What does the Internet of Things mean for consumers? header image

Published: 22nd Jun 2016

It's sometimes an easy thing to take for granted, but the advent of high-speed broadband and wireless technology in the last few years has unquestionably had a transformative impact on modern life in the UK.

At the turn of the millennium, the idea of doing all your Christmas shopping online for next-day delivery, streaming HD movies instantaneously and making video calls with a mobile phone seemed almost like pie-in-the-sky concepts, but 15 years later, all of these have become an everyday reality.

Nowadays, it's become common for commentators and pundits to make forecasts about the big new technology trends that are supposedly set to revolutionise the way we live, and many of these fail to come to fruition. In among all this noise, you might be forgiven if you've never come across the concept of "the Internet of Things", or simply haven't understood the hype around an idea that, to date, has mostly been discussed in the world of big business.

However, there's little doubt that the Internet of Things is a potentially game-changing shift in the way consumers live their lives - one that will put web access and connectivity at the very core of how we operate on a day-to-day basis.

What is the Internet of Things?
To explain it in basic terms, the Internet of Things is a computing concept that predicts a future in which all sorts of everyday physical objects will be connected to the internet, allowing them to communicate and exchange data with other devices and systems.

Right now, consumers have become accustomed to the idea of their computers, phones, games consoles and even their TV sets behaving this way, but in future, this principle will go far beyond this, extending to all sorts of other machines and appliances, including everything from cars, clocks, thermostats, washing machines, medical devices and much more.

Currently, connected devices outnumber the world's population by 1.5 to one, with data from Cisco predicting that this ratio will become even more unbalanced as the Internet of Things expands - meaning there could be as many as 50 billion connected devices in use by 2020.

What will this mean for you?
Getting away from the technology side of things, it quickly becomes apparent how this concept could change the way people live for the better.

In an Internet of Things-enabled future, low thermostat readings could trigger the heating to click on automatically, or for the car to start defrosting by itself - alternatively, commuters could have their alarm clocks automatically wake them up a little early if traffic data shows there will be delays on the roads.

This ability to monitor devices in real time could have more substantial benefits beyond mere convenience, however - for example, people who rely on medical aids will be able to transmit data from the device straight to their doctors, so they know at a glance whether or not the treatment is going well.

However, in order to ensure everyone in the country can take advantage of this fully-connected future, it will naturally become more important than ever to ensure everyone in the UK has reliable access to the internet. As such, the full range of broadband connectivity options - including satellite broadband - are likely to play a key role in helping turn the Internet of Things from science fiction into everyday fact.