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The following article was submitted by Charles Bell for inclusion on Vancouverscape and was edited for style and tone.

More and more, we’re hearing about the Internet Of Things (often abbreviated as IoT), a technological shift that will significantly change and enhance our lifestyles.

At its most basic, the IoT is simply about the connection of “things” — WiFi-enabled devices, sensors and online networks — for the purpose of information sharing. These things gather data relevant to their individual purposes and send that data to connected systems either to affect an automatic response or for analytical purposes.

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This is something already seen in many aspects of a modern, wired lifestyle, the most visible example being fitness bands popular with exercise enthusiasts. Once your run is complete, a band on your wrist automatically compiles data about that run and sends it to a program on your phone or computer for you to analyze and react accordingly to.
 
But where are the larger applications for the IoT? Where is it going from here, as so many more “things” get connected in the years ahead? To some extent we can only guess, but here are a few broad areas in which the IoT is going to have a major impact on society.

Assisting The Disadvantaged

We can already see a few major ways in which the spread of the IoT offers new types of assistance to those who are disadvantaged or unhealthy. For instance, it’s common to hear about implanted devices that can alert physicians if an at-risk patient experiences a spike in blood sugar or heart rate.

One new IoT application helps the visually impaired navigate the world by enabling sensors to reach out to other “things” in the environment and effectively guide them safely along. This is merely one example, but it shows just how broadly the IoT can impact people’s lives in a positive way.

Streamlining Huge Companies

One of the key ways in which the IoT has already been implemented at a relatively early stage is in its ability to streamline operations for large companies. The impact is multi-faceted, but a few examples stand out. For instance, some major retail chains have begun to use the IoT to improve store experiences by placing beacon sensors in their stores.

These beacons can recognize and reach out to customers, personalizing a shopping experience by guiding them to products, special deals and so forth. On a more behind-the-scenes level, we’ve also seen major retailers using the IoT to make supply chains more efficient, with sensors tracking inventory, assisting with vehicle fleet management, even improving factory conditions. Changes like these stand to improve company operations and company-consumer relations in major ways.

Surveillance
[Photo credit: Jonathon McIntosh on Flickr]

Sparking Surveillance Debates

Finally, we know that the IoT is a loaded gun when it comes to surveillance by governments and private security companies. Recently, U.S. government officials admitted the potential, which naturally raises the privacy issue now and in the future.
 
A full discussion on the IoT’s potential can occupy countless pages. That being said, these are some of the biggest areas in which we can expect to see changes in the coming years. What are your thoughts on the IoT? We welcome your comments below.

Top image credit: BTNHD Production on Flickr.

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