Broadband has brought with it some amazing advances. The move away from having to dial-in for internet access to having always-on connections has meant that we can connect more and more to the internet than ever before.
Wireless, too, has improved things no end. It has given us small, portable devices that can all talk to the internet.
And it is from this that the so-called ‘internet of things’ has grown. The term 'internet of things' is being used a lot in the news at the moment, as the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) takes place.
What’s the idea of the internet of things?
This concept is about giving more and more devices in your home access to the internet.
In the future, every LED lightbulb and home appliance will be able to tell you their status, as will your heating and security systems - and you'll be able to control them from anywhere in the world.
You can even get them to communicate with each other, perhaps to use a motion detector to switch on your bedroom light when someone walks up your drive, or have your fridge order food when you're running low.
How will we use the internet of things?
Apple has taken this concept to heart in its upcoming update for iPhones and iPads, allowing for all of this information to be pooled into a hub for your smart home.
This is a good idea because it removes the need for manufacturers to make devices that talk to those made by other manufacturers, and allows connected devices to feed you information in a more logical way.
Apple and Google both have health hubs too, and these can take information from wearable devices that enable you to track your exercise - and health care could be extended in the near future to monitor a pacemaker along with other vital signs.
We could even be able to upload health information directly to our GPs, so people with ongoing illness or concerns can share information with doctors in real time.
Expect to see your phone manage your heating and air conditioning by detecting where you are on your journey home and turning on the heat via a device like the Nest thermostat.
How can they work together?
Devices within the internet of things will be able to communicate with each other. The Nest Learning Thermostat works with the Nest Protect Carbon Dioxide alarm. If the carbon monoxide alarm goes off, the Nest Thermostat automatically turns off your boiler.
Google-owned Nest recently announced the ‘Works with Nest’ program, where devices from other manufacturers work with the Nest system. These include:
- Jawbone Up fitness tracker – wear it at night and wake up early, it will communicate with the Nest Thermostat to adjust the temperature.
- Whirlpool washer dryers – works with the Nest Thermostat to detect when you are home and switches to quiet mode, or if it notices you are away, activates a refresh mode so your clothes remain fresh.
- Mercedes-Benz cars let the Nest Thermostat know when you are near home, so it can activate the heating so the house is the correct temperature.
- Phillips Hue lighting – when Nest Protect senses something is wrong it flashes on/off to get your attention
At CES 2015 Samsung boss BK Yoon, talked about the importance of an open ecosystem within the internet of things, so devices from different manufacturers could communicate with each other.
"I have heard some people say they want to create a single operating system for the IOT. However, this OS only seems to work with their own technology. That's not enough. The IOT experience needs to be seamless. “
"I know in my heart to make the IOT happen, it takes more than one company, more than one industry, to create this IOT universe. We all have to work together. It's coming. What we are holding in our hands are infinite possibilities. Now it's up to us to unlock them."
What is the point of the internet of things?
Well, no doubt some people will see none at all, and will actively avoid this technology.
For others, it might be used for security, such as Fibaro’s system (check out the video above) telling if someone is breaking into your home - or keeping an eye on your children, and where they go after school.
Like all technology, it could be enormously intrusive or a massive boost to convenience.
The potential for the internet of things is massive, but it's also perhaps the most daunting direction technology has taken us yet.
There are people who are worried about Facebook, so how are they going to react to the idea of every electronic device in their home monitoring itself (and perhaps you) and feeding that information to outside companies or individuals?
Friend or foe, it’s clear that technology will integrate further with our home lives.
How is BT involved in the internet of things?
BT along with nine other British companies has been awarded £50,000 from the government to research the potential of the internet of things.
BT’s idea is to devise a service using information from traffic-related sources. This could include transport apps that estimate journey times based on what is happening on the road. The information could be help the police or Highways agency to deal with incidents more efficiently to get traffic moving.
John Davies from BT said: “We believe our idea to make use of information from road sensors, cameras, metereological devices and many other sources has the ability to create a ‘smart’ road network that would ease congestion and make our roads safer.”
The study started in March at BT’s research centre Adastral Park near Ipswich. Later this year the Technology Strategy Board will invest 4 million.