The world of artificial intelligence (AI) calls it cognition—when things communicate with each other. Others just say that things are getting “smarter”. The automobile of today is a perfect example. Lights that go off after the car is turned off and the smart key has been removed a certain distance or the computer that senses humidity and air volume and adjusts for fuel consumption. Twenty years ago just as cell phones were becoming popular it became possible to adjust your home heating and cooling system from anywhere you had cell service, not just in your home anymore. As transistors have become more powerful and cheaper the list of things that are being connected and communicating with each other is limitless, thus the new world of the Internet of Things (IoT, or as some call it, the Internet of Everything, IoE).

Kevin Kelly in his wonderful book, The Inevitable, says that five quintillion transistors were put in things other than computers in 2015! As astounding as that number is, it is important to realize that approximately 99 percent of things currently aren’t connected in any way! It is easy to see why the rush to make things “smarter” is moving at a rapid pace. The things we use and are involved with everyday are among the first things to be part of IoT—our vehicles and our homes. Cars that drive themselves, park themselves and schedule their own maintenance. Homes that know when you are away and automatically adjust the climate and monitor for safety. Home appliances that order for home delivery more milk and sense when the dog door needs to be opened. The possibilities are astounding and so are the business opportunities to create new products as well as retro fitting old ones.
However, the opportunities for IoT are not just limited to thing to thing cognition. Human and animal monitoring for health and safety pushes telemedicine into the forefront of healthcare. Likewise, wildlife and ecological system management enters a whole new world not to mention the environmental gains from water systems that shut off when contaminates are detected or electrical grids that self-regulate peaks and valleys. All of retail, wholesale and manufacturing become linked in ways never possible before as the savings in storage and waste elimination become major drivers. It is estimated that over 40 percent of food is wasted and lost just from production to processing and another 40 percent once it is purchased by the consumer. Resource use and conservation are enhanced by several factors by IoT.

Expect IoT to continue at a rapid, exponential rate as advances in new sensing and battery technologies emerge and their costs decrease. Clearly thing to thing or animal (human) to thing cognition is important, yet the data and information that is gained with each communication will be equally, if not more so, valuable. Trillions of communications between wearable heart monitors and healthcare providers will aid in helping an individual maintain better health but collectively across thousands of individuals might aid in developing better health protocols or health care policy. Yet, as in all business opportunities the ones that recognize the value will be the most successful—just because my food pantry at home lets me know that I don’t have spaghetti in inventory doesn’t mean that that cognition has value to me, or at least a value that is worth the expense. But that same cognition for stocking a retail store might have great value to the store’s owner and might have even greater value multiplied over many stores to the spaghetti industry or to a country developing food security policies. We truly are at the birth of IoT and future opportunities are boundless.