by Daniel Zweier
The internet of things (IoT) is the term for what’s happening to all of our consumer products. Everything has become, or will become, connected. Not just connected to the internet for your own use, but connected to every other device so that you don’t have to haul information back and forth from one device to the other, from your home to your car and beyond.
Whether you’re a fan of the theory or not, the reality is that when done right connectivity means a huge savings on time and energy.
One of the most common examples in the IoT world is Nest, the learning thermostat that allows you to adjust temperature from anywhere in (and out of) the house. There’s the refrigerator that tells you the weather and reads your email, and the electric car that’s connected to the web, have auto-driving modes, and update like your computer.
These are all devices built for the consumer market that rely on the internet and its inherent connectedness to perform well, but your smartphone is actually the most obvious example. The smartphone is really what kicked off this industry to the point that in 2016 it’s hard to conceive of a social or work world without one today.
More Than a Consumer Fad
The consumer facing aspect of the IoT has been talked about heavily since 2013, and by 2016 is widely understood to be the next major wave in technology. Companies are getting on board and building consumer devices that are connected — it’s necessary to compete at this point.
As Motley Fool reports, IDC, an industry insights company, claims that “annual global IoT global spending is expected to reach $1.7 trillion, a significant increase from the $656 billion the industry spent in 2014.”
It’s hard not to get on board when you see those kind of numbers, which means it’s much more than a consumer fad.
The other side of the equation is industry standards and practices. For a movement to really sweep the globe (as the assembly line did in the early 20th century), it needs to be adopted by both sides of the aisle.
Due to industry’s overbearing safety protocols, the vast amount of supply chains already functioning, and a bureaucratic system that typically involves government agencies and internal corporate structures, it has been late to come on board.
By 2016, though, industry is catching up. The most visible effect of IoT in industry is reducing operating costs for factories, pioneered by General Electric’s Predix software. The company is now moving the program into China, and it’s clear other companies will follow.
Aviation sits at an interesting crossroads when it comes to IoT, both for industry practices and consumer use. Airlines are hit with more standards and safety regulations than most, and they’re also in touch with consumers on a frequent and personal basis.
The potential for IoT innovation in aviation is huge, and has already begun.
Gogo, the provider of wireless internet for airlines, helps to lead that innovation with its recently published book, From the Ground Up, which presents a study of information and ideas from leaders in aviation on the IoT movement.
A large portion of the book is dedicated to the discussion of Connected Aviation, which is the term for IoT in the industry. Gogo writes,
“With the evolution to Connected Aviation, the capabilities of the basic connected cabin logbook have expanded. With more sensors in the cabin, there is opportunity for more automated reporting. With sensors placed within seats, for example, a broken seat can automatically be entered into the logbook.”
If you extrapolate this theory to many aspects of aircraft, everything becomes automatic and easy to diagnose, cutting down on issues and delayed flights.
I spoke to a United flight attendant about how IoT has grown in the last three years. She said,
“I started working as a flight attended in 2013, and in 2015 United gave us all an iPhone 6 Plus. This is used for processing inflight sales, staying informed on the airline’s/FAA’s policies and procedures, and flight information.”
When asked how this works, she said,
“The phone came with several apps that [are] helpful to flight attendants. For example … an app that lets us know the latest news around the world, regarding things like severe weather, health and safety alerts.”
This sort of connectedness makes a lot of sense, and allows for increased safety and efficiency in an environment where that’s necessary. Add this to programs like Delta’s RFID baggage tracking capabilities in its app, and the ability to scan boarding passes instead of print them out, and you begin to see the impact.
Where Is It Heading?
While IoT is taking flight, there’s one big factor that remains untapped. Big data is being generated for every industry, and as more devices and processes become based on the IoT, the amount of data at our disposal will be huge.
However, as From the Ground Up notes, only “one percent of available data is currently utilized.” If we could collectively start to analyze big data more efficiently, the true potential of IoT would become reality.
Daniel is a writer and editor with expertise in content production and development. He is currently the editor in chief of Backpackers.com. In addition to the outdoor world, he covers travel, Millennial-ism, music, and lifestyle. As an author, Daniel uses a creative approach to storytelling to dig deeply into topics, people, and movements.