What a yellow safety cone can teach us about the Internet of Things

December 23, 2015

A few weeks ago I was at a mall and noticed a yellow safety cone was moving around the floor. As I looked closer I noticed the cone was not only notifying mall visitors of the pending danger of a wet floor, but it was also drying the floor. This caused me to think more about how the Internet of Things (IoT) can do more than just tell us about problems – but it can also help solve them.

Image: Actual yellow safety cone I saw in a mall in Princeton, NJ, drying the floor.

IoT is all the buzz in the development world right now but it is not that new. The term was first coined in 1999 by British entrepreneur Kevin Ashton while he was referring to RFID connected objects. It refers to the networking of “things” that are embedded with technology to collect and exchange data and information. IoT allows objects to be controlled remotely and opens up the world for improving efficiency, accuracy, and connectedness.

According to Gartner, there will be nearly 26 billion devices on the Internet of Things by 2020. Songdo, South Korea, is currently seeking to be the first “smart city” with nearly everything connected together to provide a constant stream of data that is monitored with little or no human intervention. Locally, at MichiganLabs, we use IoT through our office automation system. We can turn the lights on and off in the office from an app on our iPhone, Android, or laptop devices. Our team also develops IoT apps for our customers that uses RFID, virtual reality (VR), and beacon technology.

So what can a yellow safety cone teach us about the Internet of Things?

For some, it can be a small example of what the future could look like – a world where connected devices and equipment is constantly around us to help improve our lives and pick up our messes. A world in which technology runs the background of our lives may not be that far off.

I’d like to challenge you with two mental assignments:

  1. Think of one area of your life that could be improved using IoT
  2. Think of one area of your life that would be harmed using IoT
  3. Share in the comments or at the dinner table

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