By Justin H.
At Living Computers: Museum + Labs, our Internet of Things Workshop, powered by Xfinity, features our version of a smart home where guests can interact with everything from a seat that tweets, customizable lighting, and smart speakers to robotic vacuums and home security locks and systems
According to IoT analytics firms, in 2019 the number of internet-connected devices hit 9.5 billion with estimated projections of 64 billion by 2025. These include consumer connected devices such as smart speakers (Google Home, Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod, etc.), toys, and wearables that have unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network. These devices automate processes like entertainment (try saying “Alexa, play the Animal Game”), keep citizens informed (“Hey Google, tell me the news"), and connect more people of diverse backgrounds than ever before through multilanguage capabilities and support.
Collectively, these devices allow us to automate our routines and manage them accordingly in a new world called the “Internet of Things.” IoT provides the infrastructure for “smart homes” that make up more efficient and better-connected smart cities. These cities can use data-driven solutions
to create greater efficiency and promote informed decisions for their residents.
Smart homes are defined as “residences that use internet-connected devices to enable the remote monitoring and management of appliances and systems.” In a smart home, a user can drive home and use their smartphone to open their garage door. Walking up to their front door, a camera mounted on the doorbell may automatically turn on once the user enters the porch. Upon entering the home, the thermostat is already adjusted to the desired temperature and the lights are set to the user’s preferred dimness level. A simple request to a smart speaker provides recipes for the evening and news headlines. These devices can be set to turn on every time the user enters the room.
A wearable fitness tracker can not only monitor the user’s steps and progression, but adjust goals based upon weekly performance. The user can control washer and dryer cycles through smartphone apps or virtual assistants with the added benefit of monitoring energy use. The benefit to the user is clear: they can customize their environment to suit their needs leading to better decisions about when to buy a product (like detergent). Or they can save energy by turning everything off at night by just saying “good night.”
As IoT technology provides greater automation, control, and convenience to our homes, it also offers data-driven solutions to enable better decision-making in large cities. These smart cities often consist of three major layers. A base layer deploys a variety of digital technologies like switches and sensors that are fed constant information (traffic flow and energy use, for example) about our social and physical world. This data is then transmitted through computer networks and analyzed by software applications.
Finally, we see the adoption and usage of these apps in order to build practical solutions to everyday problems. In a June 2018 report by the McKinsey Global Institute, analysts projected that the adoption of these technologies in major cities could lead to 20-35% faster emergency response times, 15-30 minutes shaved off of daily commutes, a whopping 30-40% fewer crime incidents, and 25-80 liters of water saved per person per day. The creation and refinement of these routines allows us to use the Internet of Things to spend less time on labor, highlight sustainable practices, and promote greater efficiency and connectivity among users.