Welcome to the Internet of Things

Claire Mawisa
By Claire Mawisa | Follow @clairemawisa
Claire Mawisa is a South African television presenter, model and radio personality best known for being an SABC1 continuity presenter (1999-2001), as well as for co-hosting the SABC1 music variety show One, from 2002-2003. After many years working in radio and television, and opening her own business, Claire joined the [...] See full profile

Internet of Things

It’s 2016, and I think it’s time we take Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and rework it a little. Once we do, we will all agree that a strong Wi-Fi connection can be classified as a fundamental need to survive in the modern world, and Wi-Fi would be the new base of that pyramid. What would life be without internet access? ‘Bleak’ is the word you were looking for.

You may think that we’ve reached the pinnacle of the age of convenience, but it’s only just begun.

In the information age, it is the internet that connects you to the world. Our complete sets of Encyclopaedia Britannica on the shelf no longer suffice. Not only does the internet allow access to information, but it also provides convenience for the ever-demanding consumer. The fact is that we want more convenience—it must be easy, it must be quick and it must happen now whether we’re banking, buying clothes, filing tax returns or booking a holiday. It is thanks to the internet that we can have so much available at our fingertips. You may think that we’ve reached the pinnacle of the age of convenience, but it’s only just begun.

The future is now. We are living it every day. And, it is called IoT, or the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things could be mistaken for machines communicating with one another, when in fact it is machines equipped with sensors, that gather information, and leverage that information. Confused? Well, so was I when I asked the experts.

Here is a very simple example that we all know; lights with built-in sensors that switch on when they detect movement, and switch off when you leave the room. But the Internet of Things can get much cooler than lights switching themselves on and off. A practical example would be traffic lights fitted with sensors to detect and monitor traffic flow that would then adapt to better manage heavy traffic during rush hour, and then revert back to normal at all other times. The Internet of Things means everyday objects with network connectivity, allowing them to send and receive data and adjust accordingly to best suit that real-time situation. The connectivity of the IoT links everything from urban transport to medical devices to household appliances.

The growing trend, among those that can afford it locally, is to live in homes that have extended connectivity. These homes have appliances that are all connected to one central control panel that makes it easy to manage everything from security, an entertainment centre, lights and even ambient climate. The advantages of these homes are that you eliminate menial tasks like manually opening and closing blinds, your home becomes more energy efficient and you take control of your security. You can monitor what’s going on in your home remotely and even control access points from your smartphone.

I had flashbacks of watching The Jetsons in my youth

While all this sounds good and exciting, there are those who are concerned, perhaps even a little paranoid. In this day and age hackers are everywhere so, in theory, anything that has an internet connection can be compromised. This means that your smart toaster, heart rate monitor or even your CCTV cameras could be hacked. The cyber security experts we spoke to all agree that we don’t seem to take our cyber security as seriously as we do our home security. Just as we make sure all windows and doors are closed and locked before we leave our homes, we need to do the same for our growing virtual footprint, especially because accessing one device that is connected to the internet – like our smartphone – could allow someone access to other devices within our homes, such as our security system.

You may think that this is far-fetched and won’t be happening in your lifetime, or at least not at the tip of Africa, but it is already all around you, whether you’re aware of it or not. The Internet of Things allows you to move through your world in a way where the technologies you use daily start to adjust themselves to work intuitively with you and your preferences. Driverless cars are already on the way in some parts of the world!

Covering this story and finding out more about the Internet of Things really got my mind imagining all the possibilities that still lie ahead. I had flashbacks of watching The Jetsons in my youth and realised that the world we’re living in now has become what was once the narrative of a futuristic, sci-fi reality.