Internet of Things (IoT) adoption is accelerating
Two years ago, I was introduced to my first IoT experience: A power sensing and analytics technology called Panoramic Power. This product is unique as it allows metering of amperage and power factor via clip-on current transformers that self-power and transmit data via Bluetooth.
Because they are a hinged clamshell design, you can quickly apply them to power wiring without tools or tapping. The Bluetooth signal is transmitted through a bridge connected to the internet, which of course leads to a cloud application that can run detailed custom analytics on the power usage characteristics. I found the technology fascinating as it truly connected real-world sensing elements with the internet. It also leveraged computer analytics to maximize the value of the data, and you could install and set up in minutes.
Recently, when surfing the internet for add-on gadgets to my new Amazon Echo Alexa-enabled device, I discovered a $6 Wi-Fi digital switch that handles 120 volts and up to 10 amps. If you can use some simple tools, you can wire just about any small electrical device or lighting fixture in your home and operate them through your phone from anywhere on the planet. Of course, as the digital switch is integrated with the Amazon Echo device, you can also have voice control over the newly connected fixtures. And you can build complex scenarios in the app: automating fixture schedules and grouping devices for setting mood vignettes with the simple call of a command to Alexa. I can see these switches soon being integrated into all appropriate electrical fixtures as the cost for the switch itself has dropped considerably.
All of this was great until I recently re-watched the Terminator movie from 1984 in which Skynet (aka a cloud machine learning application with a bad attitude) becomes self aware and starts taking action against the humans. Tempting fate, I renamed my home network “Skynet” in hopes I would be famous one day, despite the ominous foreshadowing by Hollywood. The machines will have a long way to go, of course, flailing away at the feeble humans by hijacking house lighting, garage doors and thermostats—a meager beginning—but a genesis nonetheless.
As I pondered all the various capabilities and security issues of IoT devices in my house, I realized I had pushed myself much closer to singularity in a matter of hours. Singularity is a concept of our advanced technology merging physically with ourselves. It is essentially the deeper integration of technology into our physical lives and even into our bodies. CRB’s virtual design & construction team is already watching for developing wearable technologies to help field staff be more efficient. I see these new IoT technologies taking us a big step toward that age of automation and machine learning while accelerating across the next few years, even into our own professional disciplines. Embrace technology, and it may embrace you back.