The Final Word: By Buck Sexton
Machines have been making our lives easier since Archimedes was messing around with pulleys and levers some 2,000 years ago. And with the advances of telephony, computers and the Internet, the explosive acceleration of technological discovery over the last 100 years has been dizzying. With the advent of smartphones over the past 10 years, it’s been at warp speed.
Machines are playing a bigger role in our lives today than ever before. And a new era of machines will soon be upon us…
Not only will we be interacting with our devices – everything will be a device, all devices will be interacting with each other, and they will be making decisions on their own.
Welcome to the Internet of Things (“IOT”).
The IOT is a term to describe the technological state where most or even all of the mechanical tools in your day-to-day life are connected to the Internet. It’s been bandied about by futurists and technologists since Kevin Ashton coined the phrase in 1999. Now that the technology has caught up with the prediction, the IOT will mean massive changes to pretty much anything in your life that runs on electricity.
Most of this will be good – but not all. There will be tradeoffs.
So before assessing the pluses and minuses of a world in which after you tell your smartphone that you’re hungry, it will fire up a Porterhouse on the stove and throw on some Barry Manilow back home, let’s look at where we are in this IOT process.
As smartphones have become ubiquitous, we’re now all carrying around Internet connectivity in our pockets. Add to this our obsession with convenience and productivity, and your phone is becoming a mobile command center for every other device in your life.
In addition, the processors and sensors needed for dumb devices to become “smart,” have become small and cheap. You can fit them in a car dash, a kitchen appliance, and even a watch. So your phone has the capability to control whatever device is connected to the web – and that now means nearly every device in your home.
It sounds like science fiction, yet the technology is already there.
Amazon’s Alexa can order food for you while it sets the mood music. Google’s Nest lets you control your home temperature from wherever you have a cell signal or Wi-Fi. And nearly every major lock company is getting into the “smart lock” game – so you can access your house or garage if your phone is in your pocket, no key necessary.
Machine-to-machine communication is becoming the rule rather than the exception. It’s a question of how quickly we establish the connectivity, and what we decide to do with it.
As the IOT continues to roll out, the most obvious benefit will be convenience. You will easily be able to do more with a few swipes on your smartphone than a gaggle of actual human personal assistants could have managed a decade ago. But the real magic isn’t just that these devices will be connected and will easily operate at your direction…
They will also be sensitive, as in they will have sensory capability to gather and analyze data. The world around you will become part of a massive – and constantly growing – network of interconnected learning machines, with all the advances in computing power and real-time analysis that will entail.
Needless to say, the financial impact of this will be massive. There are more than 10 billion devices connected to the Internet today. By 2020, it’s estimated the number will be closer to 30 billion, as home appliances, vehicles, and “wearable tech” (like smartwatches and Fitbits) get connected. Cisco put out a paper in 2013 that states $14 trillion of value is at stake with the IOT, and all the big players in the web space are currently fighting it out to see who can capture the biggest market share.
Along with all this innovation and enhanced productivity, there are some downsides to the IOT. A device that is web-enabled is susceptible to hacking. It’s one thing for your PC to get a virus and freeze, it’s another for someone on the other side of the world to be able to remotely take over the steering wheel of your car. The IOT can save lives with wearable medical tech and driverless cars, but there will be opportunities for nefarious actors as well.
For example, hackers recently broke into a casino by using an Internet-connected fish tank. And last year, a “botnet” composed of hundreds of thousands of smart devices like toasters and printers took down major parts of the Internet.
There are also major privacy concerns as the data stored on the IOT could be almost all-encompassing. Just as we have all invited microphones and cameras into our homes, the IOT will turn every appliance in your home into a sensor… constantly collecting data on your every move.
While you may not care who knows about your home habits, the government certainly might. And it’s a gamechanger when Uncle Sam not only knows how much electricity you’re using, but some bureaucrat a hundred miles away could even turn down the temperature in your home for you. Governmental “climate change” hysteria could mean sometimes having to wear a scarf indoors.
However we feel about the IOT, it’s happening. It will be a brave new world of cool new devices. Your home will be “smart” in ways we can only begin to imagine. Your toaster will be talking to your watch, which will be talking to your scale, which will be setting reminders to your fridge.
It will be on you, however, to opt for the brussel sprouts instead of the grilled cheese.
Buck Sexton is host of the nationally syndicated talk radio program, Buck Sexton with America Now, heard on over 100 stations across the country.
A former CIA and NYC Police Department Intelligence Officer, Buck is also the cohost of Stansberry Investor Hour, a weekly radio show that you can subscribe to for free right here: http://investorhour.com/.