December 18, 2015
It's True, These Items Have Internet
By now, you have probably heard of the Internet of Things, even if it's one of those catchphrases that leave you a little perplexed as to its exact meaning, like "cloud" technology when it first entered the public lingo. You may even own a piece of the IoT (as us hip kids call it) and don't even know it. And that is exactly what we want to talk about today: everyday objects with Internet connectivity.
Before we delve into all of the odd network-enabled oddities you can purchase, we should first get a sound understanding of what, exactly, the Internet of Things is all about. Probably the easiest way to do that is with a simple explanation. The IoT is all about connectivity, linking devices and objects to the Web or a network so that you can communicate with them. It is just that simple.
For instance, one growing area of the IoT is "smart" home technology. A key component of this is lighting and alarm systems, and this is probably the area of the IoT that most people are familiar with. Essentially, smart homes let you control various electrical components (or appliances connected to those components) through an Internet-connected phone, tablet, or computer. Maybe you are out later than you expected and you want to turn on your porch lights, for example. With a smart grid, you could log into your lights and turn them on by using a simple phone app. Or maybe the housekeeper forgot the alarm code and you need to reset the system; again, if it is network-enabled, you could do so from work or while you are away on vacation.
Of course, not all of the gadgets under the umbrella of the Internet of Things are as utilitarian. There are some surprising (if not downright odd) items that you can communicate with, regardless of whether logic dictates that you should be able to or not!
One of these oddball items is the My Satis smart toilet. For a hefty fee (over $4,000), you can own a toilet that you can "chat" with via your smartphone. In addition to flushing it with an app, you can also do interesting things like lift and close the lid and even control the bidet. While this may seem like an odd device to have connected to a network, if you are particularly germ-phobic, it could come in handy. Or maybe if you really need to control whether the seat is lifted or not ...
But not everything is sunshine and roses with smart toilet tech or even IoT in general. A downside to having connected devices is that they can be controlled remotely by anyone with the ability to hack into your system. That means the 12-year-old hacker at the end of your street could spend hours amusing himself by randomly flushing your toilet or flipping on your bidet at the worst possible moment. It's food for thought.
Another interesting IoT item is Ralph Lauren"s Polo Tech Shirt. For those of you who are tech-savvy and worried about having a chiseled look, this high-tech piece of clothing might be right up your alley. Thanks to woven fibers embedded in the shirt, you can monitor all types of biometric data from your workouts, including your heart rate, breathing depth, steps taken, and even calories burned. It's pretty nifty.
These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes the interesting world of the Internet of Things (picture a loud booming voice echoing when you read that aloud). Philips Lighting Hue bulbs, Medtronic"s Continuous Glucose Monitoring device, and even smart toasters are all part of the new connected world.
So next time you want your toast light brown, skip the guesswork and just "tell" your toaster how you like your warmed bread. Thanks to the IoT, it is now listening with bated breath!