Will the internet of things really impact everyday life?
There's no end of buzz around the so-called 'internet of things' at the moment. For the uninitiated, the term refers to device-to-device communications that don't require human input – connected cars could talk to one another to ascertain traffic conditions, for instance, or your fridge could tell your smartphone when you're running low on milk.
It's easy to be sceptical about this kind of idea and for many members of the public, the internet of things will sound like a solution in search of a problem. However, this isn't a perspective shared by the technology world. In fact, a recent forecast from the International Data Corporation claimed the internet of things would be worth more than 7 trillion USD (£4 trillion) worldwide by 2020.
If this projection is to hold true, consumers will need to embrace the technology trend en masse. But will they?
This is something that could be decided sooner than later, as two industry juggernauts are apparently preparing to throw their hats into the ring.
Firstly, Apple announced iOS 8 this month, which includes new apps called HealthKit and HomeKit. The former is a platform for harvesting health-related data from wearable devices, which some have speculated implies Apple will indeed release an iWatch this year. HomeKit, meanwhile, communicates with household appliances, making it possible for iPhone owners to do things like lock their doors from their handsets. Philips is understood to be among the companies making compatible devices, with the Hue Wi-Fi lighting system namechecked in Apple's press release.
These aren't the most novel internet of things solutions ever, but it's obviously significant that Apple is moving into the market. After all, the Cupertino company was instrumental in getting consumers to realise they wanted MP3 players, smartphones and tablets.
Since the iOS 8 announcement, it's also surfaced that Google could be weighing a move into internet of things territory. An upcoming Android update called Nearby will allow two or more devices running the operating system to communicate automatically, according to new reports.
On hearing about this development, some commentators recalled that an Android Wear promotional video from March showed a person commanding a garage door to open by speaking to their smartwatch. Could Google have been planning this push for longer than we realise?
Of course, it's possible that neither Apple nor Google's efforts could bear fruit. But if they do, they'll be giving the internet of things an unprecedented opportunity to enter the mainstream and have a real impact on everyday life.
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