By Eric C. Wentworth
Nothing will transform our world more in the 21st Century than the Internet. From its first popular use in the mid-1990s, the Internet has spread across the globe so quickly that even natives living in huts in Kenya can tap into the web.
The Internet has created an explosion of communication, connectivity, and access that was unheard of just a few years ago.
• Outdoor billboards can now “see” passersby, instantly match them with consumer profiles, and flash back customized messages based upon these assessments.
• Doctors in Boston can diagnose disease in a person living in Cameroon while viewing the interior of a patient’s digestive tract from images sent back from a miniature camera “pill” that moves through the digestive tract.
• Teachers can reach hundreds of thousands of students all over the world by “streaming” their lectures out on the Internet.
• You can monitor the activity in your home from a smartphone, even speaking to people live via online connectivity, with home security devices like NAME. Or keep an eye on an aging family member with the Internet connected BeClose system.
• The rise of Big Data to crunch unimaginably large amounts of data to support complex planning and decision-making is only possible through the Internet.
• Stay healthy with personal tracking devices that utilize your smartphones sensors (accelerometer, GPS, video, proximity compass) and connectivity options (cellular, WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC) to automatically monitor your movements, steps walked, location, activity levels, heart rate, sleep quality, blood pressure, and other key functions.
Utilize one of the many fitness and health tracking apps (LoseIt! MyfitnessPal, Nike Fuel) with a connected wearable device (Fitbit, Jawbone Up) to closely monitor your diet and exercise program. Easily track every calorie you take in or expend through exercise, as well as the nutrients you ingest. Monitor your weight with WiFi-enabled scales, like the Withings scale, that will send your weight and body fat percentage to your smartphone (it even measures the air quality in your home).
Get reminder messages to take your meds with GlowCaps prescription bottles via a wireless chip embedded in the bottle cap.
Check on your new-born to prevent SIDS with Mimo, an infant monitor that provides parents with real-time data on breathing, temperature, body position, and activity level via the Internet and their connected devices. Coming soon…smart diapers connected to your pediatrician.
• Families and friends can stay in touch via Facebook, Skype, Facetime, NextDoor, and many other Internet connected social systems.
• Track your items with the Tag, a location device that helps you find lost items (no more lost keys!). Monitor your luggage during air travel with the Trackdot or Bikn. Never lose your iPhone with iPhone Tracker (also great for keeping track of kids).
• Save money and time by planning an efficient route, avoiding traffic congestions, locate a parking spot, and finding the least expensive gas stations with apps like Waze, Parksite, and GasBuddy.
• Businesses can monitor sales, employee activity, customer feedback, inventory, and shipping from anywhere in the world on computers and smartphones. Internet connectivity has created an entirely new level of competitiveness in business. The Internet enables companies to integrate individual activities with corporate strategies, coordinate across outside suppliers and customers, across geography, and integrate product production and delivery via the supply chain.
With the integration of product connectedness via embedded sensors, software, data analytics, application analysis and cloud functionality, the advanced in productivity is enormous.
• Manufacturing is reaping huge benefits from the Internet of Things, with connected self-monitoring devices and robotic production synced up with supply chain systems allowing for faster time to market, greater cost-savings, and fewer defective products.
The architectural and building industries have embraced Internet connectivity. It’s now incorporated into the design and build-out for everything from homes to office towers. Companies are instrumenting and connecting building assets via the Internet. And the buildings themselves are packed with automatic and real-time monitoring sensors enabling them to function more efficiently and safely.
Historically, 80% of construction projects are delivered over budget and/or late. The materials supply chain is already vastly improved, tracking materials used in construction, enabling better stock management, ensuring optimum inventory levels, and even coordinating with available workers for more efficient workforce management. Job sites can now be planned, monitored, and controlled through connected management systems at a level of professionalism unheard of just 15 years ago.
• For homeowners with pools and spas, you can now monitor everything from the temperature, ph levels, and water purity remotely via the iAqualink pool control system.
• You can order dinner online and have it delivered an hour later through services such as Munchery…or have the latest bestseller delivered the next day from Amazon.
• “Smart” homes now function more efficiently and safely with sensors like the Nest thermostat that uses real-time activity and weather conditions to automatically keep you home comfortable, while saving on utility bills.
New lighting systems enable you to turn on or off lights while you’re away. Smart outlets like the WeMo enable you to control any plugged in device from anywhere in the world…like a connected light bulb such as the Amazon Echo and Philips Hue Go.
Smart refrigerators can create shopping lists when you’re out of foods, monitor expiration dates, order groceries on its own, and include WiFi-enabled monitors showing you a variety of functions to keep your food safe and fresh.
The Ninja Block sensors can track if you have a burst water pipe, if there is motion in your home, and if there are other problems by sending you a text or email message when it happens.
HarvestGeek will allow you to feed the plants in your garden or home and monitor their health automatically.
Home monitoring systems like DropCam are affordable and provide live streaming access anywhere in the world via smartphone or laptop, and includes two-way conversation and night vision.
Install one of the many WiFi connected door bells or viewers that enable you to see who is at the door from anywhere in the world.
• New cars are essentially rolling computer systems with access to satellite enabled entertainment, remote monitoring, GPS navigation, and location sensors…all accessible via the Internet. In the future, driverless cars will change the way Americans are transported…and create both enormous opportunities and disruption.
• Hospitals are increasingly Internet enabled, providing safer and more informed health systems while engaging with patients more personally. From remote monitoring of patients to hand hygiene recording and reminder systems like the HyGreen, hospitals are improving patient care and saving lives via the Internet.
• Farmers are able to monitor soil conditions, watering, fertilization, and crop status via ground and drone monitoring systems to produce higher yields and better crops. Water systems that maximize usage and monitor requirements, like the Smart Watering System and Observant, enable farmers to control one of their biggest costs.
With John Deere’s fleet telematics solutions, farmers can track their machinery and analyze actionable data in real-time. This allows them to control crop yield by enabling farmers to program exactly what machinery and where each piece of equipment will plant, fertilize, spray, and harvest down to an area as small as three meters. John Deere now has hundreds of thousands of connected machines in more than 120 countries.
• Buildings, bridges, drilling rigs and much more will be able to self-monitor and sense changes, enabling technicians to respond to problems or increase efficiency as more devices and machines communicate with each other.
In thousands of ways the Internet has integrated into our lives, making everything faster, easier, and more accessible. Things become more “intelligent” and more responsive to our needs…and their own.
In the future the trend will only continue to become woven into the fabric of our lives. In just the next decade the number of devices embedded with software, sensors, electronics, and monitors that will become part of the Internet of Things is projected to triple. With the power of cloud connectivity, the internet will propel forward as if powered by rocket fuel.
The end result will be more disruption than we’ve ever seen before, creating more opportunities for those who embrace it.
THE INTERNET: AMERICA’S NEW SEGREGATION.
Internet access and use has quickly become the norm…for most Americans. It’s also become a dividing line separating generations, creating career opportunities for some and disenfranchising others, and enriching some lives while driving others farther down the socioeconomic scale.
While 98% of American have access to broadband, according to the U.S. government, a surprising number of people don’t utilize the resources of the Internet. A 2013 study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 30% of respondents didn’t have a broadband connection at home. The reasons? Cost, difficulty getting online, and lack of interest.
80% of people between the ages of 18 and 29 have broadband access in their homes. That percentage drops to 43% for those 65 and older. The class divide is even more dramatic; 54% of households earning less than $30,000 annually are connected, but more than 70% who earn above $70,000 have Internet access.
The Pew study found that just 37% of those who do not have a college degree are online, but 9 in 10 college grads are. This huge disparity in Internet usage—so valuable in everything from job search to networking—combined with lack of education, has produced a country of “haves” and “have nots.”
There are also markedly different usage rates by region, another factor dividing Americans into two groups…those who are keyed into modern life and those who find themselves on the outside looking in. In Boulder, CO the rate of Internet connectivity is 84%. In Washington DC it is 84%. And in San Francisco the rate of connectivity is close to 9 in 10 households. In Pine Bluff, AR the rate of Internet connectivity is just 52%. In Mississippi the rate is 57%. In general, rural and poor regions have lower rates of Internet connectivity.
FACT: As of 2013, 1 in 6 American households (16%) did not own a computer. (US Census Bureau)
Even more surprising than the number of Americans who are not connected to the Internet is the number who don’t even own a computer. While 84% of American households have a computer, you might be surprised to learn that even in tech-savvy locales like Palo Alto, CA (the heart of Silicon Valley and home of Stanford University) about 1 in 25 households don’t own a computer. In Cambridge, MA (home of Harvard, MIT, and dozens of tech firms) 8% of households are computer-free.
As the price decreases and the performance increases of Internet connected technologies, there will be both good and bad fallout. Those who don’t understand the Internet (or use it) are at a significant disadvantage in navigating the complex and rapidly evolving 21st Century. And those who don’t even own a computer will find themselves increasingly segregated from mainstream life in America.
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