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Drew Turney
Technology Journalist

Drew Turney writes about technology, science, film, books, pop culture and the crossroads between any or all of them

Drew Turney
Technology Journalist

Drew Turney writes about technology, science, film, books, pop culture and the crossroads between any or all of them

In the next few years, everything from trains to shoes will connect to the internet. Things will have built-in sensors that will transfer data over the network, and the information they generate is bound to make life easier for business.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is where everything else (i.e. not just your computer, tablet and smartphone) connects to the internet. The machines that will form the IoT will talk to each other in the background, without human input.

They'll automate performance and maintenance, marketing and accounting and much more. And give you a deeper and faster look at your personal and businesses data than you've ever had before.You're driving home from work when you get a text that a brake pad is worn and you have an appointment at a mechanic just around the corner to replace it.But you didn’t make a booking?

It must have been the IoT – your car's computer system, constantly monitoring the resistance to the brake pads, sensed they needed replacing. It checked the GPS on your phone to see where you were and searched online for a well-reviewed mechanic in your area.

red shoe with computer mouse

Machines talking to machines

To most of us, the internet means websites where we do stuff, but the internet is a communication platform and soon a lot more stuff will be wired up with sensors or computers of their own, all of it communicating constantly. Depending on the estimates, between 20 and 60 billion more devices will connect to the internet worldwide in the next five years.Stressed out at work? Clothes and shoes will monitor your physical condition and health and report to your doctor.

Cash registers in retail will change shop inventories as products are purchased. On leaving work, your internet-connected lights, heater or air-conditioner and hi-fi are turned on, making walking in the door of your home much more welcoming.It's going to mean a world full of new data where everything can talk to everything else and give you new insight into what your customers are looking for, what they did before, what they're wearing, their state of health, even the state of repair of their car or appliances.

A big data overload?

More importantly, the huge amount of information all those sensors will generate is going to be handled by other machines. Computers themselves are going to process everything (i.e. big data) and only pick out the bits we're interested in.The smart electricity meter in many Australian buildings is a good example. You don't have to watch your usage every minute, but it's very good at helping you plan an energy use strategy.

The IoT is already a reality in heavy industry. A large passenger plane engine has so many computers attached it generates 5,000 bits of information every second (one terabyte every day). It gives airlines a much clearer picture about how the plane's performing under different conditions and lets them make changes to save energy on fuel, design better engines, make the flight more comfortable, etc.

And with the Internet of Things trickling into the small business and consumer fields with tools such as Apple Watch and FitBit, the reality is that computers embedded in everything from your car to your shoes are coming, and they'll let you make better informed decisions faster.

Hear more

Watch these Ted Talks from Dr John Barrett and Marco Annunziata.

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