Internet of things has not yet full-filled its announced potential. Until now Internet of things has focused on technology rather than human needs. This article suggests that human needs should drive the development of Internet of things.
Internet of things is predicted to impact our lives in a way that will be a major change to human living. As such Internet of things is also predicted to become very big business. No matter that the potential of Internet of things is enormous it has not yet done much impact to human lives or business.
Internet of things is based on two technical components, Internet and Things. The core idea is to connect things, like refrigerator, clothes, cars etc. to the Internet. By doing this it will be possible to retrieve data from these devices and control them from the Internet.
The idea of automating control of electric things is not new. By example, an intelligent house can have temperature sensors placed in different rooms. Windows are opened if the temperature is too high and heaters are turned on if temperature becomes too low. All this runs fine without the Internet being connected.
What has happened in Internet of things area is that these electric things have been connected to the Internet. It is e.g. possible through the Internet to read the temperature of intelligent houses, open/close windows and turn on/off the heaters. Such services ease the overview and control of the intelligent houses. But these types of solutions are not the game changer of human life as Internet of things is foreseen to become.
The Internet has been running for decades and it allows data to be sent between computers. Data communication has been keystone in many successful services. E-mails and social media are examples that let people interact through the Internet. They feel that these services bring value into their lives and the services have become a success.
Internet of things do not focus on human interaction, it focuses on technology, a.k.a. things and Internet. To improve the human value of the technology human interaction needs to be considered in relation to Internet of things. An example could be a service that gives access to a home alarm system. If the alarm goes off the owner is notified automatically. It might be that the owner cannot be contacted or he is far from home and it would then be interesting to contact another person near the alarm, e.g. a neighbor, friend or relative. This would improve the likelihood that alarm situation is handled successfully.
Such integrated solutions require solving security and privacy issues.
Technical system integration is not a new thing. By example, SOA is a common technology that addresses the service architecture problem. It suggests a client-server architecture. Such technologies make it possible on the Internet to integrate unrelated Internet services.
The former mentioned alarm system shows how two unrelated systems, the alarm system and the person positioning system, in common solves a problem that would have been hard to solve without the use of both systems. The benefits of the two systems is improved by integrating them.
Generally, Internet of things has the built-in potential by integrating separate systems. A lot of services are already available on the Internet but combining them into valuable new services is hard. It requires a deep understanding of the needs required by humans that will consume the new services.
Huge amount of raw data is generated by sensors in the area of Internet of things. It is often a stream of data, like temperature of all rooms in a house, video from alarm systems or traffic intensity for all streets in a city. Basically, the latest data received from the stream is of most interest but historical data is also relevant. By example, it could be interesting to follow the change in traffic intensity over years in a city to plan the future infrastructure improvements.
End users cannot consume huge amount of data. Users will need systems to abstract data into understandable human information. A user might need to know when to select an alternative route between home and work when the traffic intensity is too high. Behind the scenes systems will overview the traffic and only notify the user when traffic intensity is high on the route between home and work. A lot of data abstraction is needed to use raw traffic information on all streets to make few traffic notifications in special situations with high traffic intensity.
Integrating separate databases available on the Internet is also within the scope of Internet of things. Data generated from sensors are stored in databases, which afterwards are available on the Internet. An example of integrating separate databases could be a car that has a fuel gauge that gives an idea of how far the car can drive before it needs more fuel. A database on the Internet knows addresses of nearby gas stations and the driver if then advised by the car when and where to refuel the car.
Until now Internet of things has been driven by technology achievements made by engineers. But end-users do not care about technology. They care about using tools that can full-fill their needs to perform concrete tasks. When these needs are full-filled users are anticipated to adapt the technology.
This article has enlightened user needs as an important driving factor in the invention of Internet of things. One challenge is to identify and understand these user needs. The next challenge is to design the presentation of data and system functionality in a way that makes sense to end-users. Then at the end technology can be applied to implement of the needed solutions.