That’s how many devices are hooked up to the Internet of Things (IoT) today.
The industry has steadily grown over the past several years… as evidenced by the fact that three billion of those devices are consumer products.
But it doesn’t even scratch the surface of the growth that’s projected in the coming years.
In December, my colleague Louis Basenese quoted some eye-popping forecasts…
- Tech research firm Gartner pegs the number of devices connected to the internet at 21 billion by 2020.
- BI Intelligence kicks its projection higher, with 34 billion connected devices by 2020.
- And former CEO and Executive Chairman of Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO), John Chambers, cranks the crystal ball into hyperdrive, predicting an enormous 500 billion connected devices by 2025.
No matter who’s right, we’ve pegged the IoT as one of our top tech trends for 2016 – and beyond.
Now, the thing about trends – particularly in the fast-moving tech sector – is to identify them early (i.e., ahead of the masses), and jump on them.
This is the case with the IoT, because for all the excitement, increasing ubiquity, and lofty projections, IoT devices have yet to really live up to the promise of making major breakthroughs that materially improve users’ lives.
That’s not to say this never happens – much of the technology is great and does add value to many users. But others find it harder to turn all the data collected into something more useful.
That might be about to change, though…
Interactive, on-the-Spot Healthcare
Predictably enough, that change is coming in the healthcare sector – specifically, with medical devices.
For example, Geisinger, an integrated healthcare system in central Pennsylvania, is planning to equip its orthopedic patients with devices that will track steps, monitor heart rates, and even determine range of motion.
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Working with a software company called OBERD, Geisinger will use the data to send automated questions to the patients over their smartphones to gauge their progress and address any issues much quicker.
For instance, the device might sense that a patient’s heart rate has increased, but he hasn’t taken many steps. This could indicate a form of exercise other than walking or running or it could be something else.
So the patient’s smartphone will ask questions like:
- “Were you just exercising?”
- “How did your joints feel during the exercise?”
- “Did the exercise hurt and, if so, how long afterwards did it hurt?”
But rather than being formulaic, the technology is smarter than that.
A computer algorithm designs the questions, which takes previous answers into account, and cuts out repetitive or irrelevant questions.
For example, if a patient reports that his joints didn’t hurt during the exchange above, the question on how long the pain lasted would be eliminated.
Doctors can then use the data to design better therapies, as well as indicate when a follow-up appointment is needed and when one can be avoided – saving money and hassle for patients.
When Two Massive Trends Join Forces
This combination of Big Data and the IoT harnesses the power of two huge technologies – devices that collect data and the massive computing power to process and analyze all that data in order to put it to use.
We’re already seeing this in full force in certain areas. For example, smart meters not only reduce the cost of meter-reading and enable time-of-day billing, but they can also be used to predict electricity demand and allow power plants to increase and decrease capacity more efficiently.
Soon, industrial IoT devices won’t just be able to monitor power and/or equipment failures, but predict them, too, thereby saving costs and improving the environment by reducing pollution and wasted energy.
But it’s in the healthcare sector where Big Data and the IoT hold the most promise for human well-being.
Researchers will soon have masses of real-time data that can be used to better understand human health, design more advanced and personalized recovery programs, and predict health problems before they get too difficult to treat.
After all, early diagnosis and prevention is better than suffering worse symptoms later on – and technology is helping us do just that.
To living and investing in the future,