This article originally featured in the Pacific Business News.
When you hear the phrase “Internet of Things”, or “IoT”, what comes to mind? Your first images might be of connected devices in industrial settings. But I wanted to share a vision for how it will touch us and change our daily lives as it expands to the Internet of Everyday Things.
The best way to understand the potential of IoT is to think of it as a digital nervous system. Like a human nervous system, it will give us real-time sensing, intelligence, and control that bridges our physical and digital worlds.
Let’s start with an example in the tourism industry that’s so important to Hawaii’s economy. Hotels are constantly finding ways to increase value and guest loyalty by delivering personalized services. In today’s cost-competitive world, they have to do it through technology, especially for younger clients who often prefer working in self-service mode.
So imagine a hotel as an intelligent interactive environment that understands you, your context, and your local surroundings. An app on your smartphone would serve as your virtual concierge agent. It would know your calendar and your preferences for local foods and activities, and only recommend options in the hotel or nearby that are available at your desired time or where there is no wait time. If there were excess capacity at nearby restaurants, then it would even check if they would be willing to give you a special offer to try them out.
This is an example of real-world, real-time optimization, where virtual agents operate on our behalf and negotiate with agents of service providers around us. Together they work to achieve the ideal outcome where we as consumers get what we want at the right price and businesses optimize sales of their capacity and inventory as well.
As another example, cities will have intelligent transportation systems that will connect commuters to public transit, bikesharing , ridesharing, and dynamically schedule vans to make commuting more convenient and create broader benefits for the city, such as reducing traffic congestion, pollution, and energy use. With its digital nervous system, the system would automatically reroute travelers or provide back-up options when they detect an accident or prepare for a major event.
We are already seeing early trials of these examples, but our lives will really be transformed when this type of intelligence extends to low-cost, even disposable products in the Internet of Everyday Things. Imagine when produce will have smart labels that will tell us when it was picked, how it was transported, and when it will be ripe. Or all the products that we plug in at home will have functionality like the Nest Learning Thermostat that learns our activity patterns and tailors their operation to our individual needs.
These are just a few examples of our connected future in the Internet of Everyday Things. We as consumers can look forward to more personalized experiences, and businesses and government agencies will transform into real-time enterprises that will leverage pervasive sensing to optimize operations and deliver greater value.
Lawrence Lee is Senior Director of Strategy at PARC, a Xerox Company and recently served as a keynote speaker for Xerox Hawaii’s Executive Summit.