No doubt you’ve heard of the Internet of Things – or the IoT, as it is often known. There’s a lot of talk about it right now, although, perhaps surprisingly, it’s not a new concept (it got its name way back in 1999).
To some people, it may sound like just another buzzword, but in fact it’s gaining momentum in leaps and bounds. And it’s set to change our lives in ways we can only begin to imagine.
What is the Internet of Things?
As the name suggests, the IoT involves ‘things’. These ‘things’ can be any of a wide range of devices or objects, and each of them has a unique identifier and the ability to transfer data over a network. They function without requiring any human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. Instead, they harness wireless technology, micro-electromechanical systems and the internet, and communicate – machine to machine.
Home automation systems are one example of the Internet of Things. For instance, Sandal’s MiHome system allows users to remotely control and monitor their entire home – including heating, lighting and appliances. Similarly, ‘Nest’ from Google and the British Gas ‘Hive’ device both allow users to control their home’s heating from a mobile, laptop or tablet.
Amazon recently launched its Dash Button – a Wi-Fi-enabled ordering device that makes it possible for consumers to order selected bulk goods, such as washing powder, at the touch of a button. Other IoT examples include street waste bins that automatically alert the council when they need emptying, devices to allow relatives to remotely monitor ageing family members, and wearable devices that enable a user to track their own activity levels via their smartphone.
The future of the Internet of Things
According to Gartner, there will be nearly 26 billion IoT devices by 2020 and ‘the growth in IoT will far exceed that of other connected devices’. One of the knock-on effects of the increasing number of IoT devices will be a massive growth in the amount of data generated.
This itself presents an opportunity to make even smarter IoT devices through the amalgamation of real-time data with historical data. Take farming for example – sensors on machinery will transmit data about soil conditions to be combined with historical data, such as weather events, market conditions and past machine settings. The results will then be used to determine the best and most cost-effective farming processes. Similarly, smart homes will combine current data from sensors with accumulated data from past activity, including the behaviour patterns of the occupants, to regulate heating and lighting appropriately.
The IoT isn’t just for farmers and homeowners though. Already it’s finding applications in everything from medical devices to cars, intelligent shopping systems, environmental monitoring and many others areas. Even the UK government is paying attention to the potential of the IoT.
In March 2015 the chancellor pledged £40 million for the Internet of Things in his budget. The money will be used to fund ‘business incubators and research hubs to develop interconnected technologies for healthcare, social care and the government’s “smart cities” initiative’.
So, there can be little doubt that the Internet of Things is not just a buzzword but the next stage of the information revolution.
Investing in the Internet of Things
How can you invest in the IoT? Well, you could simply buy Sandal’s MiHome for your home or you could invest in the company itself as Sandal is raising finance via SyndicateRoom.
The lead investor is City and Merchant, and for the first time ever in equity crowdfunding you can invest via your ISA with EIS also available as an option.