At some point in our lifetime, most of our daily devices will be connected to one another over the Internet – it’s called the Internet of Things. Technological firms big and small have joined the race. As major tech players open new paths, the race has sped up. And the future could be arriving sooner than we think.
When Stephen Hawking first said ‘We are all now connected by the Internet, like neurons in a giant brain’, he was referring to social media. Today, however, the quote aptly foretells The Internet of Things – or IoT – the wired or wireless connection of multiple devices over the Internet and how it will play out in our daily lives. Will we really be able to start the coffee machine from our beds, or monitor a parent’s well-being from tiny ‘fitbits’ in her body? Or will it be much more than that? It’s still early to say. But the schematics are there and the world’s tech giants are building their future on it, in a much faster pace than predicted. Let’s have a look at some of their recent leaps forward.
Samsung: Last but not least
Here in Asia, Samsung is developing a dedicated chip called Exynos i T200 for the Internet of Things. Not waiting to be the last to create a software platform for IoT, Samsung unveiled the Tizen 4.0 in May this year, its answer to Microsoft’s Azure and Amazon’s Web Services. It is gearing up for the projected exponential growth of IoT that will culminate in 200 billion devices by the year 2020. By creating an IoT platform of its own, Samsung will have a bridge between its devices and the data networks, the basic infrastructure for IoT. As a company which produces a myriad of consumer devices from personal computers to mobile phones to refrigerators, it is a fundamental first step in securing a foothold in IoT. Samsung will also be one of the first consumer product companies to do so.
Google: Now open for businesses
Earlier this year, Google announced a private beta version of their Google IoT Core Platform. Quite simply, Google has opened up their IoT platform for business users: now for the first time, businesses can securely connect devices and integrate data over Google‘s IoT Cloud. This allows users to monitor, analyse, and predict consumer usage and trends in real-time. In the coming year(s), it will also enable transportation and logistics firms to efficiently stage vehicles, vessels, and aircraft in the right places at the right times. This small but significant move also seems to pave the way for the other Google initiative – Waymo, Google’s automated self-driving campaign. We might soon see technology beyond self-driving cars: automated fleets could possibly drive or even fly themselves to preset destinations in the near IoT future. As Google starts connecting the dots between its wide-ranging technological assets, a bigger picture begins to emerge.
Apple: Watch this one closely
As we all know, the last thing we use the Apple Watch for is to check the time. Smartwatches like Apple Watch will likely take over fitness trackers like Fitbit, and more. As a means to record and transmit exercise, health statistics and progress, the Apple Watch not only syncs with your iPhone, but also with your hospital and insurance companies one day. After the iPhone and iPod live-changing revolutions, Apple has been looking at the Apple Watch as the next breakthrough, as ‘the next iPhone’ – by bringing the phone to your wrist. Alas at the recent iPhone’s 10th-anniversary event, Apple launched their first ever watch with cellular connectivity. However, for a visionary like Apple, it wouldn’t be surprising that this is merely a fundamental feature for the Watch’s IoT capabilities to come.
GE: The Digital Twins of All Things
Since late last year, General Electric (GE) has started constructing a digital platform that aims to be ‘all things to all machines’, as The Economist put it. Massive machine data collected through industrial networks will emerge as ‘digital twins’ of the machines themselves, allowing users to fully control the workings of entire machine fleets from an engine room keyboard. This is the industrial-scale version of the IoT, one that seems out to take over every gear, bearing and spindle around us. GE is known for making jet engines, locomotives, and wind turbines – but it also produces the things we see everyday like televisions and CCTV cameras. Will we one day have digital twins of ourselves made from the data captured by machines? WIll the Internet of Things then be able to not only mirror our movements but to dictate it?
So who will be the ‘giant brain’?
Indeed, ‘we are all now connected by the Internet, like neurons in a giant brain’. And in light of the recent advances in IoT, we now ask ourselves, ‘whose giant brain will it be?’ We don’t have to look far for the answer. Industrial-scale clouds are tapping our business information and assets. Home base units like Amazon Echo and Google Home machine-learns everything about our daily lives. The real race is to capture the most valuable space in IoT – our knowledge, our thinking, our experiences, and our condition, every second of the day. As every tech player knows, the one with the biggest, richest data network and reach will be the brain of the Internet of All Things.