The Internet of Things is one of the biggest hype words of the 21st century. Real-time connected objects and new information networks are said to lead to huge economical growth. What rarely gets said, however, is that the core of the Internet of Things is not things at all. Rather, IoT is about:
- Us, the user
A hyper-connected society means more user control. We won’t have to look randomly for trash cans, polling stations, transportation or restaurants anymore. Instead we’ll have advanced ways of finding exactly what we need when we need it. Machine learning will make environments adapt to each individual user: relevant information and services tailored specifically for you will show up.
- New kinds of cities
When thinking about IoT as individual things, we forget what makes these things work, namely infrastructure. The urban internet of things will actually be an all-surrounding Internet of Everything. In future cities, traffic flows will be optimised in real time, heating systems adapt to weather conditions and many things that we currently own will be available as on-demand services.
- Disruptive business models
Sensors can tell us the shape, size and temperature of any given thing near them. New solutions can make use of all the endless information on the web real-time. This means that whole industries will be disrupted by firms whose business model benefits from new information. Imagine a moving firm that can fit multiple loads in one truck and optimize routes so that everything is done in half the time. Or thermostats that adapt to long-term weather forecasts as well as building data.
Smarter environments mean more information about things and their functioning but also more information about us. It is very relevant, who has access to this information and how it is distributed across networks. While tailor-made and optimized services bring huge advantages, we need to make sure that there is room for democratic decisions about what we actually want out of the smart society. The hyper-connected society needs to be built bottom-up together with citizens.