The internet is lauded for its uncanny efficiency in connecting humans to one another and to large amounts of data. Eventually all of our devices — from fridges to cars to phones to the chips embedded in our skin — will be online and connected to one another. The IoT is poised to make all these connections happen.
Many devices originally created to work with the IoT were designed to become a part of smart homes, which were marketed largely to Gen Xers and baby boomers intending to age-in-place. Home automation is a reality now and it shows no sign of slowing down with new innovations constantly coming out on the market. Beyond smart and age-in-place homes, IoT devices are breaking away from traditional platforms and into the health care, criminal justice, and education sectors. Here are a few examples of what that may look like over the next decade.
As technology advances, nurses’ duties change and expand while some of the more monotonous tasks are eliminated. This allows nurses to focus more on their patients’ well-being. The scope of nurses’ responsibilities is likely to transform dramatically as wearable devices like blood sugar monitors and brain-computer interfaces cut down on nurses’ time investment with each individual patient.
At the same time, the digitization of patient data brings an added layer of complication in terms of security. Hospitals are so well-known for their poor security and laissez-faire attitude about software upgrades, that many hackers on the dark web have declared them off-limits. But if the 2016 doping scandal leaks taught us anything, it’s that a hacker’s code of ethics are subjective. Hospitals have been hit hard by hackers in the past, and they will surely be hit again in the future if they do not take proper security precautions. Medical offices will need to hire data analysts and network specialists to ensure that sensitive patient data remains in the right hands and is efficiently streamlined into existing electronic health records.
IoT presents good news for patients, too. Both Google and Apple have been working on smart contact lenses that can measure glucose levels in tears. In the future this could allow diabetics to avoid getting poked with needles for those painful blood tests. Types of IoT technology include remote monitoring of patient, telemedicine via smartphone messaging, online chat or video conferencing, and location tracking of dementia patients and people who fall. IoT can also help patients modify certain behaviors such as exercise, eating habits and addiction management. Even more exciting, a prototype of a sticker skin-sensor has been recently created by a computer science team at the University of Washington in Seattle. A simple wireless sensor could remotely monitor vital signs such as temperature, sweat, cardiac activity, and more.
The increasing number of public surveillance cameras is no secret, but data is starting to be used to predict high-risk locations and victimization risk. Predictive policing technology, along with citizen and official city-led police monitoring, should in theory be able to be utilized effectively. Short-term illegal activity can be predicted in certain areas based on the data. As a result, law enforcement will have an increased presence in the area to monitor potential crime.
However, this data needs to be carefully monitored and analyzed by trained professional data analysts and scientists.
Earlier this year, police used a man’s pacemaker data as a key piece of evidence to charge him with burning his house down and trying to commit insurance fraud. Cops looked at his heart rate, pace demand, and cardiac rhythms before, during and after fire. The data didn’t match the story he told about timing of the incident.
However, as criminal investigators seek to use data as evidence, they must have a balancing act between justice and privacy, otherwise lawsuits are waiting to happen.
Education-related apps have joined the fray to become another field poised to embrace IoT technology. Some of the big leaps are happening at the college level.
For example, many college football stadiums use sensors connected to Wi-Fi to monitor things like temperature, leaky faucets, and even noise levels within the stadium. These data-driven observations then allow them to work on things like tracking parking availability and concession/restroom wait times. The final magnificent step is to make all of that useful information available to mobile phone users in the stadium, giving them more time at the game and less waiting in lines.
Another application includes campus washing machines texting students when their clothes are ready to be taken out. In collegiate sports, coaches and trainers can track information of their athletes weight and body fat, as well as air quality to optimize training schedules. The possibilities are endless.
Someday, every device you own and every object you can fathom will be connected to the internet. It could be through your phone, wearables, and everyday household items. IoT will connect us in ways that we don’t even know yet. The industries above will already be ahead of the curve.