In your home, which devices currently access the Internet? Your phone, tablet, laptop and any other computing device are pretty obvious choices. What about your car? Perhaps even your watch and your television? You know, in this day and age, it’s starting to get a little difficult naming a technology that doesn’t connect to the web. The functionality of everyday objects is being augmented in novel ways that were inconceivable several years ago. Whether you approve of or oppose the Internet of Things (IoT), it’s transforming our world, which means you need to adapt or be left outside.
Imagine telling your oven to start preheating before you get home, so you can chuck your £2 Tesco pizza straight in and get to eat it sooner. Imagine never spending an extra 30 minutes looking for an empty parking space in Zone 1 again, because your car will already know where the closest spot is—and take you there. There's no limit to the IoT's applications; but imagining the possibilities is the easy part. Whenever one of your devices interacts with the Internet, it creates data. So, if everything in your house and town is interacting with the Internet multiple times per second, then you are potentially creating millions of transactions. There needs to be some kind of infrastructure in place to support those messages. This kind of system takes a considerable amount of effort and resources to create and maintain.
Here at Valtech, we’re helping the UK government with its planned rollout of more than 26 million smart energy meters by 2020. Maintaining these live connections between energy providers and their customers is not without its difficulties but promises to be a mutually beneficial undertaking. The data that's collected helps energy providers better understand the demand from their customers and ultimately means they can offer them an improved service; for example, discounts for energy used at times of low demand.
Unfortunately, while the benefits are numerous, the systems that need to be in place to support this are large, expensive, and require a high level of technical expertise to create. This means that the smart meter rollout will take years but it will completely transform the energy market in the UK. For equally dramatic results in other sectors, the same level of commitment must be made.
We’re excited to be involved with IoT-related projects like smart meters and are strong believers that this infrastructure will benefit a diverse range of parties. We're imagining a future where because you interacted with your smart oven to cook your pizza, Tesco knows you can’t get enough of their products, so prints a coupon for pizza on your receipt next time you use your card in store. Tesco has made a sale, their customer relationship with you is improved, and you get a free pizza. It’s a win-win! However, there's still a lot of work that needs to be done before this utopian fantasy can be realised.
We better keep working on it!