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What will the Internet of Things be when it grows up?

Shawn DuBravac | Jan. 6, 2016
IoT-enabled devices can improve efficiency, reduce costs and often solve real-life issues. On the eve of CES, the chief economist of the Consumer Technology Association writes that we are entering an important phase of experimentation for Internet-enabled objects.

internet of things

What do you want to be when you grow up?

It’s a question I often ask my three sons. My hope in that question is they may see the vast, and still undefined, potential that lies before them.

Today, we might pose the same question to a myriad of technologies scattered across the landscape of innovation that is before us. In a world increasingly filled with connected objects – the ever-growing Internet of Things (IoT) – there is a tremendous amount of undefined potential in front of us. How can we know which forthcoming innovations will take hold and change our lives, and which will be stepping stones to one of those life-altering must haves?

Technology advances quickly and forever changes how we live – often in unexpected ways. Look at how GPS has changed not only how we obtain driving directions, but also where we decide to eat – today we use restaurant recommendation apps that make suggestions due in part to our location. The smartphone – once used primarily to make phones calls – is now the primary reading device for a growing cohort of individuals. And a device like Amazon’s Echo, which looks like a regular audio speaker, helps me keep track of my shopping list when I speak to it.

As IoT expands and evolves throughout what can seem like all elements of our lives, more and more devices flood the market. Last year, more than 900 companies showcased IoT-enabled technologies at CES, and that number is expected to grow significantly in 2016. In fact, given the promise and preponderance of connected devices, you could say all of CES showcases IoT technology.

We are just starting now to see the remarkable consumer benefits of IoT. The best examples of IoT-enabled devices improve efficiency, reduce costs and make better use of resources. Most importantly, they often solve issues real people like you and I actually face – in some cases long before we were able to identify the problem even existed.

IoT devices save money and make life easier

In many cases, Internet-enabled devices are solving problems that outweigh the cost of the device. In other words, buying and employing the technology is a net positive for consumers. Consider the well-known Nest Learning Thermostat. Data shows that it has saved users 10 to 12 percent on their heating bills and 15 percent on cooling expenses. That translates to average cost savings of between $131 and $145 a year, enough that the device can essentially pay for itself in less than two years. But these cost savings don’t end after this short payback period, they continue through the live of the device, saving the consumer a multiple of the initial financial outlay. 


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