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What Is the "Internet of Things"?

The "Internet of Things" is everywhere. But what is it exactly? And how does it affect your life? Tech Talker delves into this hot new buzz word.

By
Eric Escobar,
Episode #114

The Future Is Now (Almost)

Let’s take a quick look at the not-so-distant future. Pretty soon, washers and driers will be WiFi-enabled in order to let you know when a load of laundry is done. Fridges will inform you when food has spoiled, when you need to pick up more milk, or if the temperature rises above a certain threshold. Your fire alarm would be connected wirelessly and send you a text message when it went off.

Everything I’ve mentioned so far currently exists. But soon enough your car will be able to sync with your internet to download maps and weather conditions, along with your favorite podcasts!

Your chair will have a pressure sensor in order to weigh you and determine your posture. Your bed will monitor your motion and determine how to provide a better way to sleep, and your sprinklers will keep track of the weather so that they don’t go off while it’s raining.

Hopefully by now you can see where this is all going! This may sound like a sci fi movie, but believe me, it's a lot closer than you think. In fact, the internet of things already exists all around you, from street lights, to buses, to water usage, and to pretty much any other measurable quantity you consume. There are little devices collecting vast amounts of data on virtually everything.

Is All This Automation and Connectivity Safe?

To some people, this can be unnerving. After all, it’s not always clear who has access to the data and who doesn’t. It’s also pretty scary to think that someone could hack your entire house, let alone your computer. With pretty much everything tech-related, there are some incredible possibilities for good and some frightening opportunities for exploitation.

Security is definitely a concern for these devices, as we saw in my episode on baby monitors that were hacked. Not to mention that hackers aren’t the only ones pining for access to data. Large companies would love any extra data on consumers in order to better predict spending habits and of course the NSA likes to keep tabs on…well…pretty much everything!

Personally, I love the idea of the Internet of Things. I recently purchased some chicks (yes, that's right, baby chickens) which are being monitored 24/7 with a temperature sensor and camera hooked up to my Raspberry Pi! This way I can check on them whenever and wherever.

The true power behind the Internet of Things is the automation and logic brought to devices that previously had none.

Next week I’ll be covering the Smart Grid and how exactly that ties into the Internet of Things.

With that here are your 3 Quick and Dirty highlights for the Internet of Things:

  1. Anything connected to the internet is a part of the internet of things (although this term itself usually refers to devices that are not traditionally connected to the internet such as washing machines or toasters).

  2. The Internet of Things is helping us to automate our lives in a number of ways.

  3. As time goes on, more and more things are being connected to the internet in order to collect data and analyze it, which poses some security questions.

Well, that’s it for today! Be sure to check out all my earlier episodes at quickanddirtytips.com/tech-talker. And if you have further questions about this podcast or want to make a suggestion for a future episode, post them on Facebook.com/QDTtechtalker.

Until next time, I’m the Tech Talker, keeping technology simple!

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