless connections that the Internet of Things will initiate, naturally gives hackers more avenues of attack. While no high-profile IoT hacks have yet been noted, they are often mentioned by security researchers as a significant risk because the outcome of a cyberattack on a connected car for example could be far more damaging than any previously witnessed.
Even without malicious intent from the outside, the Internet of Things is still likely to disrupt many businesses, placing added strain on company infrastructure and leading to new privacy issues surrounding the extra data being created and stored.
For better or worse, the Internet of Things will ensure that the relationship between people, the Internet and everyday objects is unlikely to be the same again.