For the past several years, the Internet of Things has gradually grown from an industry-wide buzz word to a borderline ubiquitous term, even among non-techies. The fact that more and more devices are now connected to the Internet and can communicate to each other is bound to change our lives dramatically over the coming decades, so it's important to get used to the idea of "smart homes".
Unlike traditional houses or apartments, "smart homes" are built around "smart devices" that are connected to the Internet. Right from the get-go, they come equipped with things like smart air conditioners that know when you get home so they can adjust the temperature in your room to an appropriate degree, or smart coffee machines, which can prepare a hot cup of Joe according to your exact specifications at the exact time you program them to. Many of these machines are controlled through special smartphone apps, thereby allowing prospective users to operate changes from a distance.
Experts say that the number of smart home devices will grow from approximately 83 million in 2015 to over 193 million in 2020. Almost every household item can be transformed into a smart device, including washing machines, refrigerators, lighting fixtures and home energy equipment. Then there are things like Amazon Echo, a smart speaker that functions like a central hub for all your smart gadgets, allowing you to control them through its voice-activated assistant, Alexa. Aside from Amazon, there are many other major players on the smart device market, including Apple, Philips and Nest, which is a subsidiary of Google's parent company Alphabet.
Needless to say, there are many advantages to making the switch to smart devices. Convenience is the first one that comes to mind, of course, since everything will be controllable through little more than a smartphone with a Wi-Fi connection. But smart devices can also end up saving you a lot of money due to their much more finely controlled consumption of energy. Right now, these gains are offset by a higher price tag, but evolution dictates that smart devices will only get more affordable from here on out. Already, connected LED bulbs only cost $15 on average, as opposed to $8 for regular lightbulbs, a price that many people would be willing to pay.
It stands to reason that, as smart devices become increasingly popular, the next step will lie in smart houses based around IoT devices or even smart cities where every home relies on smart technologies. In fact, as more and more people seek to live out environmentally-conscious and self-sufficient lives, it will become commonplace for some to move across the country just for the opportunity to live in such a cutting-edge environment.
All in all, it's easy to see that the Internet of Things is here to stay. What this emerging technology will mean for our lives is still difficult to parse at the moment, but things will inevitably start becoming clearer once widespread adoption occurs. As with all exponential technologies, however, keep in mind that embracing the future is always better than being afraid of it.