“Being connected” is a phrase full of modern ambiguity. At its most basic technological level, it means having a signal and being able to access the internet. “Ach, I can’t get a connection here,” is the modern lament. There is another meaning, though, that is now being buried: being connected to other people in a literal sense, with that web of emotion and history and shared memory that makes a group of people real friends or family. There are a lot of people who think our desire to achieve mobile connectivity severs our ability to forge real connections.
It’s an interesting case that’s mirrored by the rise of the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things can be seen as the ultimate expression of our connectivity, where everything is on the internet and in constant communication. This is a new era in human history – one where the things around us are connected to each other and we are connected to them. It will redefine the phrase we’ve been talking about, and most likely for the better. The Internet of Things is going to change how our cities, homes, and transportation systems work, and it will make things more efficient. In the end, that’s going to be a positive for authentic human interaction.
Mobile Connectivity and the Internet of Things
In Tuesday’s article, we talked about how there were now over a billion items connected to the IoT, according to a groundbreaking and fascinating report by Verizon. This is expected to multiply many times by 2020, and to keep expanding after that. It isn’t much of an exaggeration to say that most things will be connected to the internet.
This is important because of two things: information and control. Being connected means that there is a constant flow of information to and from a specific device and other similar devices. Mobile connectivity also allows you to access, or at least benefit from, that information.
Think of a stoplight. Even the “smart stoplights” of today just read whether or not a car is at an intersection and change accordingly. A real smart light would be connected to all the other lights, would be able to analyze traffic patterns, and could work in harmony with the whole system to ease the flow of traffic. In theory, it would also be able to instantly tell you which intersection to avoid. All of this would happen seamlessly, which is why the impact on transportation will be so great.
Internet of Things and Transportation
It isn’t just congestion that will be aided by the Iot (more on citywide impact below). Think of the impact on public transportation: trains and subway cars and buses in contact with each other, being able to anticipate arrival and departure times, adjusting in real time to traffic. For an urban dweller, missing a connection by 30 seconds is deeply frustrating and can ripple throughout the day. With each component of the system connected to the other components, these sorts of incidences will become less frequent.
Roads that know how much traffic is going over them. Bridges that can tell you what repairs they need. Cars that are programmed to operate efficiently. All of these things can have a huge impact on transportation and infrastructure. Combine that with the rise of the ridesharing economy, which is made possible by mobile connectivity, and our whole idea of getting around town can change.
A Whole New City
We’ve already talked about how the IoT can relieve congestion, which automatically makes cities more pleasant and life in them less stressful. But there are other huge benefits to a connected city.
- Real-time and hyper-localized analysis of air or water conditions.
- Smart lighting that can sense and adjust to the needs of the population, reducing waste (sometimes dramatically).
- Smarter buildings mean less waste of water, energy, and light. They can adjust automatically and only use what is needed.
These are just a few of the benefits. But that doesn’t answer the main question: does it help us become more connected to each other? To some, this might be a technological dystopia, but the world is what we make it. Technology always makes us move faster and increases what we can do. But by making driving easier, wasting less, creating more pleasant environments, we’ll gain the chance to grow, to explore, and to fully be ourselves. That’s the soil in which actual connections can grow.