In 1997, long before the age of touch screens, I not only wanted to have James Bond’s car, I wanted to have his phone. Here is my favorite scene in Tomorrow Never Dies: Bond tries to get to his sleek BMW that’s parked in a parking garage but it’s surrounded by gruff looking villains with guns. Bond smartly uses his even smarter cell phone with a keyboard to start the car, emit toxic gas to distract the villains and then navigates the car toward him while lowering the back window. Once the car is next to him he jumps from his hiding spot into the back seat and continues an exhilarating car chase through the parking garage. During the entire chase, he controls the car with his phone from the back seat, using a plethora of gadgets to make an escape. The video-camera equipped phone alerts him about obstacles and helps correct safety concerns such as flattened tires. Two years after the movie came out, Kevin Ashton coined the term the Internet of Things (IoT), to describe a system where the Internet is connected to the physical world via ubiquitous sensors. Fifteen years later, this technology is not only in Q’s and Tony Stark’s lab – it is within our reach and – in some cases – already in our hands.
Thanks to advances in mobile and cloud technology, we all – and not only superheroes – are living in an app-enabled world. We can control appliances and devices, like thermostats, doors, lights, smoke alarms, through our mobile devices. According to ABI Research, more than 4 billion products have already Wi-Fi installed and the number is expected to increase to 10 billion by 2018. Imagine the possibilities we have to create a safer and more sustainable living and work environment.
At this year’s CES we got a glimpse at these possibilities. Two areas really stood out – transportation and health.
A number of smartwatches were on display that maybe Mr. Bond would have been proud to flash. The new generation of Internet-enabled smartwatches has more ways to entertain you, but more importantly they can collect and analyze all types of fitness and health data, including heart rate and sleep patterns. These watches are connected through Bluetooth to an iPhone or Android smartphone to transfer date over the Internet. Technically, the opportunities for Internet-enabled watches are endless. For example, the collected data about a person’s health could be distributed to a medical facility for analysis and treatment. A marathon runner in distress could be identified quickly by medical response teams. These new watch models are paving the way for new way fitness, health and life alert management models.
Second, forget about how shiny your car looks from the outside, it’s the inside that counts from now on. With cars being equipped with 4G and connected to a smartwatch or phone, we are now able to access and analyze vast amounts of data from our vehicles to improve their safety and performance. This includes fuel, air, oil and traffic data as well as a number of entertainment options for fellow passengers. Again, possibilities are endless.
A report by the GSM Association from last year estimated that the market for connected cars will triple in five years, and that all cars will be connected by 2025. Based on our work with leading car manufacturers, I expect this to happen way before 2025. Google is working with in-car systems from Audi, GM, Hyundai and Honda as part of the Open Automotive Alliance , a global alliance of technology and auto industry leaders committed to bringing the Android platform to cars starting in 2014. Apple has separate partnerships with Honda and Hyundai to get its car-friendly iOS 7 operating system into their models.
The connected car – with your smartwatch – will be in your garage and home sooner than you’d think. The pace of the race is often decided by the technology partners like Symbio.
To imagine the opportunities, take a look at this year’s Academy Awards nominees for visual effects. Some of the technology you’ll see in Ironman 3 or Star Trek into Darkness is less than 15 light years away. Now really is the time to engage for the rewarding opportunities offered by The Internet of Things.