2017 was a strange year for a lot of reasons, with the main focus falling on Donald Trump. But as it draws to a close, it’s time to take a moment and reflect at how much of an impact technology has had on our lives. We now talk to our phones like it’s an actual human being (not a robot), sit inside cars without actually driving them, and even have shoes tie their own laces when we step in them.
In such a world it’s almost a sin to not know how inter-connected all our modern devices are. Our phones can talk to our TVs, which can also talk to our security systems which can then talk back to lights and even doors.
Internet of Things (IoT): The basics
To understand how devices can talk to each other in broad terms is easy. We humans can talk because of speech, with which we built languages. Those of us who know the same languages communicate among ourselves easily. So applying a similar approach to devices – all Instant Knockout ‘smart’ devices are smart because they are connected to the internet and they all communicate in the only language that machines speak – an endless stream of 0’s and 1’s which are combined and arranged in different ways for different commands.
We may not speak the same language as our connected devices do, but we still understand each other.
Easy right? Let’s explore this idea a little further. Imagine we as humans have only grown smarter because of the collective knowledge of past and continued efforts in our present. It’s the same with machines, which are getting smarter because of shared knowledge between each other and, of course, the internet. The internet forms the backbone for our smart devices and they seamlessly communicate with each other.
Every device talks, but not all listen
While all our smart devices are connected to the same internet, they are designed for specific chores only. A smart bulb cannot make you coffee and a smart hub cannot drive you to work. While all these devices can talk to each other, there’s no guarantee that one device connected to the internet will definitely communicate with another. In fact, the smartphone seems to be the only smart device that can connect to pretty much any smart device you’d want in your smart home.
We know there are smart bulbs available in the market, but most of these can be controlled only by smartphones. Not your laptops and/or desktops, even though they are also connected to the internet. The limiting factor here is the specialised app that was created for the bulb to work. Apps for such smart devices are limited to phones, which makes sense, since we carry them everywhere we go.
Get devices talking
So now that we know how apps can take care of communicating our wishes as commands to these devices, we only have to know a few more things. First, let’s talk about the need to have inter-connected devices talking to each other.
You’re tired after a hard day’s work and you step out of your office, tap on your smartphone to summon your smart car and by the time you hit the road outside, the car is ready and waiting for you. All you need to do is then talk to her, ask her to take you home while you relax to some jazz music on its music system. The car keeps checking local traffic and takes the fastest route home, while reminding you to pick up groceries that your wife texted you about.
Once you reach home, the door automagically opens as it senses its rightful owner approaching. You can then use your smartphone to change the lights, check the thermostat and even talk to your digital hub about what’s been happening in the world. All of this is not science fiction, it’s slowly turning into a new reality.
We already have cars like the Tesla Model 3, which can drive itself, Google’s Home & Nest to be your digital assistant as well as smart thermostat respectively and all of these devices can be controlled via your handy smartphone.
Does it actually work?
So how can one enjoy a scenario like the one described above? For starters, invest in smart tech. For a digital hub, you’ll need something like an Amazon Echo or Google Home. These devices act as the heart of the operation and are always listening for an input command. Next, you’ll need a smart bulb system like Philips Hue. Then a central smart thermostat unit like Google Nest. Throw in a bunch of Smart TVs and smart home appliances and voila, you’re all set.
The only downside? Since all of them need connectivity to the internet, you’ll need a very good router and/or range extenders to ensure there is Wi-Fi throughout your home. A good steady connection is just the beginning as you also need good bandwidth. If you can manage both these, then ensure that the monthly cap on your internet usage is generous. With so many devices using the internet, there’s going to be a lot of bandwidth used. A whole lot.
High speed Internet may be the biggest challenge for large-scale adoption of interconnected devices in India.
So even though the idea works, there are certain limitations. In India, Google is yet to officially launch Nest or Home. Amazon isn’t interested in launching the Echo here either, but that may soon change in the coming year. If bandwidth and other regulatory issues are sorted quickly then we’re going to see a surge in the use of IoT devices. All that only need to be plugged in, connected to the internet and controlled via appropriate apps.
The future: exciting or dangerous?
While there are many concerns of hacking into such an inter-connected world, it’s too early to predict how the future unfolds. Whether the Terminators rise powered by AI we built for them, or we control it fully to our advantage is anyone’s guess.
But we’re definitely going down a road of devices that will keep communicating with each other. And keep building their Matrix.