Is the 'Internet of Things' the way of the future?
Imagine a world where you can control your coffeemaker from your tablet or turn off toys from your phone. That world is around the corner, according to tech industry CEOs.
A car that tells your insurance company how you're driving. A bathroom scale that lets you chart your weight on the Web. And a meter that warns your air conditioner when electricity gets more expensive.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Welcome to the next phase of the wireless revolution.
RECOMMENDED: Think you're a true geek? Take our quiz
The first wave of wireless was all about getting people to talk to each other on cellphones. The second will be getting things to talk to each other, with no humans in between. So-called machine-to-machine communication is getting a lot of buzz at this year's wireless trade show. Some experts believe these connections will outgrow the traditional phone business in less than a decade.
"I see a whole set of industries, from energy to cars to health to logistics and transportation, being totally redesigned," said Vittorio Colao, the CEO of Vodafone Group PLC, in a keynote speech at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. The British cellphone company has vast international interests, including its 45 percent ownership stake in Verizon Wireless.
Companies are promising that machine-to-machine, or M2M, technology will deliver all manner of services, from the prosaic to the world-changing. At U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm Inc.'s booth here at the show, there's a coffeepot that can be ordered to start brewing from a tablet computer, or an Internet-connected alarm clock. A former president of Costa Rica is also at the show, talking about how M2M can save massive amounts of greenhouse gases by making energy use more efficient — enough to bring mankind halfway to the goal of halting global warming.
The M2M phenomenon is part of the larger drive to create an "Internet of Things" —a global network that not only links computers, tablets and phones but that connects everything from bikes to washing machines to thermostats. Machina Research, a British firm, believes there will be 12.5 billion "smart" connected devices, excluding phones, PCs and tablets, in the world in 2020, up from 1.3 billion today.
But how does this transformation happen, and who stands to profit?