The Connected World: What’s Next?

Top players in the Internet of Things converged in Chicago in September, giving us a glimpse of an exhilarating, ever-more-connected environment.

For as much as the Internet of Things (IoT) feels cutting edge — mobile apps connected to devices that control your home’s lighting or that help you pay a parking meter, for instance — in many ways, the technology is barely in first gear. But a bigger, more influential future isn’t that far off. Smart homes will soon link up to become smart neighborhoods. Cars won’t just connect with the parking meters — they’ll connect with one another. Manufacturing facilities, supply chains, schools, farms, fisheries and more — think sensors tied to asparagus fields or oyster farms to ensure quality and efficiency — are on their way to becoming intricately networked.

One of the biggest players in the IoT movement is Bosch, the German company known to most people for household appliances and tools. Add in automotive components (it’s North America’s largest and the world’s third-largest supplier) and industrial products, and the company produces 1 million items a day — thousands of which are now connected to the internet. The company expects that number to grow to nearly 100 percent of all items in the next decade, thanks in part to collaborations with players such as Dell, IBM and GE. And through its Bosch ConnectedWorld conferences, held annually in Berlin and this fall for the first time in the U.S., in Chicago, the company is brings IoT experts together to do just that: Network and learn from one another.

The event provided an exciting look into the future of a connected world. Here are the highlights, from smarter personal devices to smarter ways of life.

Getting Personal With Smarter Devices

Your forearm as a smartphone? It’s the future of wearable devices such as the Cicret Bracelet by French company CN2P. The bracelet, which looks a lot like a wearable fitness device (such as the Fitbit Flex), uses eight sensors to create a touchscreen on your skin, giving you easy access to everything you have on your smartphone. Co-founder Guillaume Pommier detailed plans to move beyond the working prototype phase to production in the near future; look for preorders to open up in December and anticipated delivery in 2017.

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Developing Smarter Cities

The IoT is right at home with neighborhood design. Case in point: the San Francisco Shipyard and Candlestick Point developments now in early design phases. Plans call for some 12,000 home sites and 4 million square feet of commercial space, making the project the biggest of its kind in the history of San Francisco — and much of it will be connected to the internet to help residents with transportation, home maintenance and security. Kofi Bonner, regional president of northern California operations at FivePoint, the project’s developer, touched on some of the interconnectivity in the works: a garage filled with sensors that will help residents quickly find open spots, for example, and a “walk me home” household alert system that uses GPS technology to allow residents to share their route home with family and friends.

Adopting Smarter Routines

Using the IoT to streamline routines may have health benefits. At least that’s the hope of Walgreens, which is using the technology to enhance its customers’ digital experiences. Kartik Subramanian, director of product management, Mobile Commerce for Walgreens, highlighted the drugstore chain’s mobile offerings, including an easy refill-by-scan function, beacon-connected notifications that deliver coupons when customers are in stores, and a rewards program that connects with Runkeeper, Google Fit and other fitness/healthcare apps to track activity and reward customers for healthy choices.

Using the IoT to Deliver

We took part in the IoT conversation too: Chris Swearingen, manager of SenseAware®, a FedEx innovation, shared the latest developments for the technology, which allows customers with sensitive shipments to monitor their shipments’ environmental conditions — including location, temperature, light and humidity — in near real time. What’s next? Small devices that connect to Wi-Fi networks with Bluetooth technology, working with SenseAware “shepherd” devices to provide even more real-time visibility to shipments requiring sensitive care. It’s just one example, he said, of how a connected world is a better world.

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  • How can you see the IoT benefiting you and your business?

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