HomeEditorial CommentThe Internet of Things (IoT) will change the future of life

The Internet of Things (IoT) will change the future of life

The Internet of Things (IoT) is upon us. There is cut-throat competition of global proportions for the most connectivity. Industry’s future, both in the developed and under-developed/developing countries, will never be the same again. With the race comes the competition for data and information on which production systems, markets and economic growth are heavily dependent.

By Fredrick Mandizvidza

In some of my previous articles, I argued that virtual value chains being products of internet-based cutting-edge and disruptive technologies, are the future of progressive economies. In this article, the argument is that no economy will avoid the IoT and hope to survive and successfully compete in global markets. Both disruptive technologies and virtual value chains can only derive value-adding forms and economic substance from the IoT.

Humanity continues to create and invent advanced technologies as part of human development. The IoT is certainly one and not the last of such achievements. By definition, the IoT refers to the connectivity of many gadgets by people whose objective is to find smart solutions from the use of technology. In essence, it involves deployment of various internet-driven software applications and technologies in order to simplify, filling it with exciting experiences. An array of sensors are linked to, and with each other, coordinating information and data useful in the interpretation and analysis of human surroundings. With advanced technological capabilities, man can unlock his God-given ingenuity as he interacts with the world around him. This is the core of the unpacking of life on earth.

When talking about the IoT what should come to mind is the creation of “smart environments” driven by internet connected intelligent systems. The essence of the evolution of technology is nothing else other than the quest for “smart solutions” to life’s problems and challenges, thus tapping into the best of life’s experiences human creativity can offer. Obviously, this has always been the force that drives human creativity and innovation to new frontiers never ventured into before. Thus the IoT cannot be an exception.

Let us take the discussion closer to our daily experiences. Imagine getting into a home in the era of the IoT. Call it a “smart home”. Everything about this home is connected to the internet. In fact, there are several gadgets connected to each other, sharing information and data required to solve problems or to improve the quality of life. Each of the gadgets is required to solve a specific problem. That is what technology must do for human beings.

Imagine having the doors of the home fitted with biometric or optometric intelligence systems to enable communication with its owner. Through eye contact, fingers or using other parts of the human body the door can open for the owner to enter. If it is not the owner’s body parts, the door will not open. It can also use the shape of its owner’s face or even his/her voice. In the absence of the right shape of the face or the right voice, the door will not open up. However, more importantly, the connectivity and communication will be extended to the owner’s smart phone!

As one enters the house, the door communicates on a number of issues. It can describe the situation inside each room in respect of temperature, atmospheric pressure or other related factors.

Apart from the above information the house can also report any break-ins, fire outbreaks, detection of smoke or water leakages through messages to the owner’s smart phone. Such capabilities enable the owner to respond quickly thereby saving life, property and money.

Also imagine with some of the sensors having been connected to the garden watering system, monitoring the moisture level in the garden and lawn. When the moisture level drops resulting in plant stress, a message is sent to the owner’s smartphone while at the same time triggering automatic irrigation of the garden or lawn. When the right moisture is attained the irrigation automatically stops thereby saving water.

Some of the important problems addressed by the IoT at domestic level include food monitoring and quality management. For instance, the refrigerator can be connected to the owner’s smart phone to give him/her realtime information on the quantity and state of foods in the refrigerator. Messages are sent to one’s smart phone wherever they will be each time the doors of the fridge are opened. We all want to get access to information such as the food types, quantities left, temperature and date of expiry in respect of food stocks in our refrigerators. Access to such information is often difficult leading to stock-outs and loss of food stuffs as well as money. Stock outs and “best-by” dates will easily be managed resulting in improved quality of food. With the IoT costs of food will be reduced by having access to, and making use of, such information.

Some might wonder were the future business will be in all this fray of things. Forward-looking companies need to identify special opportunities and niches in areas driven by the IoT. Companies that will specialise in manufacturing and distribution of gadgets required for such connectivity will have guaranteed future business. This is where markets of the future will be.

Siemens maintains that the future of manufacturing will be dominated by digitalisation and advanced industrial communications. The company also rightly argues that, “To meet the challenges of a globalised world, industrial companies today are taking advantage of digitalization to achieve the right synthesis of equipment reliability, production flexibility and market competitiveness.”

The challenge is for futuristic industrialists to start figuring out how to create demand for such future products and services around smart industries and homes. Institutions of higher learning should also start working on the development of skills for smart industries such as IoT-based engineers, technology architectural designers and manufacturers of sensors for smart environments.

Young generations must be equipped with special skills and competencies to enable them to navigate through, and explore around, the uncharted IoT jungle. Without any doubt, jobs of the future reside right inside the belly of the IoT. Only the bold and the courageous to embrace the IoT – those among us who are talented with technological ingenuity, futuristic insight, foresight and unconventional dreams – will create and shape the future and experience of life. The IoT must be viewed as the next generation master code God has given mankind to unlock the next most exciting and unique phase of life on earth.

Fredrick is the CEO for the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (ZIMDEF) and writes in his personal capacity. He is a doctoral scholar in technology entrepreneurship and is contacted on fmandizvidza@zimdef.co.zw

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