I’m going to show you the future.
I suppose I can’t actually fully promise that as the future could very well be a smouldering crater with Jeff Bezos rapidly zipping beyond the horizon en route to his Mars penthouse, but I digress.
I’m going to show you one version of the future, a version that is already starting to seep into your everyday life without you knowing it.
I’m talking about the Internet of Things.
The Internet of Things is a rather grandiose term, but it basically means embedding physical objects with sensors and software, which allow it to share data or “speak” to other “smart” physical objects over the Internet.
Digitising everyday objects like this can lead to massive savings on cost, more optimal performance and even things like increased health benefits for users as processes become more and more efficient.
Now, you may be wondering, as almost all people who speak to me do, what the actual f*ck am I talking about?
It's easier if I show you, so let’s dive in.
A large part of the Internet Of Things push is bringing the ruthless efficiency of warehouse management to the home, which sounds awful but appeals to people like me who hear “efficiency” and start weeping with joy.
One thing that warehouses do to maintain efficiency is they have “smart machines” that can regulate themselves and notify managers when they are in need of, or close to need of, repair.
This reduces costs for warehouse administrators as they don’t go into work one day to find Machine 32B swinging Jerry the work experience kid around by his ankles, and can repair machines before they actually break.
Now we have an increase in the amount of “smart” cars on the road, that include mini computers and sensors inside them, we can apply this same logic to your trusty automobile.
Instead of breaking down in a forgotten corner of the world and being hunted by chainsaw-wielding cannibals, in the future, your car will be able to tell you via an app or an email that it is need of repair, an oil change or that one of the cannibals is hiding in the backseat, before any of those equally bad situations arises, saving you time, money and the experience of becoming a stew.
I once lived in an apartment that genuinely had a breeze in it because the windows were so bad and a family of tap-dancing pigeons that lived in the attic.
That’s kind of half related to the story, but it illustrates my point that a lot of abodes aren’t quite up to scratch.
That will be a thing of the past with the Internet of Things.
Instead of relying on human judgements for things like when to turn the heating on and whether doors actually get locked, a “smart” home will be able to use predictive analytics alongside external variables like outside temperature and whether anyone is home to control energy output, drastically reducing your costs and the amount of times you have to drive home to check whether you actually did turn the hob off.
It is to be seen whether it would be able to help with the pigeons though, maybe a laser?
I can’t really sum up smart fridges better than the below video, so like a teacher with a blistering hangover and a lack of lesson planning, I’m wheeling out a video to help me.
I’m still working on my Casio blog, but it’s now turned into a 3 piece, Lord of the Ring’s-esque love ballad to cheap and efficient Japanese wristwear. However, I also own a smartwatch and recently used the mountain of data it produces to run an empirical test on how sleep impacts my productivity.
The veritable treasure trove of data that smartwatches collect on us poses ethical concerns, but at the same time, can give you a view on your health that otherwise would be completely unachievable.
Combining this health data with other smart devices, potentially like a smart fridge to track consumption of food, or a coffee machine to track consumption of caffeine, will lead to a personalised standard of healthcare which will produce much more impactful results than catch-all guidance at the moment.
Imagine a future where you get real-time updates on how your sleep will impact your mood, how much caffeine you should intake and when, and a personalised diet plan, all completed in a matter of seconds. That future is almost here.
It’s not just you that will be able to benefit from the horn of plenty that the Internet of Things will be able to provide.
There are roughly a billion pets worldwide to our best estimation, although I once kept a house spider called Woody in a jar and still hold hope that he is alive out there somewhere, so let’s play it safe and call it a billion and one.
Pets are big business, but they also lack the important ability to speak, so it’s notoriously hard to know what they are thinking or feeling at any given time.
That’s why things like smart pet collars are becoming an increasingly big business, to help owners monitor their dogs' health and work out why they keep eating unspeakable horrors in the garden.
As someone who recently lost a pet, I know that I’d have loved an insight into how he was feeling in those last few years, and the best choices I could have made to make him as happy as he made me.
That got depressing, so if you are feeling like you want to put a fork into a plug socket, some time in the near future you won’t be able to!
Plug sockets are a very small application of the Internet of Things methodology, but it goes to show just how pervasive the digitisation will become.
With a “smart” plug socket, you’ll be able to turn lights on and off from your phone, check whether you left the iron plugged in from across the world and even bypass using central heating for a more efficient electric heater by wiring the plug up to turn on when the room temperature hits a certain level.
You’ll also be able to accurately measure output of each plug socket, so you can see just how much you are spending each time you charge up your devices and which outlets are the least energy efficient.
Okay okay, you probably won’t be using this one directly in the next ten years, but I just read Chip War and I wanted to talk about factories so I snuck it in here.
Warehouses and manufacturing plants aim to be ruthlessly efficient, and the more efficient they are, the less their costs are and (theoretically at least) the cheaper they can sell you goods for.
The Internet of Things will provide these industrialists with the ability to parse incoming orders, turn on packing machines, move products and ship to consumers all without the use of a human.
Amazon, for example, now has a whopping 750,000 robots that it uses in its factories to “free” up human staff. Possibly free them up so much they don’t ever have to come back, but again, that’s to be seen.
Despite Tye Brady, Amazon Robotics’ Chief Technologist, assuring us that humans are indispensable to the supply chain, I just don’t believe that’s quite true.
When reading Chip War, one of the major reasons that chip fabrication was moved from the US to markets like Taiwan was that in these developing markets you can get workforces to work harder, for longer and for less.
You know what can work harder for longer and less than a person? A robot.
A company like Amazon knows that the efficiency of its fulfilment process is its greatest weapon, and when it realises that it can have 24 hour, fully automated factories, I think it will make the jump.
Do you already use any of the above devices? Has an Amazon robot ever tried to kill you, despite the three laws of Robotics? Leave a comment below!