As time passes and technologies expand at an ever increasing rate, our dependence on smartphones, gadgets and applications will keep growing to match it.

“The ‘Internet of Things’…is about connecting devices over the internet, letting them talk to us, applications and each other.” – Nicole Kobie, The Guardian online

What would we do without our little boxes of magic? Those handheld portals to the interwebs where everything is available at our fingertips. Use a paper map? Perish the thought. There’s Google Maps for that. What if you’re waiting around for people and find yourself with nothing to do? Unable to just be in the moment, we pretend to be engrossed with imaginary notifications when really we’re just refreshing Facebook for the umpteenth time. We need instant gratification. Rather than work something out for ourselves anymore, we rely so much on the internet. That said, using technology requires a new knowledge and a new way of thinking. We are adapting to meet the changes of a digital age, nowhere moreso than in our homes.

Smart phone saying "E=MC2" illustration by Gemma Correll
Image by Gemma Correll

The idea of being able to control gadgets and appliances remotely isn’t a new phenomenon. The first internet connected toaster was unveiled at the Interop conference in 1990 by John Romkey and Simon Hackett. However, the growth in this area has blossomed exponentially over the last five years or so.

In 2012, Zach Supalla and Dr. Zachary Crockett created Spark, a crowdfunding idea that was inspired by Zach’s father using lights to receive notifications as he is deaf. Based on an Arduino board and switch, the idea was to have a base piece of hardware that attached to light sockets (before attaching the light bulb itself) and controlling this from an app on your smart device. Sadly, it didn’t meet its’ Kickstarter funding goal. Despite this, it’s since been renamed Particle and the original product has grown from a simple solution to a platform that’ll allow you to build your own ‘internet-of-things’ idea. Branded as an open-source full-stack solution for cloud-connected devices, you can use Particle’s hardware to build a simple prototype which can then be scaled to produced to millions of units.

Expanding the idea of socially minded IoT projects is Be my eyes. Produced by Robocat – creators of Thermo and the beautiful weather app, Haze – it’s an online network app that aims to help those who have lost their sight to be able to navigate the world with the help of volunteers via a live video connection.

“…It’s easy to forget that the web and the internet are not synonimous. The web is one medium made up mostly of human-crafted content…The value that Nest is creating, by contrast, stems from the connections it is forging among its devices themselves.” – Marcus Wohlsen, Wired.com

Nest is a ‘thoughtful home’ company focusing on energy saving and safety within the home environment. Their main products include a thermostat that learns family schedules so that it can adjust itself to suit your needs. They also have other products such as Nest Cam – a camera that allows you to watch your home when you’re not there (not creepy at all) for security reasons or as a baby monitor – and Nest Protect – an all-encompassing smoke detector that tests itself, gives you phone alerts and speaks when something is wrong. It also works with Phillips Hue lightbulbs in a similar way to the Spark project. Google clearly sees the future in this kind of thing – so much so, that they bought Nest labs for $3.2 billion!

Infographic on Libelium's "smart city"
Image by Libelium (via Forbes.com)

The internet of things is becoming more mainstream, transcending into every facet of daily life. Ever wanted to watch your cookies bake from afar and be told when they were ready? I mean, I haven’t…but as a keen baker, I can see why that would be a useful tool. This ‘smart oven’ will cook your food for you, is able to recognise what it is you want to cook, weigh it and decide when it’s done, alerting you via an app on your smartphone. You can even send a photo or video to Instagram of the food being cooked and recorded whilst it’s in the oven.

“This year, we will have 4.9 billion connected things…Broadband internet is becoming more widely available, the cost of connecting is decreasing, more devices are being created with Wi-Fi capabilities…and smartphone penetration is sky-rocketing.” – Jacob Morgan, Forbes.com

If you’re staying away at a hotel and are in need of something, the concierge is now just a text message away with some of the biggest global hotel chains implementing a new strategy for communicating with their guests.

Personalised Coke cans with names on
Image by Jason Graham

“As the notion of the ‘Internet of Things’ becomes commonplace amongst consumers, so too will personalisation play an even greater part in it’s development.” – James Routley, The Filter

The idea of being able to personalise your life through making your home, the way you work and even the way you engage with the world outside is getting easier because of this. You can create the right ambiance in your home with things like Nest and the Phillips Hue smart-lightbulbs; if you have a games console or a home smart-hub, you can set them to play your personal music playlists when you’re at home; cars are being created to drive themselves, like Google’s self-driving car and Tesla’s Model-S; even your appliances can be customisable. Eventually, we may get to the homes of the future like you see in sci-fi movies (not quite like the Jetsons, but you get the picture), with things like an integrated computer/TV/home control system.

With all this innovation, every new leap allows us great scope to plan ahead for the future. It gives those we work with the opportunity to utilise emerging technologies and create something that’s of supreme benefit to their users. What’s even better is that we as a development company get to help them do so through solving their digital problems.

Main image by U6 Studio